Comparison of Valerian and Melatonin

Valerian Root Vs. Melatonin: Differences For Benefits And Uses

The main difference between valerian and melatonin is that valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an herb while melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone produced in the body’s pineal gland. While both are natural sleep aids, there are further differences between valerian root and melatonin, including mechanism of action, health benefit, dosage, duration of administration, and possible side effects. Regarding cultivation, valerian root grows best in rich, moist, loam soil with at least six hours of full sun or dappled shade. Exogenous melatonin (found in supplements) are synthetically produced hormones with an IUPAC ID of N-[2-5-methoxy-1H-indol-3-yl)ethyl]. 

Many sleep support supplements available on the market have either melatonin or valerian root or a combination of both with other extracts at an adjusted dosage. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, individuals with sleep timing problems will benefit from melatonin since it helps them fall asleep faster. People with more severe problems, like chronic insomnia, will benefit from valerian root because it promotes sleep through multiple mechanisms of action.

Which Is Better For Sleep, Valerian Root Or Melatonin?

The latest 2020 statistics from the Sleep Foundation stated that 20% of American adults have tried using a natural sleep remedy. According to researchers led by Anna Morin, both valerian and melatonin have proven positive effects on sleep. Here is a list of their characteristic comparison:

  1. Source: The roots and rhizomes are primary raw materials for valerian root extract, while melatonin supplements available in the market are synthetic hormones patterned from the endogenous melatonin produced by the pineal gland.
  1. Mechanism of action: One mechanism by which valerian causes sedation is by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the synaptic cleft. Valerian compounds (isovaleric acid and didrovaltrate) promote the release of GABA from the brain’s nerve endings and block the reabsorption of the acid to nerve cells. Once GABA attaches to protein receptors, it creates a calming effect inducing relaxation and sleep. Supplemental melatonin targets the melatonin receptors (MT1 and MT2). MT1 regulates sedation, while MT2 maintains or readjusts the circadian rhythms. Since endogenous melatonin secretion is influenced by the dark-light cycle, exogenous melatonin taken before bedtime supplements melatonin produced by the brain, signaling the body to sleep. 
  1. Dosage: For insomnia, 600 mg of valerian has been effective based on research by F. Donath. Melatonin effects are found at a lesser dosage of 500 mcg to 3-5 mg.
  1. Sleep parameter: Research studies found evidence of valerian having positive effects on sleep structure and sleep perception. On the other hand, melatonin positively targeted sleep schedule and sleep latency. In the research study by F. Donath and his colleagues, a 14-day administration of valerian 600 mg daily improved sleep efficiency as evidenced by increased REM percentage, increased time in bed, and shorter subjective sleep latency. In a randomized, double-blind study by R. Luthringer, prolonged-release melatonin 2 mg significantly shortened sleep onset in patients 55 years old and above by nine minutes, with no effect on sleep structure and architecture. 
  1. Indication: Valerian benefits individuals suffering from mild psychophysiological and chronic insomnia. Melatonin helps with problems in sleep timing; for example, the effects of jet lag and an ever-changing sleep schedule due to shifting work hours and transient insomnia related to sleeping in a new environment.

What Are The Unique Benefits Of Taking Valerian Root And Melatonin?

Research evidence has been published documenting the unique benefits of valerian and melatonin.

For centuries, valerian root aided people with sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. Researchers have gathered proof that this ancient herb offers distinct benefits beyond providing relief from the mentioned conditions. Here is a list of specific responses supported by research evidence:

