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How to Relieve Stress and Anxiety; Get Natural Sleep With Herbs: Health Benefits of Lemon Balm and Valerian 2 of 2

Updated on January 4, 2016
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Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

Valeriana Officinalis


Centranthus ruber also known as Red Valerian and often confused With Valerian Officinalis the Medicinal Herb


Valerian Root Have a Mild Sedative Effect


Valeriana Officinalis Essantial Oil

Valerian essential oil is extracted from the plant's rhizomes, reputed to promote sleep, calm the mind and ease stress
Valerian essential oil is extracted from the plant's rhizomes, reputed to promote sleep, calm the mind and ease stress | Source

Health benefits of Valerian; A Brief history

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."

(Winston Churchill)

As the number of people turning to complementary or alternative therapies to relieve the symptoms of stress, anxiety and sleep disorders continues to rise, ancient herbs such as Valerian and lemon balm are once again in demand.

However, before taking herbal remedies it is prudent to consult your doctor/health care provider to be safe. Reliable research into the effectiveness and safety of herbs are few. However, that said, herbs have been used for centuries and are well documented.

The genus Valeriana consists of more than 200 plant species. However, valeriana Officinalis is the plant most commonly used in herbal medicine. The root of the plants has been used in the treatment of various conditions from anxiety and stress to epilepsy, but the herb is more widely used to treat people suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia. Studies have shown that a combination of lemon balm and valerian may help to improve stress and mild anxiety.

The name Valerian comes from the Latin verb Valere meaning ' to be strong, healthy.' Valeriana Officinalis is a member of the Valerianaceae family, a perennial plant also popularly known as all heal, and the old name setwell, setweell or setwall used by Chaucer to describe a character, 'sweete as any Setwall. The herbalist Culpeper recommends valerian for many conditions including croup, headache even the plague, he wrote, 'It is under the influence of Mercury and therefore has a warming facility.' Greek physician Galen recommended valerian as a medicine for insomnia far back as the second century AD. London medical writer and herbalist John Pechey wrote of valerian ' it purges upwards and downwards.'

Italian nobleman Fabio Colonna (1567-1650) published his findings after claiming to have cured his epilepsy by using valerian. The plant later gained a reputation as a treatment for nervous disorders.

In 19th century Britain, valerian was used in the treatment of epilepsy, hysterics, chronic headaches and general nervous conditions. Recent studies confirmed that valerian does have a sedative effect on the central nervous system and can be effective in the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia. Valerian is a popular alternative to commonly prescribed hypnotic drugs, some studies found Valerian to be gentle, safe and effective, while others found it ineffective.

While Valerian may have fewer side effects when compared to many prescription sleep medication, The herb can interact with some medications including psychiatric drugs. Consult your doctor before taking any herbal preparation, especially if you are already taking medications, your doctor is ideally placed to advise you about potential drugs interaction. Valerian is not recommended for pregnant women, nursing mothers or people with cataract condition. Allergic reaction has been reported by some people who took valerian.

During the second world war, valerian was the sedative of choice for Londoners requiring a little help to calm shattered nerves as German bombs rained down on the city, sending civilians underground into air raid shelters.

According to the English Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, a tisane made from the roots of the herb will work with the speed of mercury on the body's whole nervous system. Culpeper also wrote that the root of valerian can be used to treat certain chesty problems "the root of Valerian boiled with liquorice, raisins, and anniseed, is singularly good for those that are short-winded and those that are troubled with the cough and helps to open the passages and to expectorate phlegm easily."

A more colourful use for Valerian was as an antagonist to witches. All the different varieties of valerian were once used as remedies. When the plant's root is chopped, it can be made into tea or extract shown to have a mild sedative effect. Research shows that Valerian reduces the length of time it takes to fall into a deep sleep.

The most positive study of Valerian for insomnia involved 121 individuals who were followed for 28 days. Half of the participants took 600 mg of an alcohol-based valerian extract one hour before bedtime, the other half took a placebo.

The valerian extract showed no real effect for the first two weeks, running level with the placebo. However, by day 28, valerian had pulled far ahead of the placebo, its effectiveness was rated by participants evaluation as good or very good in 66%, by the valerian group and 61% by doctor evaluation. In the placebo group, both doctors and participants evaluation were rated at 29%. While this result was positive, it gave rise to even more questions.

Another large study found that valerian was immediately more effective than the placebo, in line with what was expected in keeping with how the herb is typically used.

