Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Dr. Oz and Dr. Weil Recommend 1 Natural Supplement over Melatonin as a Safer Sleep Aid

Tim Boyer's picture
Dr. Oz recommends Natural Supplement over Melatonin as a Safer Sleep Aid

“I usually sleep very well, but on rare occasions when I don’t, ‘Valerian’ is a safe and effective sleep aid,” says Dr. Weil as he showed viewers on one episode of The Dr. Oz Show a small bottle of Valerian that he keeps on his nightstand.

Insomnia is a growing problem for many—in particular, post-menopausal women who find their sleep constantly disrupted by hormonal fluctuations.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist and guest of The Dr. Oz Show, approximately 61% of post-menopausal women report experiencing some degree of insomnia. With peri- and post-menopause, the causes of many cases of insomnia involve:

Hormonal shifts: During pre-menopause when the hormones estrogen and progesterone begin to fluctuate, they can cause disrupted sleep. Post-menopause, these same hormones can cause decreased sleep as well when both hormones are at constantly decreased levels.

Physical symptoms: Menopause brings about hot flashes that can frequently interrupt a woman’s nightly sleep leaving her feeling run-down and sleep-deprived. Over time, this interrupted sleep pattern can lead to insomnia that can persist long after the hot flashes have ceased.

Mood changes: Menopause affects not only the body, but the mind as well and can manifest in the forms of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders resulting in sleep deficiency.

One standby medication that women have relied on for a number of years for insomnia has been supplemental melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that the body produces that regulates the sleep/wake cycles of the body that provides people with a normal, restful sleep cycle.

However, the misuse of melatonin—as in taking too much or at the wrong time of the day—has created a population of women with insomnia. Part of the problem with the misuse of melatonin sleep supplements is that melatonin is often advertised as a sleeping pill that you can take at any time to induce sleep.

“Here’s the problem—it’s marketed as a natural sleeping pill. It’s not a sleeping pill—it’s a sleep regulator. What melatonin does is that it kind of fakes your body out and makes you think that it’s nighttime,” says Dr. Breus. “It regulates your sleep, it does not initiate sleep.”

On The Dr. Oz Show website, Dr. Breus discusses that Valerian may be a safer and more effective sleep aid than melatonin—a shared opinion and practice of Dr. Andrew Wile, also a guest of The Dr. Oz Show.

Valerian is a natural supplement extract from the root of at least two species of plant called Valeriana officinalis and Valeriana radix. It is more commonly known under the less-scientific names of Garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, and Garden heliotrope.

Although the active ingredients are currently listed as unknown, its components of valepotriates and volatile oils are thought to be responsible for its biological activity, which may cause some depression of central nervous system activity. The root of the Valeriana species has been used for many years in different cultures for its sedative-like effects.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

Other reported used of the Valeriana species of plants include:

• Colic
• Spasms
• Insomnia
• Menstrual cramps
• Migraine treatment
• Stomach and intestinal gas

While past studies of extracts of Valeriana officinalis have met with mixed results toward its effectiveness as a sleeping aid in comparison to a placebo, the most recent study published in the September 2011 issue of the journal Menopause reports that Valerian may help some women with insomnia.

In a randomized, triple-blind, controlled trial consisting of 100 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 60 years who were experiencing insomnia, researchers found that when the women were divided into two groups with one group receiving 530 mg of concentrated Valerian extract and a second group serving as a control received a placebo twice a day for 4 weeks, that 30% of the women taking Valerian showed an improvement in the quality of sleep in comparison to just 4% if the women in the placebo group.

The conclusion of the study made by the researchers was that Valerian can improve the quality of sleep in women with menopause who are experiencing insomnia and should be considered in the clinical management of insomnia.

However, like most medications and supplements there are some reported side effects and it is contraindicated in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The side effects and warnings of taking Valerian include:

• Headache
• Feelings of uneasiness
• Cardiac disturbances
• Morning drowsiness
• Impaired alertness
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Long-term use has been associated with hepatotoxicity in humans
• Valerian should be discontinued one week before surgery because it may interact with anesthesia
• Valerian may increase the effects of other sleep aids. It also increases the sedative effect of other depressants, such as alcohol and diazepam (Valium)
• Administration of Valerian to pregnant mice caused a significant reduction in zinc level in the fetal brain

Sources state that Valerian supplements should come from the processed roots of the species Valeriana officinalis due to it is the species known to contain the most effective mix of active compounds. Furthermore, that it may take up to two weeks before noticing any sedative effect toward improved sleep with taking Valerian.

As with other sleep aids, health officials recommend that taking any sleep aid should be a temporary measure only, toward treating insomnia. And, that if insomnia persists that you should see your physician rather than continue taking any supplement over an extended period.

For additional helpful and healthful advice by Dr. Weil, follow this link to an article titled “Dr. Andrew Weil's 5 Essentials Advice on Slowing Down Aging on The Dr. Oz Show.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia


The Dr. Oz Show: “Why Melatonin May Be Dangerous to Your Sleep”

“Effect of Valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial”
Menopause (September 2011) Volume 18, Issue 9, pp. 951-955; Simin Taavoni et al.



When you are in a normal state, and you consume something you are allergic to the brain activates the immune system, instead of the digestive system. The brain thinks (rightly so) that you are being attacked and activates the fight or flight response in the limbic brain. In this there are a series of sympathetic & other reactions in the body to face the danger in a concerted way. first of all to the Voluntary Nervous System. This system directs our skeletal muscular system to contract, small blood vessels to dilate, heartbeat to increase, throat muscles and nostrils to open wider, pupils to dilate and eyes to become more alert, sugars to be released from the liver to give us extra energy for the fight (or flight), bowels and bladder to empty making the body as light as possible to run if necessary. The brain also triggers the release of various hormones in the body like the adrenaline, noradrenalin, glucocorticoids etc. This gives us a high. trying to get to sleep within this scenario is nigh impossible! The brain shuts down its primary calming mechanism to force you to remain alert & ready to face the threat. This high lasts until the autonomic Nervous System gets activated. This part of our nervous system controls all the involuntary actions of our body. This system has two subdivisions. The Sympathetic Nervous System and the Para-sympathetic Nervous System , which are like the fire alarm and the calming down mechanism of the body respectively. When the sympathetic Nervous System is activated then for obvious reasons the Para-sympathetic Nervous System is inhibited simultaneously. When the brain considers the danger past (after 4 to 6 hours) it deactivates the Sympathetic Nervous System, and activates the Para-sympathetic Nervous System, the calming down mechanism of the body. In order to stop the rollercoaster and get off, we need to avoid all allergens. The most allergenic foods are, in order of importance to avoid; Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, potato, food colouring, MSG. The most important one to totally avoid is milk and associated products like cheese, ice cream and such, and check labels to see if there is dairy in the product.
Hans - I have been reading your comments diligently. They are appreciated, but I feel you are trying to further your own profession, which is Kinesiology. It's important for our readers to understand there is little science to back that Kinesiology can diagnose or treat disorders. I say this with all due respect. We too advocate to eat fresh whole foods and realize the dangers of food additives as evidence mounts. I don't believe dairy products are as harmful as you continually and repeatedly discuss in your comments - as long as you consume those without pesticides and antibiotics. Peanuts are healthy too and so are potatoes. I disagree that people should avoid those foods. I wanted to provide a fair and balanced commentary to our readers.
Valerian does NOT help everyone sleep. I like many others find Valerian has the opposite effect. It keeps me awake. I wish some of these doctors would do more thorough research before they recommend things.