  1. Alleviation of tension-type headaches: The researchers H. Azizi and his team assessed various parameters, such as the severity of headache, impact on daily living, and disability. They recorded a significant decrease in all three parameters per the participants’ report after a month of valerian intervention. These results were derived from two doses of 530 mg of valerian root extract after dinner.
  1. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) treatment: Reproductive women aged 20 to 25 experienced decreased physical and behavioral symptoms during PMS when taking valerian root extract. Researchers Z. Moghadam and the team gave study participants valerian 530 mg one tablet each morning and evening after meals in the last seven days of their menstrual cycle for three consecutive cycles. The research team then compared symptoms with and without valerian during their first, second, and third cycles. Afterwhich, the scientists concluded that valerian had positive effects on PMS.
  1. Reduction of hot flashes in menopause: Valerian was found to decrease hot flashes brought about by menopause. In two separate studies led by P. Mirabi and E. Jenavi, valerian 255 mg thrice daily and valerian extract 530 mg/capsule twice daily minimized the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women.
  1. Anticonvulsant property: Evidence shows that valerian decreased seizure frequency in a study done on Wistar rats by A. Kapucu et al. The same was the result of research by M. E. Gonzalez-Trujano, using another species, Valeriana edulis. The anticonvulsant characteristic of valerian was attributed to its valepotriate component.
  1. Depression relief: The research study of M. R. Tammadon found evidence that valerian 530 mg daily reduced depression symptoms in hemodialysis patients aged 35 to 88. The valerian property of inhibiting GABA and serotonin levels is a primary mechanism for this benefit.
  2. Anti-cancer efficacy: In a 2021 study published by F. Shi, valerian and its component valeric acid were shown to inhibit proliferation, mitigation, colony formation, and 3D formation of breast cancer cells in a dose and time-dependent manner. This effect is specific only to breast cancer cells, indicating a cancer-specific action with low side effects, further suggesting that valeric acid can be a novel therapeutic agent. The researchers suggested more mechanistic studies to further the findings as the results were preliminary.

 

Valerian Root Vs. Melatonin Content Image 1

 

Meanwhile, consuming melatonin as a sleep supplement provides further benefits as follows:

  1. Mucosal gastroprotection: Researchers recorded that melatonin is produced not only by neuroendocrine cells but also is present in various tissues, particularly the gastrointestinal tract. Melatonin and its precursor, L-tryptophan, have shown protective properties against the damaging effects of aspirin (ASA) in gastric mucosa in the research study led by P. C. Konturek. Administration of melatonin 5 mg 30 minutes before ASA 1 g twice daily significantly lessened ASA-induced gastric lesions. Further ASA use of 11 days showed increased melatonin plasma levels signifying gastric damage by ASA enhanced the biosynthesis and release of melatonin into the bloodstream. In another study conducted by K. Celinski, researchers observed complete healing in gastric and duodenal ulcers of study subjects aged 28 to 50. The participants took melatonin 5 mg twice daily. The researchers suggested melatonin can be used in conjunction with omeprazole to accelerate the healing of ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori.
  1. Decrease in blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: Melatonin has been found to decrease blood pressure in individuals with metabolic syndrome (a group of symptoms such as hypertension, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and excess body fat, especially in the waist predisposing the individual to stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus). Researcher Marzena Koziróg administered melatonin 5 mg daily to 33 participants. After one month, their systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) decreased. Two months after, there was a further decline with a mean SBP decrease of 12.3 mmHg and DBP of 6.5 mmHg. Moreover, a reduction in LDL-C was also observed after two months of melatonin treatment.  
  1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptom reduction: According to the medical author Catiele Antunes, GERD is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects 18.1% to 27.8% of Americans. It is characterized by the regurgitation of gastric contents into the esophagus, causing bothersome symptoms and complications. In the research study done by Tharwat Kandil and his team, participants took melatonin 3 mg daily for eight weeks. Another group consumed omeprazole (a proton pump inhibitor used to treat GERD that decreases acid in the stomach). A third group took omeprazole and melatonin. The melatonin-only group reported decreased GERD symptoms by an insignificant amount less than the omeprazole group. The melatonin-omeprazole group exhibited the most reduced GERD symptoms. Researchers suggested that melatonin can be an adjuvant to omeprazole in GERD.
  1. Decrease in tinnitus: In a prospective open-label study led by U. Megwalu, researchers found that melatonin 3 mg given daily for four weeks improved the tinnitus of study subjects aged 18 to 70. The researchers associated this effect on tinnitus with sleep improvement and vice versa. Researcher Seth Rosenberg also found the same melatonin effect on tinnitus. During their study, 23 subjects aged 28 to 71 took melatonin 3 mg every night for 30 days, followed by a washout period of seven days. Afterwhich, the participants took a placebo for another 30 days. In the subgroup of 15 patients experiencing sleep difficulty due to tinnitus, there was a 47% reduction in tinnitus symptoms during the melatonin treatment. There was also a reported decrease in tinnitus from the remaining participants. Due to both studies, the researchers suggested melatonin as part of a physician’s options in treating tinnitus. They further recommended more studies on a larger scale with long-term treatment using melatonin.
  1. Antioxidant property: In the study led by M. D. Maldonaldo on a team of 16 football players aged 18 to 20, melatonin consumption showed a reversal of oxidative stress after 60 minutes of intense exercise. The athletes took melatonin 6 mg 30 minutes before the rigorous activity. With a heart rate reaching 135 beats per minute post-activity, the study participants exhibited an elevation of MDA levels. MDA is an end product of the lipid peroxidation process associated with aging and various health problems, such as cancer and atherosclerosis. In the experimental group, melatonin reduced the MDA elevation compared to the control group at 15 and 60 minutes after the high-intensity exercise of pedaling a stationary bicycle. The control group recorded a downward trend in the endogenous antioxidant levels, whereas the melatonin group maintained normal levels at three and 15-minute intervals with a significant increase after 60 minutes. The researchers concluded that melatonin use in acute sports activities repudiates oxidative damage from high-performance training.
  1. Adjuvant to antiangiogenic cancer treatment: Melatonin has been found to inhibit angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels, which is a hallmark of cancer). It also inhibits an undesirable effect of chemotherapy, specifically the induction of pro-angiogenic factors. Melatonin makes tumors more sensitive to chemotherapeutic agents. In radiation therapy, melatonin potentiates the oncostatic properties of radiation on tumor cells by acting as a radiosensitizer. Researcher Edward Mills conducted a systematic review on melatonin and cancer treatment and found a daily melatonin dosage of 20-40 mg effective in reducing cancer risk.
  1. Treatment of hair loss: In the meta-analysis by Tobias Fischer, melatonin content of 0.0033% in a cosmetic hair solution, combined with Ginkgo biloba, showed a significant reduction in the severity of alopecia after 30 and 90 days. Interestingly, one study recorded a more notable decrease in hair loss in women than men. There was also a decrease in positive hair-pull tests from 61.8% to 7.8%. Conversely, there was an increase in negative hair-pull tests from 12.2% to 61.5%. The researchers also added the beneficial effects of melatonin in seborrhea and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp.

