Valerian is found in Europe and Asia, and
prefers damp places and swamp grounds. It is a perennial plant with a hollow,
angular, furrowed, pale-green stem. Valerian grows from two to four feet in
height. It bears opposite, pinnate leaves having 7 to 25 lanceolate, sharply
pointed leaflets. Small, white or pink flowers grow in terminal clusters from
June to August. The fruit is a pale brown capsule, oblong-ovate, containing a
single seed. The medicinal part is the rootstock.
Other common names for this plant
|Great wild valerian
* For definition of some of the above terms
see the dictionary section of this book.
||B Complex Vitamins
Antispasmodic - an agent which relieves or prevents
spasms, usually of the smooth muscles. Barbiturates and valerian are examples
Calmative - a substance that has a soothing or
Carminative - an agent which assists in expelling
gas from the intestines.
Hypnotics form a class of drugs which induce sleep
when sleeplessness is not due to a stimulus, such as pain or itching. Hypnotic
drugs are closely related to sedatives. A single drug may possess both sedative
and hypnotic qualities. Agents classified as sedatives and hypnotics have a
common mode of action: they induce a nonselective, reversible decrease in
central nervous system activity. Examples of drugs in this class include
diazepam, mephobarbital and chloral hydrate.
Nervine - a substance which quells nervousness and
irritability, either through depression or stimulation of the central nervous
Stomachic - a substance which excites, strengthens
and tones the stomach.
Valerian is a strong nervine helpful for insomnia. It
contains an essential oil and alkaloids which combine to produce a sedative
effect. It can be used as a tranquilizer, and will leave one feeling refreshed
rather than sluggish. It is safe and non-narcotic and has been recommended for
anxiety. Valerian is commonly used with other herbs for nervous tension, and is
usually recommended for short term use, as prolonged use can cause mental
depression. It is seldom recommended for small children.
Valerian root has been used for centuries to calm nervous
disorders. Scientific experiments conducted with laboratory animals in West
Germany have demonstrated that valerian root corrects muscle spasms and
tremors, reduces excitement and irritability, lowers high blood pressure, and
calms the central nervous system.
Valerian has CNS-depressant activities and antispasmodic
and equalizing effects. The valepotriates are chiefly responsible for the
central nervous system depressant and antispasmodic effects in laboratory
animals. In the human body, valepotriates calm and excite nerves and reduce
seizures. Valerian lowers blood pressures in laboratory animals. Valerian
lowers blood pressure in laboratory animals and protects against liver cell
deterioration. In addition, it is antibacterial, especially against
gram-positive bacteria (due to the alkaloids) and an anti-diuretic. An ethanol
extract of valerian has anti-dandruff properties. Valeric acid emits a
Valerian is sometimes used as a substitute for the
synthetic prescription drug, Valium. The side effects from both differ
drastically; if too many valerian capsules (10 to 12) are ingested, it will
only produce a migraine headache, whereas if that many Valium are taken it can
lead to coma and death. The root tea can also be used for treating numbness due
to rheumatic conditions, colds, hypothermia, fatigue, and, externally as a wash
for sores and pimples.
Long term ingestion of the dried root of valerian in
large, chronic doses can result in melancholy and depression, very similar to
brominism. The valepotriates in valerian root infiltrate brain tissue and the
central nervous system, particularly the spinal column with its many important
nerves. This brings about a strong sedative effect on the entire body.
Valerian is known as a safe, nontoxic herbal sedative,
usually recommended for short term use. Prolonged or excessive use can cause
mental depression. Valerian is usually not recommended for small children.
DRUG PRECAUTIONS AND
Known Interactions: None
Possible Interactions: Additive effects may occur
between the hypotensive property of valerian and that of dopamine receptor
agonists such as bromocriptine mesylate.
Comments: To minimize central nervous system
depression and possible synergism, it would be wise to avoid using valerian
with procarbazine antineoplastic drugs.
To the extent that valerian's action depends on the
presence of cholinergic substances, it will be affected by the decrease in
cholinergic receptor stimulation produced by anticholinergics.
In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed
that observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system
drugs and the psychoactive principles in valerian.
There is evidence to show that combining bactericidal and
bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent.
However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still