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Legend has it that tea was first discovered by Shan Nong, Emperor of China, in 2737 B.C. The Emperor believed that drinking boiled water contributed to good health. One summer day while visiting a distant region, he and his servants stopped to rest. As the Emperor sipped his hot water, a few dried leaves from a nearby wild tea bush fell by chance into his cup. To his pleasant surprise, the drink gave off a rich and alluring aroma. The Emperor, upon drinking this new brew, discovered it made him feel vibrant and rejuvenated. He then declared that “tea” provided vitality to the body and immediately commanded that tea bushes be planted in the gardens of his palace. Thus, the custom of brewing fresh tea leaves for medicinal purposes, such as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression, began.
Looking for a Natural Remedy for Anxiety and Depression? Try Valerian Root Tea
While Valerian root tea was not discovered by a noble Emperor, its use as a medicinal tea does date back to Ancient Greece and Rome. A perennial plant that grows in parts of Europe, Asia and North America, Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) has long been touted as a natural remedy for anxiety, depression and insomnia. It contains a number of active chemical compounds including different alkaloids; however, the most important ingredient in Valerian root is gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
GABA has often been referred to as “the brain’s own anti-anxiety medication.” It is a naturally-occurring amino acid that is responsible for promoting relaxation by inhibiting stress-causing neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain. Left unchecked, these neurotransmitters can lead to a lack of sleep, persistent anxiety or other depression symptoms—irritability, low sex drive, headaches, heart palpitations, etc. Interestingly, GABA is the same active chemical that is triggered by taking the prescription drugs, Valium and Xanax. Since Valerian root contains GABA, it is hypothesized this is the mechanism by which it decreases feelings of depression, anxiety and nervousness, but the tea is a far safer and milder alternative than the addictive drugs.[1,2]
How to Take Valerian Root
- If you are using Valerian root teabags, drink one cup of tea, one to three times daily with the last dose before bedtime.
- To prepare the tea using herbs or powders, use one teaspoon of the Valerian root in one pint of boiling water for ten minutes in a covered pot and then strain. Again, drink one cup of tea, one to three times daily with the last dose before bedtime.
- Do not drink Valerian tea before driving, operating heavy equipment or when mental alertness is required.
- The effects of Valerian root tea are not always immediate; it may take a few weeks to notice results. The tea can be safely used for a brief time, typically in four to six week intervals. After six weeks, two to four week breaks are recommended before re-starting the herb.
It is important to note that while Valerian root tea may be a useful natural remedy for anxiety and depression, it may not correct the underlying root cause of your condition.
Originally published in 2014, this blog has been updated.