What Are The Unique Side Effects Of Taking Valerian Root And Melatonin?

In the 2021 statistics provided by the Sleep Foundation, nearly 80% of individuals who took prescription sleep medications experienced residual effects. While valerian and melatonin are generally safe for consumers, some have experienced minimal side effects. Research has recorded both to have these side effects: headache, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and fatigue. 

Researchers and supplement users have observed these unique valerian side effects:

      1. Upset stomach
      2. Metallic taste in the mouth
      3. Vivid dreams

Meanwhile, melatonin users reported these side effects specific to melatonin:

      1. Dry or itchy skin
      2. Irritability
      3. Nausea

Specific precautions are taken when consuming both valerian root and melatonin. The World Journal of Critical Care Medicine published a case report in which valerian was investigated to have caused tonic-clonic seizures and low sodium levels (hyponatremia). A 48-year-old male ingested two types of beverages with minimal valerian content. However, the researchers deduced that hyponatremia was caused by the excess water from the drinks and was not a side effect of the valerian component. Another case report detailed an 85-year-old male who presented with agitation, confusion, and visual hallucinations after using valerian 200 mg three times a day. The medical team attributed the presenting symptoms to valerian withdrawal. Medical practitioners further raised the precaution on valerian use when a case of a 57-year-old female who took a valerian supplement (combined with hops, gentian, and asafetida) presented with acute hepatitis with no history of liver disease or alcoholism. 

On the other hand, Ellen Leibenluft et al. recorded that melatonin produced a rebound delayed sleep onset upon withdrawal after a study on five participants with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. The researchers also found repressed melatonin secretion from administering exogenous melatonin 10 mg four times a day for 12 weeks. However, it was a small study, and more research is needed to evaluate and support the results.

What Are The Supplement Differences Between Valerian Root And Melatonin?

