Herbal Remedies for Insomnia More Common Than Thought

About 30 percent of people who buy valerian and melatonin use the herbal supplements for insomnia

TUESDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- The popular use of supplements such as valerian and melatonin for insomnia and other ailments is growing, along with concerns of possible adverse drug interactions, according to study findings published in the July 1 issue of Sleep.

Donald L. Bliwise, Ph.D., and Farzaneh Pour Ansari, of Emory University Medical School in Atlanta, analyzed use of valerian and melatonin for insomnia by a nationally representative sample of 31,044 participants who provided data in the 2002 Alternative Health/Complementary and Alternative Medicine Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey.

The researchers found that 5.9 percent of the participants used valerian, and of those, 29.9 percent listed insomnia as the major reason. Another 5.2 percent of the total used melatonin, and of these, 27.5 percent said the purpose was for insomnia. Of all herbal products, valerian was third most popular for insomnia and melatonin fifth, while echinacea and ginseng were first and second and ginkgo biloba fourth among survey participants, most of whom didn't consult with a health care provider.

"Because the usage of valerian and melatonin in the current survey is higher than in previous surveys, this raises potential concern for usage that is largely unreported to medical professionals," the authors write. "A substantial database has demonstrated interactions of many herbals/botanicals with chemotherapy agents, oral health, conventional psychotropics and cardiovascular medications, preoperative and postoperative care, and diabetes and seizure medications."

The research was partially supported by GlaxoSmithKline, and Bliwise has served on their advisory board.

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