A small study found that a combination of valerian extract and hops proved to be more effective as a sleep aid than placebo, the result of the trial also indicated that the combination of hops and valerian proved to be more effective than valerian alone.

Growing your own valerian; Keep Seedlings Indoors Until They Begin to Sprout Second larger set of Leaves.

How to Cultivating Valerian from Seed

For my Friend Ruby aka. alwaysexploring, an excellent poet and writer of short stories who inquired about growing valerian indoors. Ruby, I hope this helps.

To cultivate valerian from seeds, sow the seeds sparingly in late spring. Press them gently into the soil, but not too deep. The seeds should be placed sufficiently close to the surface of the soil to obtain maximum warmth, to assist germination. Although Valerian is considered a hardy plant, the seeds can be difficult to germinate, so allow for a 50% success rate.

  • Buy fresh seeds that are less than a year old. Plant into trays or pots containing a rich feed starter mix about six to eight weeks before you need to plant the seedlings out in the garden.
  • Fluorescent or grow light can aid germination
  • Valerian requires little fertilizing, unless the soil is poor. Soil PH should be between 5.5 and 7.0. The plant will do well in a position where it can enjoy at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and some afternoon shade.
  • Sprinkle warm water into the mix and place the tray or pot in a sunny position
  • I've found that covering the seed tray with cloches or plastic wrap helps to retain moisture and aids germination rate by acting like a miniature greenhouse.
  • Loosen the plastic wrap when the seedlings start to emerge from the soil, when they're about 1 to 2 inches tall, remove the wrap and re-pot the healthiest plants into 3 or 4 inch containers and move into a sunny spot, or use the grow light.
  • Keep seedlings indoors until they have developed and the second larger set of leaves have sprouted.
  • As the plants continue to grow, repot into containers one size larger than the current ones, ensure that there is good drainage. Do not allow the bottom of the pot to stand in water.
  • For garden plants, transplant the young plants to their permanent growing position, after the last frost. This should be a sunny but damp, and as with all herbs, well drained position.
  • Valerian responds well to growing in containers, but the draining and moisture of the soil need to be maintained.
  • When valerian is grown purely for its rhizome, the flowers should be nipped as they appear. rhizomes should be harvested in the autumn of the second year.

The leaves and roots of the valerian plant are well known for their strong musty odor, that some people finds unpleasant. This maybe something to consider when choosing a permanent position to plant out.

How to Relieve Your Anxiety With Herbal Supplements

Do You Use Herbs to Relieve Stress and Promote Sleep?

If so, Which if any of the following herbs do you find most effective?

See results

How to Relieve Stress and Mild Anxiety

Anxiety and stress go hand in hand; the cause may be embedded in work or more personal, such as ill health, family, relationship or financial. However, before the condition can be treated, the cause must first be identified.

Once the primary cause of the problem is known, the appropriate solution may be found. There are many ways of dealing with mild stress and anxiety, doing nothing is not an option, ignoring the problem will only exacerbate the condition. Good friends and supportive family can be invaluable.

Taking control of the situation and building emotional strength is the key to managing stress and anxiety. While conventional medication may be necessary to manage stress and anxiety, there are natural remedies that may help in mild cases, ways to relieve mild stress, and anxiety includes:

  • Physical exercise, Exercise is good for body and mind. It is an extremely powerful antidote to depression, stress, and anxiety. Regular exercise can help to improve self-esteem, it can help to focus the brain to better identify the underlying cause of the problem and enable the individual to deal with the condition more effectively. Exercise can help emotionally and physically. While being active will not solve the root problem of stress and anxiety, physical exercise can contribute to the reduction of anxiety. Studies suggest that when individuals who are anxious, use the treadmill they feel calmer after a good workout. Exercise will facilitate clearer thinking to deal with the condition.

  • Connect with people, a good support network of friends, colleagues, and family can be vital. Talking things through can often help to clarify the situation and find a solution to the problem. Laughing and socializing is an excellent way to release feel-good hormones that can provide the boost needed to take back control.

