Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been used as an aid for sleep for thousands of years. Science is divided on whether this is true or not, but people swear by its efficacy still. It is most often drunk as a tea mixed with chamomile before bedtime. It is enough of a sedative that one of valerian’s nicknames is “poor man’s Valium”.
Similar to catnip, valerian acts as a sedative for humans but as an attractant to cats. It contains the chemical actinidine which mimics the odor of cat urine.
Valerian tea is an herbal beverage made from theroots and underground stems of the valerian plant. Possible benefitsof drinking the tea include improved sleep, decreased stress, menstrual symptom relief, and even a reduction of menopausal symptoms.
Valerian contains a substance known as valerenic acid that is believed to affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. It is believed that one of the purposes of GABA is to control fear or anxiety experienced when nerve cells are overexcited. By doing so, valerian may act as a mild sedative and anxiolytic.