Health products containing valerian root and melatonin differ in the following ways:

  1. Raw materials used: Valerian supplements can be easily produced organically as most manufacturers grow and outsource ingredients from organic farms. Melatonin supplements are synthetically made from pharmaceutical-grade ingredients with identical molecular composition to melatonin organically produced by the human body. The health industry warns against melatonin supplements with a “natural” label. If these supplements contain animal tissue, they might be contaminated with dangerous viruses and proteins.
  1. Key ingredient composition: Manufactured sleep aids can contain single valerian or melatonin or a combination with other compounds and herbal extracts. The valerian and melatonin content may be adjusted for maximum efficacy when produced with other compounds.

Health products containing single valerian processed as capsules and tablets are:

Meanwhile, these supplements contain valerian and other herbal extracts, such as passionflower, lemon balm, and jujube.

Supplement products containing single melatonin are:

Valerian and melatonin are active ingredients in these products working synergistically with adjusted dosage:

  1. Supplemental forms: Valerian and melatonin health products are available in different preparations. The supplement form determines the ease of consumption, formulation, dosage, and shelf-life of the product.

Valerian supplements are available in these forms:

      1. Pills (capsules and tablets): This preparation usually contains the standardized formulation of valerian at 0.8% valerenic acid.
      2. Tincture: This is produced by alcohol extraction of the valerian root to form a concentrated liquid—companies like Herb Pharm, Wise Woman Herbals, and Gaia Herbs manufacture valerian tinctures.
      3. Powder: This valerian form is an all-natural, unprocessed pulverized root and leaves of the herb.
      4. Tea: Prepared loose cuts or packed in tea bags; this form comes from the dried roots and leaves of valerian. Yogi Teas produces Cold Season and Bedtime tea with valerian as an ingredient.

Melatonin, on the other hand, is manufactured in the following preparations:

Pills (capsules and tablets): This is the most common form of melatonin supplement.

Liquids: Aside from the conventional pills, a liquid form of melatonin is available for consumers who have difficulty swallowing pills. This form promotes faster absorption. The downside is it might have an unpleasant taste and be more expensive than the other types.

Gummies: This supplement usually tastes good, is chewable, and is easier to swallow. These are examples of melatonin gummies:

Powder: This supplement form of pulverized health product is dissolved in a glass of water and taken at bedtime.

Other forms (sprays, creams, and patches): These are the less common forms of melatonin indicated for individuals who prefer not to take the supplement by mouth. Examples are:

  1. Delivery routes: This parameter determines the location or path by which the supplement is taken. While most valerian supplements enter the human body via the mouth, melatonin supplements have other points of entry as follows.
  • Sublingual/transbuccal: Sublingual delivery route involves placing the product under the tongue, while transbuccal necessitates placing the drug between the gum and cheek. This route promotes fast drug administration to the systemic circulation as it avoids first-pass metabolism (drug metabolism in the liver and stomach causing a reduced concentration of the active drug when reaching the systemic circulation). 
  • Intranasal: This delivery pertains to spraying the solution into the nostrils. The product is taken into the bloodstream from the nasal lining full of blood vessels.
  • Topical: The skin serves as the point of entry for health products administered topically.
  • Transdermal: Usually in the form of oil or patch, this route of administration delivers the drug through the skin, where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
  1. Drug release pattern: This refers to the process in which the drug components migrate from their initial position within the capsules or tablets to the outer surface and then to the release medium.
  • Regular: Conventional drug forms, such as tablets and capsules, have a standard release pattern. They are formulated to release the active drug after oral administration. Most valerian supplements employ this type of release pattern. Regular release melatonin supplements cause an initial spike of melatonin in the bloodstream higher than ordinarily present. 
  • Time-release: This form allows the component to enter the bloodstream more gradually, extending the time release of the herb or hormone. The pattern can either be slow-release, prolonged-release, or immediate-and-extended release. Melatonin supplements with time-release properties are as follows:

                        i. Bioclinic Naturals – Melatonin Time Release 5 mg 60 tabs

Link to purchase: https://www.premierformulas.com/bioclinic-naturals/melatonin-time-release-5-mg-60-tabs

                        ii. Douglas Labs – Controlled-Release Melatonin 2 mg 60 tabs

Link to purchase: https://www.premierformulas.com/douglas-labs/melatonin-2-mg-60-tabs