  • Take time out

  • Set Goals

  • Choose Healthy Habits

  • Manage Time

  • Adopt a Positive Attitude

  • Learn to Accept the Things You Can't Change

Herbal Options Includes:

  • Kava, several clinical trials suggests that kavalactones may be useful in managing anxiety and tension. It is known for having sedative, anxiolytic and muscle relaxant properties, without adversely affecting cognitive function and mental acuity.
  • Valerian/Passionflower, combined, these two herbs have shown in the randomized controlled trial to be beneficial to patients who are experiencing adjustment disorders and anxious mood.
  • Green tea, (L-theanine) help to reduce anxiety without inducing sleep. According to research findings, L-theanine in green tea can help to curb rising heart rate and blood pressure. A study also found that individuals prone to anxiety appeared calmer and more focused during a test when they took 200mg of L-theanine before the test.
  • Hops, used extensively in brewing for its antibacterial properties, also a sedative to aid sleep, sometimes used in conjunction with valerian. Not to be taken with prescription medications such as sedatives and tranquilizers. Consult your doctor before taking herbal remedies.
  • Passionflower, the German government, have approved the use of passionflower in cases of nervous restlessness. Studies have found that passionflower can reduce symptoms of anxiety as effectively as prescription drugs. Also used for insomnia.
  • Lavender A study found that Greek dental patients were less anxious when the waiting room was scented with lavender oil. A German study of a specially formulated lavender pill concluded that the pill was able to reduce anxiety symptoms in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder as efficiently as the anti-anxiety drug, Lorazepam (Ativan).

  • Eat a Healthy Well-Balanced Diet, a good whole-foods plant based diet, with complex carbs, encourages the brain to produce more feel-good serotonin and help to stabilize and maintain glucose levels.

  • Eat Breakfast, foods such as oatmeal porridge, wholemeal bread, and eggs make a satisfying and filling start to the day. Diet high in fibre and choline¹ may help to reduce anxiety. Low levels of choline are associated with increased anxiety.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids research study shows that students who took 2.5 milligrams per day of mixed omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks had less anxiety before an exam than those who received a placebo.

¹ Choline is a water-soluble essential nutrient that is usually grouped within the B-complex vitamins. It is one of the newest nutrients to be added to the list of human vitamins by the National Academy of Science (NAS) in 1998.


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    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hello poetryman, this is a pleasure! Thank you for stopping by, glad you like the hub.

      Natural herbs can be very effective as an alternative to some of the dangerous sedative many people have been taking for years.

      Appreciate the visit and lovely comment. My best to you.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 3 years ago

      Some nice looking plants and some great advice on natural substances.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Vellur, glad you found the article useful. Yes, according to the information available, in addition to insomnia, valerian is useful for conditions relating to anxiety and emotional stress such as nervous asthma, migraine and upset stomach, the list is long, but it would be nice to see more comprehensive scientific studies to support the claims. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting, much appreciated. Take care and my best to you.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative, did not know about Valerians used for stress. It is great to use herbs the natural way for reducing stress. Thank you for sharing.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Flourish, alternating the two is a good idea. Have you tried combining valerian and lemon balm or valerian and hops or kava? Sedatives like Ambien are only meant for short term use, and you are right about the side effects. Looks like you already know your stuff but it's always good to see you. My best always.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great hub, Jo. I have used Valerian as well as melatonin. I like them both, and they sure don't have the side effects that Ambien does! Been there, done that! I find that after awhile my body gets used to one and it doesn't work as well so I switch to the other for awhile.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Alicia, this will most probably show up twice, I wrote a comment a little while ago but it's not showing, it could be a connection problem. I just wanted to thank you for reading this and for taking the time to comment, much appreciated. Take care and my best to you.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a useful and interesting hub, Jo. Thanks for sharing some more information about valerian and relieving stress. It's very helpful.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Genna, thanks for taking a look...Lavender and green tea are old favourites that's more than proved themselves. Lemon balm and valerian are both interesting herbs, I wish there were more comprehensive studies. Valerian seem to work better when combined with some other specific herbs. When we grow our own organic herbs we know there's no contamination with pesticide and other chemicals. Even if there isn't sufficient space, most herbs will grow just as well in pots. Always lovely to see you, I hope all is well. Take care and my best always.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Jo. Great article, as always. Lavender tea and green tea are my stand-bys. And exercise and positive connections with others I think are terrific when it comes to dealing with stress. I found your info on valerian to be especially interesting…I’m always interesting in learning about growing our own herbs rather than buying them at the market. Thank you!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      travmaj, lovely to see you. I can just imagine you enjoying your herbal tea Down Under. :)

      The Aussie climate must be ideal for growing herb, I think every modern kitchen should have fresh herbs, they are amazing plants.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the historical connection, I found them very interesting. Much of Shakespeare's work are generously sprinkled with herbs and flowers, there's reference to thyme, sweet marjoram, violet, sweet musk-roses...and so much more. Thank you so much for taking the time, it's always good to see you. Good luck with the garden and my best always.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Fascinating and informative. I'm a fan of herbal medicine and recently switched to green tea and herbal teas. Most 'fascinating' are the historical connections, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the John Pechey quote says much.

