Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Herblore: Another look at valerian

So some of you might remember my not-too-fun experience with valerian the last time I tried it. Well, I know I said I wouldn't touch the stuff again unless I had really serious insomnia, but time heals all wounds, as they say, and when my sleep schedule got a little out of whack from Easter break, I decided to give it another go, just to help me get to sleep early enough.

For the mixture, I used 2 or 3 Ts of chamomile with a good pinch of valerian, steeped it in a cup of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes (or sometimes more if I got distracted), then strained it and added another cup or so of milk as well as honey to taste (lots of honey...valerian is not the most delicious of tastes ever, even at that low a concentration). Then I'd sip the concoction slowly, over at least a half-hour, usually as I lay in bed reading or chatting online or something, with the intent to turn out the lights no more than an hour or an hour and a half after starting to drink the tea. And, when I actually did that, it worked quite well: I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly until morning, then got up and about without too much of the lingering drowsiness that can be a side effect.

However, I only actually did this once. All other times I attempted to follow this routine, I found myself caught up in long conversations with T or W in which I was inexplicably drawn to the heavier topics and the "big questions" that linger in my relationships with each of them. I could definitely feel the sleepiness from the valerian setting in, but also this strange drive to poke and prod and find out the answers to questions I've been not asking for a long time. After some time spent focusing on these and ignoring the urge to sleep, the latter wears off and leaves me fairly energized (or at least not noticeably tired, even into the wee hours) for another several hours. It did lead to some conclusions, but there was also a ridiculous amount of stress involved for all parties, and even after thinking about it I'm still not sure if the stress balanced the satisfaction or not. I can't find any information on this particular effect in lists of general side effects for valerian and have no idea where to start looking for info about it on its own. Any keyword ideas?

As for other effects, I've definitely noticed that my dreams are more vivid. Fortunately there's been nothing like the terrifying nightmare the first time I tried the stuff, but I can tell that my dreams are less foggy and more plot-driven. Also, on a couple of occasions I've been able to stop myself from waking out of the dream much better than I normally can, as well as waking up briefly to look at the clock and turn off my alarm or to speak to someone, and then immediately falling back asleep and resuming the dream from the saved point, so to speak. I have to admit, that part is pretty cool. As well, my cat has been super-affectionate lately, coming up to sit on my lap when I'm at the computer and sleeping next to or on me every night. Valerian is supposed to be similar to catnip for the fuzzy ones, so maybe she can smell it in my sweat or something.

Although I've been drinking this tea for the past week or so every night, I'm going to stop now for at least a week or two - I've read that continued use for more than two weeks can make your body adjust so that the previous dosage loses its effectiveness. That, and as much as I like having things resolved and getting answers to my pressing questions, sometimes it's just not worth the stress.