Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is the common name given to the herbal medication derived from the root of the Valeriana genus of plants, pink-flowered perennials native to the temperate areas of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The different species of valerian used in various parts of the world - Valerian officinalis in northern europe, Valerian angstifolia in China and Japan, Valerian wallichii in India - are all used for essentially the same purpose.
Valerian is a medicinal herb that some people take to relieve restlessness and anxiety and to treat sleeping disorders and nervous conditions. Valerian may help relieve associated problems s.c. as headaches, cramping, heart palpitations, and lack of concentration. It can be taken in capsules, pills, teas, tinctures, and externally as a bath additive. Valerian is an herb used for anxiety and insomnia. Although some research suggests that it is effective, the results have been conflicting, and the methods have been flawed. More research is needed to make definite conclusions about its effectiveness.Valerian has some side effects associated with long-term use as well as the potential to interfere with anesthesia and other medications.
Valerian contains multiple chemical constituents that act synergistically. These include volatile oils (sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes), valepotriates, alkaloids, and lignans. The sesquiterpenes are considered the primary source of the pharmacological effects. At least 17 sesquiterpenes have been characterized. Some commercial preparations are standardized to valerenic acid content, a sesquiterpene that exists nowhere else in nature. The valepotriates have also been characterized and consist of a furanopyranoid monoterpene skeleton found in glycosylated forms known as iridoids. At least 37 valepotriates have been isolated. They act as prodrugs that are metabolized into compounds more active than the parent compound. The pharmacological action of the other constituents of valerian is unclear. Seven alkaloids have been isolated but not well-studied. GABA and various amino acids have been isolated from the aqueous portion of valerian, but their bioavailability remains in question.
Valerian root is used primarily as a mild sedative to calm restlessness and anxiety and overcome mild insomnia. At least two double-blind studies have demonstrated that valerian extract can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes people to fall asleep without changing the normal stages of sleep. Valerian is used in Europe as an antispasmodic, particularly for abdominal cramps due to nervousness and for uterine cramps and menstrual agitation. Valerian is also used as a mild tranquilizer for people experiencing emotional stress, much as antianxiety drugs are prescribed, and has been prescribed for exhaustion. Some herbalists have also recommended it for tension headaches, bronchial spasms, and lingering coughs. Valerian has occasionally been tried as part of a program to take a patient off antidepressants or benzodiazepines, and valerian is sometimes used as a muscle relaxant to treat pain.
Valerian is well known for its sedative qualities and its ability to relax the central nervous system and the smooth muscle groups. It has been used as a sleeping aid for hundreds of years especially when there is excitation or difficulty in falling to sleep due to nervousness. The essential oils are not habit forming. Over 120 chemical components are found in valerian and although a very complex drug, it has not been found to have any negative side effects with moderate use. Modern pharmaceuticals have been derived from this plants' components that reduce stress and anxiety states, but using your own plants' dried roots in tinctures or ground up should be much more harmonizing for your health.