      I'll be reviewing my herb garden after reading this. Thank you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Suzette, I couldn't resist the quote, glad you liked it.

      I wanted to include some history as well as some possible side effects, the initial hub would have been much too long, so I decided to changed it into two separate hubs, I still need to link them properly when I have more time. Thanks a lot for reading them and for the wonderful comments, much appreciated. Take care and my best always.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Jo: I love the quote by Churchill. This is another wonderful, comprehensive hub that continues from your last one. This is wonderful and full us such great information about several different herbs. I found this to be so helpful. I will definitely be trying some of the oils of Valeriana and I now know the right one to choose. These hubs are so interesting and informative. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us. Natural herbs are so much better for us than pills.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Frank, in this busy chaotic world, we need time to slow down and relax, smell the rose oil. :) in this case the lemon balm and valerian essential oils. These herbs have been used for thousands of years, many are found to be effective with less harmful side effects, we should at least give them a try before moving on to drugs like hypnotics and tranquilisers. There will always be a need for conventional medicine, but I see the two complementing each other.

      Thank you for the support, always a pleasure, take care and enjoy your weekend and my best always.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Faith, lavender is the old favourite we always go back to, it's a wonderful herb but there's so many more.

      I added the guide for growing valerian indoors because Ruby inquired about it, I hope she'll find it useful. I looked at germinating seeds, but the plant grow well from root cuttings. Thank you for the visit, comment and of course for the generous share. Take care and my very best always.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      tobusiness this indeed seem useful and perhaps a natural alternative to relieving the stress actually caused by life in general... You make it easy to follow and once again easy to understand.. that's what makes your hubs stand out even more bless you :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you for the additional insight into these wonderful natural remedies to stress and anxiety here. I learned so much. Thank you also for including how to grow valerian too!

      I have sprayed lavender oil on my pillow too, but that is really the only one I knew of for a calming effect. I am surely going to look into using the other wonderful herbs here.

      Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Blessings always

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Bill, we know what you got up to in the perfume garden of lavender, so I know you love herbs. :) You my friend, is the most positive person on HP. Always good to see you. Must toddle off to bed now, my old man is sulking. :) Have a great weekend, my best to you and Bev.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Devika, nice to see you.Yes, lavender is another very useful herb. It's used in baking, cosmetics and even in gourmet cooking. A few drops in a hot bath after a long tiring day is very relaxing. According to the research, inhaling lavender essential oil may be effective and safe for managing migraine headaches.

      There are many different species, I must remember to check out the Croatian lavender. I'll be giving myself a gift of your book for Christmas, you'll most probably have the next one out by then. Always good to see you, enjoy your weekend, my best as always.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Articles like this one are so important, Jo. I'm a big believer in the uses of herbs to benefit our health, as well as exercise and just a positive frame of mind. Great suggestions here, ones I follow religiously.

      Have a wonderful weekend!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I have 2 kinds pf lavender the Croatian and the French kind. Each tree has different leaves and the scent is strong and refreshing. I am very much interested in all herbs. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Ruby, good luck with the seeds. I still get excited when my first seedlings pops up through the soil in spring. You'll have to send us a photo. :)

      I guess during the war people had to use what was available, valerian became very useful, for Londoners during those massively stressful times. Thank you for taking a look, always great to see you. Have a lovely weekend, my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      MsDora, I also love the scent of lavender, I grow some in the garden which I often use in potpourri and cushions. I'm glad you found the hubs useful. Thank you for taking the time, much appreciated.

      Have a lovely weekend.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jo, thanks for more interesting information on these herbs. I've heard of Valerian use for stress, but I learn so much more from your article. Presently, I keep a little vial of lavender oil near my pillow. You share very valuable information here. Voted Up!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Jo, this is another interesting hub on herbs. The benefits seem compelling. Thank you for outlining how to grow valerian indoors. I will try it come spring. I find that I'm more interested in herbs now . I also will look for the valerian essential oil. It was interesting how the people in London used valerian during the bombing in WW2. I really am not prone to anxiety but do have nights when I'm writing poetry in my head. lol. Thank's again for your special instructions..Take care my friend...