                        iii. Allergy Research Group – Slow Motion Melatonin 1.2 mg 60 tabs

Link to purchase: https://www.premierformulas.com/allergy-research-group/slow-motion-melatonin-1-2mg-60-tabs

                        iv. Pure Encapsulations – Melatonin-SR 60 vegcaps

Link to purchase: https://www.premierformulas.com/pure-encapsulations/melatonin-sr-60-vegcaps

                        v. Life Extension – Melatonin IR/XR 1.5 mg 60 capsules

Link to purchase: https://www.premierformulas.com/life-extension/melatonin-ir-xr-1-5mg

 

Valerian Root Vs. Melatonin Content Image 2

 

Is It Safe To Take Valerian Root And Melatonin Together?

Yes. Valerian root and melatonin are safe when taken together. Health supplements available in the market containing valerian and melatonin have adjusted doses for maximum efficacy and safety. 

Is It Safe To Take Valerian Root And Melatonin While Pregnant?

No. It is not safe for pregnant women to take valerian and melatonin. There is no scientific research supporting the safety of both supplements for expecting mothers and the growing fetus in the uterus.

How Do You Determine The Correct Valerian Dosage For Sleep?

The correct dosage of valerian in its efficacy for sleep is determined based on age, gender, and supporting research evidence. Research studies with adult participants work around a daily 600 mg valerian dosage for two weeks to cause a shorter subjective sleep latency. Individuals with specific conditions need an adjusted dose of valerian. According to the study by Debra Barton et al., cancer patients aged 45 to 64 undergoing treatment benefited from valerian 450 mg after eight weeks of treatment.

How Do You Determine The Correct Melatonin Dosage For Sleep?

As a medical sleeping aid, the melatonin dose starts at 0.5 mg up to the usual 3-5 mg for adults. For children 2 to 17.5 years, a dosage of 2-5 mg pediatric prolonged-release melatonin has shown positive effects in insomnia treatment for children and adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Melatonin 2 mg also decreased the sleep latency of children and teenagers aged 1 to 18 with atopic dermatitis.

What Alternatives Can Be Taken Aside From Melatonin?

Aside from using valerian instead of melatonin, these alternative herbs and compounds have proven benefits in promoting sleep:

