If you suffer from anxiety or insomnia, you may want to try herbal remedies before turning to harsh medications. Valerian is dietary supplement commonly used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and prevent insomnia. This herb has sedative effects, which can increase the sedative effects of alcohol. It is best to avoid valerian while consuming alcohol. Consult your health care physician before adding valerian to your diet, as it may interact with other medications and substances.
Second century Greek and Roman civilizations used the roots of valerian as a sleep aid. In the 16th century, valerian roots were also used as a treatment to ease nerves, trembling, headaches and heart palpitations, according to the National Institutes of Health. Today, valerian roots are pressed and made into extract form or tea form. While further research needs to be done on what exactly causes valerian's effects on the brain, the National Institutes of Health explain it is likely due to valerian's effect on increasing the amount of GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, in your brain. GABA has a direct impact on mood and a sedating effect. Valerian also inhibits the enzyme that naturally rids your body of GABA.
Similar to valerian, alcohol impacts the amount of GABA in your brain. Alcohol is stronger than valerian and causes your brain to release higher amounts of GABA. It also produces sedating effects on your nerves, which is why your motor skills can be compromised from intoxication. Drugs.com states that moderate alcohol intake is two drinks or less in one day for men and one drink or less per day for women. This amount of alcohol may benefit your cardiovascular health. However, exceeding this dose can have adverse effects on your heart, brain, liver and memory. If you experience blackouts or short-term memory loss from your alcohol consumption, lower your intake to prevent permanent damage to your health.
Valerian root can increase the effects of any sedating drug, and alcohol is no exception. Valerian in combination with alcohol can cause severe drowsiness, short-term memory loss and delayed motor skills. Even with moderate intake, pairing alcohol with valerian may impair your judgment and coordination and lead to feelings of fatigue and depression. Your mental alertness and focus may also be compromised. Speak with your doctor before pairing valerian with any drug that affects the quantity of GABA in your brain or produces sedating effects.
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Although generally safe, side-effects of valerian can include increased anxiety and trouble sleeping. Similar to alcohol, the University of Maryland Medical Center warns that you should avoid the use of valerian if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, long-term use of alcohol can cause brain damage and increase your risk of liver disease and certain heart diseases. To avoid these issues, you should use valerian and alcohol only sparingly and never in combination with one another.
Jenna Cee has been writing professionally since 2006. Her articles appear on 2Athletes.com and Women's Fitness Online. She is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and as a fitness and sports nutritionist through the International Sports Sciences Association. Cee holds a Master of Science in human nutrition from Washington State University.