Valerian root and melatonin are two natural sleep aids.
Here, learn about their differences, how well they work, possible side effects and interactions, and the best dosages in various situations.
Valerian root is an herb that people use as a sedative or sleep aid. It is available as a supplement in the United States.
In an older review of studies, from 2006, researchers found that valerian helped improve the quality of sleep without having negative effects in most people.
They highlighted the need for further research to investigate the best dosages, as well as valerian’s effectiveness and possible side effects in more detail.
Three years earlier, another review had found that valerian root can help ease mild insomnia with minimal side effects. The researchers determined that the supplement was most effective when taken over a longer period.
Still, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that there is inconclusive evidence to support the use of valerian root. Overall, further studies into the safety and effectiveness of the supplement are necessary.
Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces after dark to help the body fall asleep.
In a 2014 review of studies, researchers found that melatonin may help:
- prevent sleep disturbances from jet lag
- improve insomnia
- initiate sleep
- improve sleep efficacy
They did not find that melatonin would help ease sleep for people who work night shifts, however, and they highlighted the need for further studies into the supplement’s uses.
The NIH conclude that melatonin may help improve insomnia symptoms and echo that it may not help reset sleep schedules for people who do shift work.
Melatonin and valerian root have different recommended dosages. As always, it is best to start with a dose at the lower end of the recommended range and increase it gradually as needed.
Valerian root dosage
The best recommended dosage is unclear, but the authors of the 2006 review found that dosages ranged from 225–1,215 milligrams (mg) per day.
However, they acknowledged that most of the studies in their analysis were low-quality. It is also worth noting the lack of more recent findings.
According to Poison Control, the following are typical doses of melatonin:
- for insomnia: 1–5 mg 1 hour before bed
- for jet lag: 5 mg 1 hour before bed for up to 4 days after a flight
Like most health authorities, they warn against purchasing supplements that have not been independently tested and verified.
Third-party verification helps ensure that a supplement:
- contains accurate information about the ingredients and their quantities
- is free from contamination
- releases into the body in the advertised amount of time
A 2017 study confirms the need for independent verification of melatonin supplements, finding that 71% of those tested did not contain the amount of melatonin advertised.
Valerian is generally considered safe, and most people tolerate it.
However, as Poison Control note, the short-term use of valerian root can cause side effects, including:
People who use valerian for a longer period may also experience:
Also, they note, some people report withdrawal symptoms from stopping valerian after long-term use.
Meanwhile, the side effects of melatonin are generally mild, if they occur. According to the NIH, some of these adverse effects include:
- a headache
In children, melatonin can also cause agitation and an increase in bed wetting.
A person should not take both of these supplements.
Each can interact with drugs and other supplements, and using them together may cause unwanted effects.
Both valerian and melatonin can interact with other medications and supplements.
For example, valerian may interact with:
- sedatives, including alcohol, some antidepressants, and insomnia medications such as zolpidem (Ambien)
- statins, which are drugs that lower cholesterol
- some antifungal medications
- other supplements
Melatonin may interact with:
- other supplements
- anticoagulants or anti-platelet drugs
- contraceptive drugs
- diabetes medications
Anyone who takes a supplement or medication regularly should speak with a doctor before trying either valerian root or melatonin.
In addition, people who are pregnant or nursing should avoid melatonin and valerian supplements.
Finally, it important to emphasize that both supplements can interact with other supplements and medications.
It is always a good idea to check with a doctor before starting a new treatment. In the case of both melatonin and valerian, there is concern about the risk of interactions and a lack of knowledge about the long-term effects.
Valerian root and melatonin are natural supplements that people take to help with sleep.
However, it is important to note a lack of conclusive, recent research into their effects, particularly in the long term.
Melatonin and valerian root are generally considered safe and tend to cause mild side effects, if any. However, each can interact with other supplements and medications.
Anyone who regularly takes another supplement or medication should consult a healthcare provider before taking melatonin or valerian root. It is not a good idea to take both.