  1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Produced from the leaves and flowers of lavender plants, the oil extract of lavender has been studied and observed to improve sleep in its consumers. Researcher H. Woelk administered Silexan (lavender oil preparation) 80 mg/capsule to study subjects aged 18 to 65. Compared to lorazepam (a benzodiazepine drug used in treating anxiety and sleeping problems), the lavender-containing drug showed a higher decrease in the tendency of waking up during the active treatment phase. It also showed the same effect with lorazepam in sleep parameters, such as total sleep time and sleep latency. Researcher H.M.A. Cavanagh suggested that this cellular effect of lavender may be similar to benzodiazepines in magnifying the effects of GABA in the amygdala. When given via inhalation, lavender improved the sleep quality in patients admitted to a coronary intensive care unit. Researcher Ezgi Karadagh administered 2% lavender oil via inhalation for 15 days. The treatment was repeated for another 15 days for the treatment group, not for the controlled group. One mechanism of this effect is the action of lavender in the limbic system. In a research study by Forough Rafii, lavender applied topically as an emollient for massage twenty minutes before bedtime improved the sleep quality of burn patients.
  1. Hops (Humulus lupulus): The dried strobile (scaly, cone-shaped fruit) of hops are cut and powdered as a processing form of the herb. In a research study done by W. Dimpfel and A. Suter, hops fluid extract 2 ml diluted in 50 ml water improved sleep quantity (time spent in sleep and deeper sleep). The results were derived via electrohypnogram (a computer-assisted analysis of sleep depth). The research found evidence that hops can be used as a single administration in treating sleep problems. According to the American Botanical Council, hops combined with other sedatives can also be beneficial. To this note, hops have been produced together with valerian and other herbs as a sleep aid. In the clinical study by U. Koetter, the researchers utilized a valerian-hops fixed extract combination (Ze 91019) in patients with non-organic insomnia. Ze 91019 contained hops 120 mg and valerian 500 mg. After four weeks of treatment, participants exhibited lesser sleep latency parameters.
  1. Passionflower: The herb works synergistically with valerian root and melatonin. Passionflower improved the objective sleep parameters in individuals aged 18 to 59 with insomnia. After a two-week treatment with 60 mg passionflower, J. Lee recorded an improved polysomnographic total sleep time in the treatment group. In the medical review done by O. Bruni, passionflower and valerian were found to have a similar mechanism of action; they both acted on the GABA receptors in inducing sleep.
  1. Kava (Piper methysticum): In a crossover trial performed by D. Wheatley, individuals with stress-induced insomnia took a daily 120 mg dose of kava for six weeks. This was followed by a washout period of two weeks, then a six-week treatment with valerian 600 mg. Both kava and valerian used were standardized products. The results showed kava significantly relieved stress and its resulting insomnia. After a six-week treatment, the mean insomnia score dropped by 30.9 points from the initial figure. In another clinical study by Siegfried Lehrl, a standardized extract containing 70% kava (WS 1490) was administered to out-patients suffering from sleep disturbances from anxiety disorders not associated with a psychotic origin. After a 7-day placebo therapy, the treatment group received 200 mg/day of WS 1490 for four weeks. Results showed overall improvement in quality of sleep. The recuperative effect after sleep parameter also showed improvement during the first two weeks of treatment and continued until the end of the study period. The research indicated that kava is helpful in non-organic sleep disturbances.
  1. German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): Chamomile has been used to promote relaxation and sleep for hundreds of years. Preclinical studies attribute the benefits of its action on GABA receptors to its flavonoid content. In preliminary research by Suzanna Zick, 70 adults aged 18 to 65 took Chamomile High-Grade Extract 270 mg twice a day for four weeks. While there was no significant change in subjective sleep efficiency and total sleep time, there was an acceptable decrease in sleep latency for 16 minutes and around ⅓ fewer night awakenings. In another study by M. Abdullahzadeh, 77 elderly patients hospitalized in nursing homes consumed chamomile 400 mg/cap twice daily. After a 4-week intervention, there was a significant difference in sleep quality between the treatment and controlled group. The researchers suggested that chamomile can be used in similar cases and nursing care.
  1. Magnesium: Magnesium has been found to affect sleep problems positively. In a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial led by Behnood Abbasi, 46 elderly subjects were given magnesium 500 mg for eight weeks. After the treatment, the participants reported significant improvement in sleep efficiency and sleep time. There was also a reduction in early morning awakenings and sleep latency. These results were parallel to the findings of Y. Cao et al., where study subjects 20 years old and older participated in a follow-up study on the effects of magnesium on sleep. At baseline, five years before, only sleep duration was measured. During the follow-up study, another parameter-daytime falling asleep- was added. Interestingly, the researchers observed that magnesium affected women more than men. The female study subjects reported lesser chances of falling asleep in the daytime.
  1. Glycine: This amino acid plays an essential role in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Several studies found evidence of its positive effect on sleep problems. To cite, the research study by W. Yamadera recorded 3 g glycine before bed remarkably lessened sleep latency and slow-wave sleep emergence in adults aged 30 to 57. These results were objectively gathered via polysomnographic examinations and subjective reports on improved sleep quality via sleep questionnaires. Furthermore, the researchers found while daytime consumption of glycine did not cause acute sleepiness, bolus ingestion of glycine seemed to accelerate sleep onset. In his literature review, M. Bannai discussed the action of glycine on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs). He concluded it acts as a co-agonist to NMDARs, whose activity regulates daily sleep rhythm and mood.
  1. L-tryptophan: This alternative to valerian and melatonin is an amino acid essential for the production of protein and certain brain-signaling chemicals. The body processes L-tryptophan into serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for sleep and mood control). Researcher Ernest Hartmann performed a series of studies to evaluate the effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and sleep. In the first study, participants reported a significant increase in sleepiness after taking 4 g L-tryptophan 3 hours before bedtime. In the second trial, study subjects substituted their evening meals for an 800-calorie high protein or no-protein meal (carbohydrate and fat only) with the incorporation of 2 g tryptophan, 2 g of leucine, or 2 g of placebo in a balanced order. The researcher recorded significant sleepiness in the carbohydrate diet at a 2-hour time point. Tryptophan also contributed to tiredness on either diet. The final study provided evidence that the higher the tryptophan dosage, the greater its effect on drowsiness and sleep. A 4 g dosage of L-tryptophan incorporated into a midday meal via casein hydrolysate produced a remarkable increase in sleepiness thirty minutes after eating, lasting 120 minutes. More studies are needed to further the knowledge on tryptophan and its effect on other sleep parameters. The researcher suggested L-tryptophan is beneficial for individuals with mild insomnia or longer sleep latency than average.
  1. L-theanine (gamma-glutamylethylamide): This amino acid is primarily and abundantly found in tea leaves. It rapidly modulates neurotransmitters and neuronal function, promoting relaxation without drowsiness and stress relief. Researchers Theertham Rao et al. discussed the effects of L-theanine on sleep and each gender in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. In male study subjects, L-theanine 200 mg one hour before bedtime improved sleep factors. The researchers used an Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) questionnaire for participants with a mean age of 27 years old to fill out. The document focused on five parameters: refreshed awakening, improved quality of sleep, dream quality, recovery from exhaustion, and feeling about sleep time. Mood factors, namely good mood, motivation, and self-confidence, were also included. Unanimously, study subjects reported enhanced sleep quality as evidenced by a feeling of rejuvenation after respite and exhaustion. There was also a decrease in both dream recall and nightmares. Furthermore, postmenopausal women aged 50 to 65 showed positive effects after taking the same dose of L-theanine one hour before bedtime. The sleep inventory suggested improvement in parameters, such as sleep and dream quality, refreshed awakening, and recovery from exhaustion. There was also a marked decrease in the pulse rate in the first half of sleep in the treatment group compared to the placebo group.

