What is Valerian Root?
Extracted from the valeriana officinalis plant, valerian root usage dates back to the era of Ancient Greece. Documents from the 16th century note a pilgrim prescribing valerian to a sick woman.  The primary active component, valerenic acid, was extracted in 1891, as referenced in the American Journal of Pharmacology. 
Valerian Root Benefits
Today, individuals use valerian root for its anxiolytic and sleep-promoting properties. Research indicates that the bodily mechanisms associated with valerenic acid metabolism may help promote circulatory system health.  Supplementing with valerian root helps calm the mind by promoting relaxation. Furthermore, valerian root reduces the severity and duration of dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) by up to 73% thanks to its antispasmodic properties. 
Valerian Root Extract for Quality Sleep
Most people that suffer from sleep related issues have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Valerian supplementation maycan decrease sleep latency, the time it takes to fall asleep, by augmenting adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces drowsiness. [6,7] Valerian root also modulated GABA, a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of relaxation and sedation.  These effects act synergistically to help induce feelings of calmness and relaxation. Additionally, two of the flavones found in valerian root, methylapigenin and hesperidin, act synergistically with valerenic acid to cause relaxation and improve sleep.  The benefit of adenosine and GABA augmentation versus upregulation is that valerian root is less likely to induce daytime fatigue in comparison to supplements that increase the production of these neurotransmitters. Simply put, valerian can help with falling asleep and staying asleep instead of forcing sleep.
Valerian Root Extract as a Nootropic Supplement
The nootropic benefits of valerian root lie in its modulation of GABA and glutamate activity. Glutamate and GABA stimulate NMDA and AMPA receptors, which play major roles in cognitive function, particularly long-term potentiation.  Valerenic acid has an affinity for a specific glutamate receptor that has anxiolytic effects, known as group I mGluR receptors.  As a result, enhanced cognitive function can occur with valerian root supplementation.
Valerian Root Side Effects
Side effects from valerian root supplementation are rare, with the most common side effects being an upset stomach and vivid dreams.  Side effects can be mitigated by spreading out doses throughout the day. Doses above 900mg taken before bed can cause drowsiness and brain fog the following day.
Valerian Root Dosage
A standard valerian root dosage is 300mg taken one or two times per day. It is best to take it with a meal to avoid daytime drowsiness. Individuals using valerian root as a sleep aid should take 600mg around bed time.
Synonyms: Valeriana officinalis, Garden Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, All-Heal