More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Herbal sleep aids often of low quality
Thu Aug 17, 2006
By Charnicia Huggins
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many valerian-containing herbal sleep supplements do not contain as much of the key ingredient as needed to be effective or as much as the manufacturer claims, according to a report on the topic. And some tested supplements were contaminated with cadmium or lead.

Valerian, a popular herb used as a sedative and calming agent, "can help people with sleep problems," Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, many marketed supplements don't match up to products that have been shown to work," he added.

Experts may not know the specific chemical components of the herb that make it effective, but valerenic acids have been previously associated with good quality valerian, according to the ConsumerLab report. determined the quality and quantity of valerian contained in many of the products available today.

Only four of 14 herbal supplements tested provided the amount of valerenic acids shown to be clinically effective, according to the report.

Among the 10 products that failed testing, two supplements were contaminated with cadmium, which is known to cause cancer and is toxic to the kidneys.

Eight others did not contain as much valerian as expected. Further, one of these eight supplements was also contaminated with lead, which can impair brain function and may have an affect on blood pressure as well.

Cooperman's advice: "If you use valerian, choosing a product that passed's testing should improve your odds of it being effective and free of contaminants."

Complete results on the valerian products tested by can be found at (requires subscription).


I am very suspicious of all over the counter sleep aid products, I think they hurt more than they help, even prescription sleep aids can be harmful if abused and cause major changes in lifestyle.


You have good reason to be concerned, AVC. Not only can the over-the-counter sleep medications (and other herbal treatments/supplements) be harmful, they can be contraindicated depending on other medications you mgiht be taking. It's always vitally important that you discuss with your doctor any herbal/natural remedies you're taking because of this.

Even prescribed sleeping medications have their drawbacks. After taking one for awhile, its efficacy diminishes and it can even turn around on you, keeping you awake rather than helping you to sleep. It's good to discuss with your doctor any sleeping medication you've been taking for awhile, particularly if it seems not to be working well (or as well). There are other products that can be used for awhile, and it's not uncommon for a doctor to switch a patient between medications at intervals to ensure that the medications work as they are supposed to work. :)
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