Does Valerian Root Really Work For Sleep?

Yes, studies have recorded evidence of the positive effects of valerian on sleep. In particular, researcher F. Donath found valerian extract 300 mg increased bedtime rate and REM percentage (the dream stage of sleep). It is especially beneficial for individuals who have chronic insomnia.

Does Melatonin Really Work For Sleep?

Yes, melatonin works to help people with sleep pattern problems. It resets the body’s biological clock as it affects melatonin receptors. MT1 is responsible for sedation, and MT2 maintains the circadian rhythm. The pineal gland produces endogenous melatonin in response to low light or dark environments. In itself, melatonin does not affect sleep quality; it only signals the body that it is dark outside and time to sleep. This characteristic supports the indication of taking exogenous melatonin before bedtime and sleeping in a dark room.

What Are The Potential Risks For Taking Valerian Root And Melatonin?

While valerian root and melatonin have minimal reported side effects, it is still important to identify situations and individuals to whom both sleep aids pose potential risks and specific precautions. The following is a list of individuals who are advised to withhold melatonin use or to consult a physician before using melatonin:

      1. Females planning to conceive
      2. Expecting and nursing mothers
      3. Healthy children of all ages
      4. People with autoimmune diseases
      5. Individuals taking prescription steroid drugs
      6. Persons with severe mental illness
      7. Leukemia and lymphoma patients

Individuals planning to take valerian root and melatonin have these questions to consider:

      1. Can Valerian Root and Melatonin cause nightmares?

Valerian root and melatonin may cause nightmares or vivid dreams since the former improves sleep quality and the latter increases the number of sleep hours and the dreaming stage of sleep.

      2. Can Valerian Root and Melatonin cause constipation?

There are no published constipation side effects from single valerian root usage. However, there is a report of three from 167 participants in the randomized, controlled, double-blind study by J. Melzer, where constipation presented with nausea. Participants took a fixed herbal drug combination (Ze185) containing valerian root, lemon balm, butterbur, and passionflower extracts. On the other hand, melatonin serves as a co-adjuvant treatment in colonic diseases, such as constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so it is unlikely to cause costiveness. 

      3. Can Valerian Root and Melatonin cause weight gain?

There are no studies suggesting valerian root affects weight. For melatonin, its most favorable effects on weight gain come from studies in which it was administered to patients with obesity or increased weight from medications. A scientific article by Robert Howland discussed that melatonin has a crucial role in energy metabolism and body weight regulation because it maintains energy balance by modulating energy flow to and from stores. Moreover, it regulates energy usage by activating brown adipose tissue and “browning” white adipose tissue that stores excess body fuel like triglycerides.

