Taking valerian at night is what enabled me to clear my brainfog enough to start this blog site. This review is split in two because I started off taking Valerian tablets and then after reading about this research and “that there might be a big difference between fresh fluid extracts and dry extracts due to degradation or loss of active ingredients during the preparation of dry extracts” I switched to plant juice. I feel like I get more deep sleep with the juice.
1. Valerian Root Extract Tablets
Heritage/Spiritual context*: Valerian has been documented as herbal medicine since Ancient Roman times (Hippocrates and Galen). It means to be strong and healthy.
Their explanation: It is usually used for insomnia and anxiety but also generally calms the Central Nervous System and can reduce symptoms of IBS, muscle pain and overactive bladder (very interesting for us)
Accepting Sceptics’ view^: The research tends to be on sleep quality and latency (length of time to get to sleep). Results are mixed but some studies are very encouraging: it helps reduce latency and increase deep and REM sleep.
What to expect: You take a tablet about half an hour before you want to sleep
Helps with: Insomnia and anxiety. Can also help with overactive bladder, muscle pain, period pain and IBS
Not so good for: Feeling alert
Side effects/cautions: After a couple of weeks I felt sleepy in the day which is unusual for me. I once had a paradoxical reaction when I took it with low blood sugar – I felt an edgy alertness. I read somewhere that there are no side effects, but I think anything that works also has some side effects: “If taken in large doses, the side effects are nausea, dizziness, restlessness, blurry vision, and excitability”.
My questionª: The symptoms valerian can ease are very relevant for ME/CFS/FMS, why don’t people talk about this more?
Further reading: NIH factsheet; Overactive bladder; easy reading summary of research; heavy reading report
2. Valerian Plant Juice
What to expect: You drink a disgusting measure of juice just before bed (down it like a shot and clean your teeth just after to get rid of the vile taste!).
Helps with: I found the tablet (see above) did help with getting to sleep but I still used a combined approach of the tablet with aromatherapy oils, acupressure points and a magnesium supplement. This plant juice has a stronger effect and worked more like a prescribed sleeping pill and I don’t need the combined approach. More importantly, I realised that I haven’t had proper deep sleep for years, because now I am sleeping so differently. I’m not aware of time passing through the night and even had one night when I only woke once and it wasn’t because I needed to go to the loo (previously I often woke every hour).
Not so good for: The effects can wear off towards the end of the night, and I don’t know whether to repeat the dose. I sometimes sleep (normally) badly from 4.30am onwards.
Side effects/cautions: This has stronger effects so it may be wise to start with a really small dose. A strange side effect I have is increased (rather than decreased) pain. To start with this was really intense fibromyalgia pain but it is now easing after a few weeks. I can’t find any record online of this being a side effect so think it is an individual reaction (I had the same reaction to melatonin). At the moment I’m choosing to live with the pain.
My questionª: I’d really appreciate it if someone gave me a medical explanation as to why my fibro pain gets so bad after taking things that increase deep sleep (more clues¹)? I know there is some evidence that FMS is caused by deep sleep disturbance, so why would my pain increase when I get more deep sleep? It feels like this is a central question for my recovery.
Further reading: Aqueous Valerian
¹ I was starting to think that fibromyalgia and ME are separate conditions because since my ME relapse I’ve had less fibro pain (in other words they don’t get worse together). Perhaps what I think is fibro pain is something else? I once had blood tests done on a day when I had this pain and my creatine kinase levels were high (510 rather than 50 on a day when I didn’t have the pain). I don’t believe this is expected for ME or FMS. Doctors said it was caused by muscle damage, which seems like a circular argument because there was no injury or exercise associated with the pain. When I get the pain it feels like its all over but especially my eyes and hands and tender points like fibromyalgia (although I have more tender points).
•I will indicate if specific religious belief is required. Most meditative practices are rooted in spiritual traditions but you do not usually need to believe anything specifically to benefit from using them.
^ This is either a best-guess at other reasons for the positive effect of the practice or based on secular research. It should make it more palatable to those of you who can’t believe the official position (see ‘Why, sometimes…‘).
ª Can you help me to understand? If so, please comment.