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Is Valerian Useful for Relief of Generalized Anxiety?

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Anxiety disorders are quite common in our society. Anxiety can vary in intensity and can severely affect one’s lifestyle. There are many medications available to treat anxiety but none is ideal and all of them have side effects. For this reason, many individuals with anxiety have now been turning to alternative health care for treatment of anxiety. One of the natural substances high highly recommended by the herbalist for anxiety is valerian.

Valerian is a herb sold as a dietary supplement in health food stores. It is a common ingredient in natural products recommended for sleep, tension, and stress relief. As far as clinical evidence about its sedating ability is concerned, most of the data are inconclusive and not supportive. Nevertheless, the herb is found to be safe when ingested for a short time, but there are no long-term data.

As far as anxiety is concerned, the effectiveness of Valerian is a puzzle. To date, all reports about valerian for treatment of anxiety are anecdotal and most are made by the vendors of this product. Individuals who take valerian seem to indicate that it does not work all the time. Other individuals have tried out different brand names of the same herb and found no difference in the anxiety symptoms.

As far as clinical evidence is concerned, there is very little data. However, recently Cochrane reviews looked at one randomized study involving 36 patients with generalized anxiety. This 4-week study compared valerian to diazepam and a placebo. The patient population was homogenous and various scales were used to measure anxiety symptoms. At the end of 4 weeks, valerian was no different from the sugar pill when it came to relief of anxiety symptoms. Diazepam was more effective than valerian when it came to symptom relief for anxiety. The only good news about valerian was that no patients reported side effects.

So what about the consumer with anxiety?

This was only one small study but again, despite all the hype about valerian, it did nothing for relief of symptoms of anxiety. Even though benzodiazepines have side effects and are addictive, these drugs still remain effective for anxiety. The other negative about benzodiazepines is that they are expensive and often interact adversely with other drugs. For the individual with anxiety, the choice of how to treat anxiety is difficult. Should one take a herb which is useless and moderately expensive or take a drug which is very expensive, has side effects but works?

The answer- neither. Try Buspirone. This non-addictive drug does not impair mechanical performance such as driving. Response to Buspirone occurs approximately in two weeks, as compared to the more rapid onset associated with benzodiazepines. The only negative- individuals who have previously taken benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety generally do not respond well to Buspirone.


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EmpowHER Guest

Anxiety disorders are astonishingly common. They include Panic, Phobias (including Agoraphobia and Social Phobia), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. For many people self-help is a viable way forward and this is why we wrote our book Free Yourself from Anxiety. We aim to show you, step-by-step, how to set up and follow an individually tailored self-help programme.

Part one looks at lifestyle, because very often the way you live is contributing to Anxiety. By making simple changes you can get yourself fit and ready to tackle your Anxiety driven behaviours.

Part two shows you how to challenge your Anxiety in a safe controlled way, by setting small goals that take you gradually towards letting go of anxious behaviours.

Part three shows you how to recognise your anxious thinking, challenge it, and ultimately change it.

Part four explains how to delve into some of the deeper issues that may be driving Anxiety. We also suggest where it might be appropriate for you to seek professional help.

Our aim in this book is to be as comprehensive as possible. Each reader will be able to decide which aspects of the recovery programme they need to complete and which are not relevant to them. In addition we have only discussed proven safe techniques.

Throughout the book we have used the words of Anxiety sufferers who are in various stages of recovery to illustrate our points

The authors

Emma Fletcher is a UK-registered counsellor with 20 years experience of helping anxiety sufferers and of training counsellors and volunteers on anxiety help-lines. She remains firmly committed to the self-help principle and believes that much of her work consists of giving her clients the tools to enable them to live more effectively. This book is an attempt to bring those tools to a wider audience.

Martha Langley is a professional writer and journalist. She has more than 10 years experience as a volunteer on helplines for people dealing with Anxiety and has also been a one-to-one mentor and recovery group leader. This has given her an insight into the difficulties faced by people trying to put self-help techniques into practice. Her aim in Free Yourself from Anxiety was to explain these techniques, to explain the reasoning behind them, and to make practical suggestions that will give every reader the best chance of recovery.

Free Yourself From Anxiety ISBN 978-1- 84528-311-7 is available from bookshops, book websites and Amazon.


June 21, 2009 - 10:25am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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