Is It Safe to Combine Valerian Root and Alcohol?

If you’re currently taking valerian root pills, it may be due to a number of reasons. For most, valerian root helps them relax, yielding sedative effects so that they’re better able to sleep. Although these pills can be highly beneficial to these users, there are certain substances that can interfere with the effectiveness of this supplement.

In some cases, herbal supplements amplify sedative effects. There are also various anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines that should be avoided based on possible interactions. Lastly, alcohol should not be combined with valerian root. Although you may enjoy a nightcap to try and sleep, when combined with valerian root, you can experience some potentially negative effects.

Since both valerian root and alcohol stimulate GABA receptors, relaxation, and sedative effects are amplified. This can cause excess sedation, yielding various adverse effects when taken in high doses. Let’s explore this possible interaction so that you not only benefit from valerian root but reduce your risk of side effects.

How Does Valerian Root Work?

Valerian supplements contain a number of natural extracts from the valerian plant, mainly the root. Being used throughout history, dating back centuries, this root yields many beneficial effects. Over recent years, this supplement has grown in popularity throughout Europe and the United States.

Today, individuals typically take this root in order to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety while enhancing their ability to sleep. Acting as a mild sedative, valerian is generally well tolerated, yielding few adverse effects. In terms of how it works, you need to understand a key neurotransmitter, GABA.

When taking valerian root, GABA levels increase in the brain. This brain chemical, formerly known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that better controls signaling between neurons. Acting as an inhibitor, GABA reduces excessive stimulation, balancing excitatory signals.

In order to prevent anxiety, we need GABA to help calm our minds. Also, when we’re preparing to sleep, GABA helps to calm the mind. It is believed that those who suffer from anxiety disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, and even ADHD, are lacking enough GABA. Although the exact mechanism of action isn’t fully understood, research suggests that valerian helps to target GABA deficiencies.

It’s believed that when users take valerian, they inhibit the breakdown of GABA after being released from neurons. It may also encourage stimulation in the brain, resulting in the release of more GABA. In turn, individuals are able to reduce symptoms of anxiety and fall asleep more rapidly at the end of the day.

How Does Alcohol Affect Valerian Root?

As mentioned, there’s a strong correlation between alcohol and valerian. Since alcohol creates sedative effects, depressing the central nervous system, these effects will be amplified when taken with valerian root. When studied, alcohol was shown to stimulate a subtype of receptors, affecting GABA.

Like valerian, alcohol makes users feel relaxed, less stressed, and less prone to instances of social anxiety. I’m sure everyone can relate, as a couple glasses of wine can make you more sociable. Although small increases in GABA will produce desirable effects, excessive levels can have a negative impact.

When consuming too much alcohol, the effects lead to memory loss, impaired thinking, reduced impulse control, and significant drowsiness. When consumed in excessive amounts, this is when the central nervous system becomes affected. The ability to breath can become impaired, leading to respiratory depression or alcohol poisoning.

For some individuals, combining both alcohol and valerian root in low doses may not cause side effects, however, everyone’s sensitivity levels will be different. Since it’s tough to gauge how each individual person will react to this combination, it’s best to abstain for alcohol when taking valerian.

Even if you do not experience significant adverse effects when combining alcohol and valerian, at the very least, your tolerance to alcohol will be diminished. This means that you should not be taking part in any activities, such as driving or operating machinery, which could put your life or other lives at risk.

What Are Some of the Risk Factors Involved?

Unfortunately, some individuals take both alcohol and valerian in order to experience a euphoric high. What they don’t realize, is that they’re placing their health at-risk. In some cases, alcohol can enhance the issues you’re aiming to treat with valerian in the first place.

Although many associate alcohol with having a good night’s rest, the reality is that alcohol negatively affects sleeping patterns. Some studies have shown that sleeping while under the influence of alcohol is not as relaxing as normal sleep. As you sleep, your body works hard to remove toxins and perform vital body maintenance.

When you’re fast asleep due to heavy alcohol consumption, your body is working hard to eliminate this substance and reduce the potentially damaging effects. By targeting alcohol in your system, your body will not have time to address other essential maintenance tasks.

While undergoing neurological testing, it’s been shown that certain parts of the brain become activated in order to process memories. When sleeping and individuals are under the influence of alcohol, these key areas involved in memory consolidation do not become active.

Based on these effects, alcohol may not only produce potentially harmful effects but actually worsen symptoms of both insomnia and anxiety while increasing one’s risk of addiction. Regardless of valerian intake, excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided.

Many healthcare providers are in agreeance that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a number of health issues and diseases, both mental and physical. Risk factors such as high blood pressure, depression, and addiction are all linked to heavy alcohol use.

If you are going to drink alcohol, consume in moderation and drink plenty of water to support hydration. If valerian root can target symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, this is the preferred choice over alcohol. Within the United States, the FDA has deemed valerian root to be safe and well-tolerated. Side effects are mild and rare.

When side effects are experienced, it’s generally due to excess doses or the combination of drugs and GABA pathways. As mentioned above, alcohol stimulates GABA receptors and based on decreased tolerance and excess sedation, combining alcohol and valerian are not recommended.