Valerian drops are a type of dietary supplement most commonly used as a sleep aid. While they are generally considered safe, and many people report that they help ward off insomnia, potential users should be aware of a few precautions before taking them. In particular, it should be noted that valerian products are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that they can produce side effects in some users.
While there are many species of valerian, the one most commonly used in commercial valerian products is Valeriana officinalis. Valerian supplements are typically available in pill, powder, or drop form. In the case of valerian drops, distilled extracts taken from the root of the Valeriana officinalis plant are combined with water or another natural liquid.
If taking valerian as a sleep aid, most users dilute approximately 25 to 30 drops of the product in a small glass of water. When ingested shortly before bedtime, this mixture is reported to enhance relaxation and thwart insomnia. Some users also employ this treatment throughout the day to reduce anxiety.
In general, valerian drops are considered harmless. As with all herbal supplements, however, they are not subject to the strict regulations placed upon pharmaceutical drugs by the FDA. This lack of regulation has led many medical experts to urge caution when using valerian, for several reasons.
First of all, scanty regulation means the producers of valerian drops may label their products as they please. A label might simply state that the drops contain valerian, but the plant used may not be Valeriana officinalis. As many of the other species of valerian have not been subjected to extensive medical study, they may produce unexpected and even harmful side effects.
Even though Valeriana officinalis has been studied somewhat thoroughly, it can produce side effects in some users. Occasionally, users of valerian may experience nausea, heart palpitations, and headaches. In addition, it is not yet totally clear whether valerian extracts are safe for pregnant or nursing women.
Finally, studies show that valerian drops must usually be taken nightly for at least two weeks before users note an improvement in the quality of their sleep. As the effects of long-term valerian usage are not yet fully understood, some health care professionals express concern over sustained ingestion of the supplement. Thus, those experiencing sleep difficulties may wish to consult a physician before using valerian.