This is because certain chemicals in the plant are believed to have a sedative effect.The mechanism by which valerian works as a sleep aid is up for debate.Some scientists believe chemicals called valepotriates are responsible, while others believe the byproducts of the breakdown of valepotriates play a role, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Anna Aronson began working as a journalist in 2000 and spent six years at suburban Chicago newspapers before pursuing freelance work.

She enjoys writing about health care topics, in particular obstetrics, pediatrics and nutrition.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and is now studying for a Master of Science in medicine degree to become a physician's assistant.

Medicinal use of valerian root dates back thousands of years to the second century, but how it is used has changed significantly over time.

Treating stomach cramps was one early use, although it is no longer used in this regard today because it is ineffective.

When taken as directed, valerian root is generally regarded as safe, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.However, you should always consult with a qualified medical practitioner before using valerian root to improve your health.One of the earliest medicinal uses of valerian root was to treat insomnia, and this use continues today.Always speak with a trusted health professional before using valerian root to ease your insomnia.Supplements containing valerian are also sometimes recommended as a herbal treatment for people suffering from anxiety.The potential benefit in this regard appears to be related to chemicals in the plant that bind to certain receptors in the brain, according to the University of Michigan Health System.