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The dried roots or essential oils of valerian have been used since ancient times as a remedy for anxiety and as an aid for sleep disorders. In many ways, valerian works on the brain like prescription tranquilizers do. Deemed safe by the German E Commission, valerian appears to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

Although valerian is considered safe, there are some cautions you should observe: First, it's not recommended for children or pregnant or nursing women. Don't take it in conjunction with other sedatives, antidepressants, or alcohol. It's probably not a good idea to operate heavy machinery or drive immediately after taking valerian (wait three hours). And finally, you shouldn't take it for more than two weeks. Keep in mind that a few people react to valerian as if it were a stimulant (about two percent of people). So if you feel agitated or restless after you take it, you might want to try chamomile or passionflower instead.

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