encyclopedia

Valerian

Scientific Names:
Valeriana officinalis L. [Fam. Valerianaceae]

Forms:
Valerian root tincture; Valerian root tea; Valerian whole root, fresh or dried; Valerian standardized extracts

Traditional Usage:
– Anti-inflammatory

– Antioxidant

– Antispasmodic

– Anxiety

– Bone and Joint Pain

– Carminative

– Colic

– Cramps

– Digestive Disorders

– Eczema (stress related)

– Excitability

– Hypochondria

– Hysterical States

– Insomnia

– Menstrual Disorders

– Migraine

– Muscle Relaxant

– Nervous Conditions

– Skin Disorders (stress related)

– Sleep Disorders

Overview:
Valerian root and rhizome, Valeriana officinalis L. and other Valeriana species [Fam. Valerianaceae], have been used therapeutically for more than 2,000 years, first described by Dioscorides (50 A.D.) as a sedative. The German Commission E recommends valerian for treating restlessness and sleep disorders based on nervous conditions and it was one of the most prescribed single preparations for psychotropic indications in Germany in 1994. Even just the fragrance, based on studies, has a powerful calming and profoundly relaxing effect. Over 200 scientific studies have been done on the active ingredients of valerian underground parts. Valerian’s main therapeutic indication is as a natural ‘drug’ for treating insomnia. The root tea and its extract have been proven to: 1) shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, 2) reduce the amount of waking time after sleep onset, 3) prolong the overall time spent asleep, 4) increase the length of deep sleep, 5) increase dreaming and 6) significantly improve the quality of sleep in both normal and insomniac sleepers. Based on numerous human, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials, valerian, or ‘God’s Valium’, can alleviate stress, relax muscles, calm frayed nerves and reduce anxiety – often as well as the commonly used synthetic drugs do – without observed side-effects or morning grogginess when taken at the recommended dosages. Valerian is listed as a sleep aid in over sixteen different pharmacopoeias of the world and is also said to stimulate appetite and relieve pain. One clear benefit of valerian over synthetic drugs is that they do not interact with alcohol or augment alcohol’s negative effects when taken at the recommended dosages. Based on clinical trials, valerian root extracts can be safely utilized during the day to combat anxiety and nervous conditions without reducing concentration, effecting reaction time or diminishing driving performance scores in a car.

Active Ingredients:
Valeriana root and underground parts contain: Approximately 0.5-2% volatile oils; 0.4-1.4% monoterpenes including alpha and beta-pinene; camphene; borneol, eugenol, isoeugenol; sesquiterpenes including beta-bisabolene, caryophyllene, valerianol, valerenic acid, valeranone, pacifigorgiol; patchouli alcohol, valerenol, valerenyl esters, valerenal, valerenic acid with acetoxy and hydroxy derivatives; caffeic acid; gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); chlorogenic acid; beta-sitosterol; methyl 2-pyrrolketone; choline; tannins; gum; resin.

Suggested Amount:
Valerian dosages range from 2 to 3 grams of drug (root or underground parts) taken once to several times per day and can be taken as infusions, extracts, fluidextracts and tinctures. For use as a sleeping pill, standardized extracts are recommended at 300 to 500mg about an hour before bedtime and half of that dose for treating anxiety during the day. A recent study also found valerian effective as a bath treatment for generalized fibromyalgia.

Drug Interactions:
None known

Contraindications:
Due to lack of safety data, valerian is not recommended during pregnancy. A related valerian species, V. wallichi is reputed to be an abortifacient and to affect the menstrual cycle.

Side Effects:
None known

References:

Boniel T, Dannon P. 2001. [The safety of herbal medicines in the psychiatric practice] Harefuah. 2001 Aug; 140(8): 780-3, 805. Review. Hebrew.

Diamond, S. and G.H.N. Towers 2000. Valerian, Saw Palmetto and Goldenseal.

In: Mazza, G. and D.B. Oomah, eds. 1999. Herbs, Botanicals and Teas as Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. Techomic Publishing Inc., Lancaster, PA, USA.

Hosoi J, Tanida M, Tsuchiya T. 2001. Mitigation of stress-induced suppression of contact hypersensitivity by odorant inhalation. Br J Dermatol. 2001 Nov; 145(5): 716-719.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, and Phillipson JD. 1996. Valerian in Herbal Medicines. A Guide for Health Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London, pp. 260-262.

Upton R. 2001. Valeriana officinalis. J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Feb; 7(1): 15-7.