May 5, 2010 | By Michelle Powell-Smith
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Valerian is an herb, commonly used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety or pain and discomfort, according to WebMD. This herb acts as a sedative on the brain and nervous system, and may be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form. While the safety of Valerian for adults is well established, there is less information on Valerian and children. Consider the possible risks and benefits of this traditional medicinal plant for your child, and consult your health care provider or a trained herbalist before your c
Valerian is a mild sedative and is generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In studies on adults, it has been shown to effectively treat insomnia. Scientists believe that Valerian works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This is similar to, but milder than, the effect of pharmaceutical medications like Valium, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
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The majority of research on Valerian involves adults, rather than children. A 2002 study on sleep difficulties in children published in "Phytomedicine" suggests that Valerian may be safe for children when used for four to eight weeks. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states that Valerian root should not be used in children under three due to lack of research, while the World Health Organization discourages Valerian for children under 12.
Valerian has traditionally been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, stress, gastrointestinal upset and ADHD. While the National Institutes of Health considers the studies on Valerian inconclusive, WebMD reports that it is possibly effective to treat sleep disorders, but that evidence is insufficient for the treatment of restlessness in children, anxiety or ADHD.
According to Intelihealth, 100 to 600 mg of aqueous or aqueous-ethanol extract or Valerian tincture may be given to children. If you prefer a Valerian tea, steep 1.5 to 3 grams of Valerian root in 150 mL of boiling water. Commercial Valerian preparations designed for children are available and may be pure Valerian extract or a combination of valerian with other herbs, like lemon balm.
While Valerian is generally considered safe and has been shown to have few side effects according to WebMD, you should consult your health care provider or a trained herbalist regarding using this herb to treat your child. No drug interactions have been reported in human studies; however, studies on rodents indicate a possible interaction with barbiturates, according to Vitamin Herb University. Discuss your child's other medications with your doctor to avoid any potential problems.