Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: Similarities & Differences

Ashwagandha and valerian root are herbs that are often compared because of their ability to help benefit sleep. However, there are also some important differences between these herbs that you …

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

However, there are also some important 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

Valerian Root vs. Ashwagandha: Similarities & Differences Explained

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 root and valerian help to promote brain health, sleep, stress levels, and overall mood.

The key difference between the two is that ashwagandha is an adaptogen with stress-relieving 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 Overview:Ashwagandha Overview:
Primary Benefit:Valerian root is thought to increase sleep qualityAshwagandha may work to reduce symptoms of insomnia
Secondary Benefit(s):Valerian shows evidence of lowering stress levelsAshwagandha displays potential anti-anxiety effects
Part of the Plant Used:RootRoot
Dosage Range:300-600mg300-1,000mg
Form:Extract, powder or capsuleExtract, powder or capsule
Side Effects:Low likelihood of headache, stomach upset, mental dullness, heart disturbances, or drowsinessLarge doses may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or vomiting
Recommended Products:Utzy Naturals | Check PriceGaia Herbs | Check Price

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 promote better sleep 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 benefit sleep and reduce anxious thoughts.

Best Valerian Root & Ashwagandha Supplements:

It is crucial to select an effective, high-quality supplement from a trustworthy brand, although this can be difficult.

To make selecting a supplement that works for you easier, we’ve put together a complete guide going over the best ashwagandha supplements and our top recommended valerian supplement.

Recommended Valerian RootRecommended Ashwagandha
the best valerian root supplement - utzybest ashwagandha supplement
Utzy NaturalsGaia herbs
•Easy-to-Take Capsules
•3rd Party Tested
•Made in the USA
•Organic, Vegan, and Gluten-Free
•Ecologically Harvested in Siberia
•Concentrated Dosage

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 traditionally used in medicine for its anti-stress and immunostimulating effects.

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

valerian root vs. ashwagandha: ashwagandha health benefits

1. May Benefit Insomnia

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

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

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 the quality of sleep experienced in both the insomnia group and the healthy study group.

2. May Help With Stress Management

Ashwagandha has been found to have adaptogenic qualities, which means it may assist with stress reduction (similar to the benefits of L-theanine).

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 relieve stress in women and men with mild stress. The scientists found that ashwagandha was beneficial in lowering anxiety and reducing stress.

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 reducing 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 decrease anxiety levels 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, scientifically named “Valeriana officinalis“, is a pungent herb that has been used for centuries for its various benefits.

It is primarily used to aid in better sleep. It’s been shown to improve quality of sleep (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 treat 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 quality of sleep 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 benefit mental health by reducing anxiety.

A clinical trial showed that a combination of valerian and kava (Piper methysticum) helped to lower levels of anxiety in individuals 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 overall quality of sleep 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 cognitive abilities.

Learn more about the benefits of valerian root.

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.


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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