Taking Valerian With Benadryl

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not valerian and Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can be used together.

Taking Valerian With Benadryl
Mar 28, 2018

Lorenzo asked

Can valerian be used with Benadryl? I am having some trouble sleeping.


Valerian Benadryl Diphenhydramine InteractionIn most cases, it is not recommended to combine valerian and Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Using both together increases the risk additive side effects, including:

  • Sedation
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Cardiac disturbances
  • Respiratory depression (rare)

If looking for an over the counter product to help with sleep disturbances or insomnia, it would be prudent to try Benadryl or valerian, but not both at the same time.

Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) Information

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a first generation antihistamine, which are generally associated with a short duration of action (around 4 to 8 hours) and their sedating properties. In addition to its use for treating seasonal allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, Benadryl is also effective for treating symptoms of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Motion sickness

Benadryl has fairly significant sedating effects, and is known as a CNS (central nervous system) depressant. it is often used as a night time sleep aide and is common component of over the counter sleep products such as ZzzQuil.

Benadryl begins to produce sedation about 20 to 30 minutes after taking by mouth and maximum blood concentrations are reached after 1 to 2 hours.

Benadryl is generally well tolerated but can cause the following side effects:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory depression (rare)

Valerian Information

Valerian is an perennial plant, native to Europe and Asia but is also grown and cultivated in North America. Valerian is used for a variety of indications including:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Other mood disorders.

Valerian is most commonly used as an over the counter supplement for insomnia due to its sedative effects.

Short term use of valerian is considered relatively safe when used in appropriate doses by numerous studies.

In addition, numerous studies have shown valerian can be effective in both reducing the time to go to sleep (i.e. sleep latency) and improve total sleep time. The most commonly used doses of valerian range from 400 to 900 mg, two hours before bedtime.

While valerian may be beneficial for sleep when used once in a while, data suggests it is best used consistently and optimal effects can take weeks to occur. The exact mechanism by which valerian induces sedation isn't well known but it is thought to work on the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin.

Taking Benadryl With Valerian

Both Benadryl and valerian cause sedation and are CNS (central nervous system) depressants. The use of both together could have additive effects and can also increase the risk of serious side effects such as respiratory depression. While both can be effective to help with sleep problems, only one should be used at a time.

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