Kava and valerian in the treatment of stress-induced insomnia

Phytother Res. 2001 Sep;15(6):549-51. doi: 10.1002/ptr.840.


Kava and valerian are herbal remedies, claimed to have anxiolytic and sedative properties respectively, without dependence potential or any appreciable side-effects. In this pilot study, 24 patients suffering from stress-induced insomnia were treated for 6 weeks with kava 120 mg daily. This was followed by 2 weeks off treatment and then, 5 having dropped out, 19 received valerian 600 mg daily for another 6 weeks. Stress was measured in three areas: social, personal and life-events; insomnia in three areas also: time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking mood. Total stress severity was significantly relieved by both compounds (p < 0.01) with no significant differences between them; as was also insomnia (p < 0.01). The proportion of patients with no side-effects was 58% with each drug respectively and the 'commonest' effect was vivid dreams with valerian (16%), followed by dizziness with kava (12% ). These compounds may be useful in the treatment of stress and insomnia but further studies are required to determine their relative roles for such indications.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Kava*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Sleep Disorders, Intrinsic / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Disorders, Intrinsic / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Stress, Physiological / complications
  • Stress, Physiological / drug therapy*
  • Valerian*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Plant Extracts