Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: 3 Vital Differences Explained

Ashwagandha and valerian are two herbs that are often compared because of their ability to help increase sleep quality. However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha and valerian are two herbs that are often compared because of their ability to help increase sleep quality.

However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that you should be aware of before choosing one or the other.

In this article, we’ll compare both the differences and the similarities of valerian root vs. ashwagandha.

valerian root vs. ashwagandha

Ashwagandha Overview & Uses:

Ashwagandha is a well-known Ayurvedic plant that is used for its adaptogenic effects.

This plant has been used as an aphrodisiac and health tonic in India for millennia. It has also been used in traditional medicine for its anti-stress and immunostimulating effects.

Ashwagandha is a proven commodity and has been found in various scientific studies to assist with anxiety, sleep quality, and stress resilience.

valerian root vs. ashwagandha: ashwagandha health benefits

1. May Reduce Insomnia

According to clinical studies, ashwagandha may help with sleep quality and insomnia.

Researchers who studied the effects of ashwagandha on sleep found that it significantly improved several sleep criteria in people with poor sleep quality.

Another study compared the results of giving ashwagandha to insomniacs with those who had healthy sleep patterns. This study found that ashwagandha helped to improve sleep quality in both the insomnia group and the healthy study group.

2. May Help With Stress Management

Ashwagandha has been found to have adaptogenic anti-stress qualities, which means it may assist with stress reduction.

Stress is a major component that impacts the body’s ability to get a full night of restful sleep.

In a clinical trial, ashwagandha was tested for its ability to reduce stress in individuals with mild stress. The scientists found that ashwagandha was beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety.

This study, as well as other studies, suggests that ashwagandha may be the ideal way to counter the negative effects of stress.

3. May Reduce Mild Anxiety

Ashwagandha appears to aid with anxiety and overall mental health, according to clinical studies.

Anxiety can greatly impact the body’s ability to fall asleep at night.

A clinical trial showed that 300mg (daily) of ashwagandha helped to reduce self-reported stress levels.

Another human clinical trial showed that ashwagandha helped to reduce anxiety in the study participants, as measured by various anxiety indexes.

You can learn more about the benefits of ashwagandha in our in-depth article here.

Valerian Overview & Uses:

Valerian root is a pungent herb that has been used for centuries for its various health benefits.

It is primarily used to aid in better sleep. It’s been shown to improve sleep quality (including REM sleep) and decrease sleep latency.

While valerian root is often thought of solely as a “sleep supplement”, it has other uses, including benefits for anxiety, PMS symptoms, and overall brain function.

valerian root vs. ashwagandha: valerian root health benefits

1. May Reduce Insomnia

Research shows that valerian root may be able to help to reduce insomnia.

A meta-analysis review of 60 studies showed that valerian is an effective supplement for promoting sleep. The researchers noted that valerian helped via two pathways, 1) that it improved sleep quality and 2) decreased sleep latency (i.e. the time it takes to fall asleep).

A human clinical trial involving 128 people found that taking 400mg of valerian root prior to sleep helped to reduce the time it took to fall asleep. It also helped to increase overall sleep quality.

2. May Reduce Anxiety

Various studies have shown that valerian, when combined with kava, may have the ability to reduce anxiety.

A clinical trial showed that a combination of valerian and kava (Piper methysticum) helped to reduce anxiety in individuals when put in a stressful situation. Interestingly enough, this study also found that this combo of valerian and kava helped to reduce systolic blood pressure.

Another study showed that taking valerian root and kava helped to increase sleep quality and reduce anxiety.

3. May Improve Cognitive Function

According to research, valerian root may help to increase brain health.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that valerian can be beneficial in boosting mental cognition. In this study, 39 individuals were given either valerian or a placebo. The valerian group showed an incremental increase in both focus and mental cognition.

Learn more about the benefits of valerian root.

Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: Similarities & Differences

When it comes to comparing ashwagandha and valerian, there are many similarities between these two herbs.

First off, the medicinal part of each plant is its root. Ashwagandha is fast growing and is typically harvested after 1-2 years. Valerian root also grows quickly and is harvested after the first year of growth (typically in the fall).

Both ashwagandha and valerian help to promote healthy brain function, sleep, stress levels, and overall mood.

The key difference between the two is that ashwagandha is an adaptogen with anti-stress properties while valerian is more of a nervous system relaxant.

Both valerian root and ashwagandha have been used in traditional medicine systems. Ashwagandha is highly used within the Ayurvedic system of medicine, while valerian has more usage within traditional Western medicine (along with Native American practice).

Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: Which is right for you?

You can think of ashwagandha as an anti-stress herb with the ability to support increased sleep quality. The sleep benefit is more of a secondary function.

Whereas with valerian root, its ability to increase sleep quality and reduce sleep latency is its main benefit. This makes valerian an excellent sleep aid. It also has an anxiolytic benefit, but this is more of a secondary function.

Click here to find our recommended valerian-based formula for sleep.

If you are stressed and need support in your ability to adapt to stress, then ashwagandha is the right choice. Its sleep-supporting effects are icing on the cake.

If you primarily need help with getting better sleep quality, then valerian root is your best choice. It can help to increase deep REM sleep and help your body to wake up feeling refreshed.

For valerian-based sleep aids, we recommend looking at Fall Asleep, a natural herbal sleep aid containing valerian, lemonbalm, passionflower, and skullcap.

Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: Can You Take Them Together?

Yes, you can take valerian root and ashwagandha together.

These herbs do not have any known negative interactions when taken together.

In fact, these herbs may be a good combination to help increase sleep quality and reduce anxious thoughts.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

As with all things, herbs have the potential to interact negatively with your body.

Valerian is generally well tolerated, especially at low-to-moderate doses.

There is one precaution with taking valerian: it’s not recommended that you take valerian with central nervous system depressants and/or alcohol as it may potentiate their effects.

You can find a full safety profile review of valerian root here.

Ashwagandha is also generally well-tolerated and safe to consume.

A safety review study showed that moderate doses (~300mg daily) of ashwagandha do not appear to be associated with any major side effects or adverse reactions.

You can find our full safety profile review of ashwagandha here.

As with all supplements, it’s best to run them by your personal doctor for feedback prior to ingesting.

Conclusion:

As you can see, both herbs are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

If you’re trying to decide between the two, consider taking a few weeks to experiment with each herb for yourself before making your final decision.

You might find that one works better than the other or vice versa! Or, try them together and see if you get a synergistic effect.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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