      4. Can Valerian Root and Melatonin cause diarrhea?

Yes, valerian root may cause diarrhea in some consumers. In a clinical study by Jacobs et al., 18% of 391 participants developed diarrhea after taking valerian root. Conversely, melatonin serves as adjuvant therapy for diarrhea-predominant IBS. Consumers taking melatonin have not reported any diarrhea.

      5. Can Valerian Root and Melatonin keep you awake?

No, both valerian root and melatonin have sedative effects making them insomnia treatments. There have been claims that overdosage might cause rebound insomnia for melatonin, but there is no scientific evidence to prove this. If any, it causes an opposite and favorable, slight residual effect of better sleep two weeks after 6-12 months of melatonin use. 

When Should Valerian Root And Melatonin Be Taken?

Valerian root is to be taken thirty minutes to two hours before bedtime, but it might take two to four weeks before the effect on sleep quality can be observed. Melatonin is used thirty minutes to two hours before bedtime (when it is dark outside) since it takes that same amount of time before it starts working. An important consideration is to take melatonin before your ideal bedtime. Otherwise, the supplement could shift your circadian rhythm in a way that causes daytime drowsiness.

Can Valerian Root Interact With Other Supplements?

Valerian is generally safe to use, but drug interactions are possible. Here is a list of substances that valerian root preparations can interact with:

      1. Sedatives
      2. Some antidepressants (trazodone)
      3. Insomnia medications (eszopiclone, ramelteon, zaleplon, zolpidem)
      4. Antihistamines (diphenhydramine)
      5. Anticonvulsant (gabapentin, phenytoin, valproic acid)
      6. Antifungal medications
      7. Opioids (tramadol)
      8. Alcohol
      9. Anesthesia
      10. Other supplements (St. John’s work, kava, melatonin)

Since valerian root is a known natural sleep aid, it can interact and potentiate the effects of other drugs or supplements that can cause relaxation, such as sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines, and sleep supplements. In the meta-analysis headed by Olaf Kelber et al., researchers found the reaction potential of valerian root seems to be relatively low and without clinical relevance. Still, researchers suggest further studies are needed, and medical consultation is advised if valerian root is taken with other medications.

 

Valerian Root Vs. Melatonin Content Image 3

 

Can Melatonin Interact With Other Supplements?

Exogenous melatonin may interact with other substances that cause the same effect or inhibit its benefit. Here is a list of these substances:

      1. Antihistamines
      2. Antidepressants (fluvoxamine or imipramine)
      3. Antibiotics (quinolones or rifampicin)
      4. Anticonvulsants (phenytoin and valproic acid): 
      5. Blood thinners (warfarin)
      6. Contraceptive drugs
      7. Diabetes medications
      8. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, or naproxen
      9. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants
      10. Blood pressure medications
      11. Opioid analgesics
      12. Other supplements (tryptophan)

Because melatonin has sedative effects, it is most likely to interact with drugs that cause sedation and relaxation, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and other supplements like tryptophan. Melatonin use was found to have convulsant effects in 66% of neurologically-disabled pediatric clients with seizures who were treated for insomnia. Blood thinners also cause probable melatonin interactions. Researcher Andrew Herxheimer enumerated case reports where melatonin users experienced nosebleeds and changes in prothrombin due to the interaction of melatonin with warfarin. Clinical studies done on young adults have shown melatonin decreases blood pressure. In antihypertensive medications such as clonidine and methoxamine, melatonin may reduce drug efficacy, while calcium channel blockers may decrease melatonin levels. In the clinical study by S. Dokoohaki, melatonin serum levels decreased after 1-2 days of treatment with methylprednisolone (an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drug) 1,000 mg/day in patients with multiple sclerosis. This was also the case in terms of NSAIDs and beta-blockers; the former reduced serum melatonin and the latter may have reduced melatonin production in the body.

How Long Does The Valerian Root And Melatonin Take To Effect? 

It takes one to two hours for valerian root to take effect, given the consumer has already taken the supplement for two to four weeks. Researcher F. Donath found evidence in his study that valerian root begins to positively affect sleep quality at two weeks of supplementation. On the other hand, melatonin takes at least one hour to cause sleepiness. 

 

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