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Valerian

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Valeriana officinalis L. Family: Valerianaceae. A number of other species have been used medicinally, including V. wallichi DC, V.sambucifolia Mik., and the related Centranthus ruber L.

COMMON NAME(S): Valerian, baldrian, radix valerianae, Indian valerian (V, wallichii), red valerian (c. ruber)

Valerian was first recommended for insomnia by Galen. In the sixteenth century, valerian became popular as a sedative in Europe, and its popularity spread to the United States.

In the 1970's, researchers began to study the scientific properties of valerian and its effects in humans, leading to its approval as a sleep remedy by Germany's Commission E in 1985.
Valerian is believed to affect GABA, an amino acid involved in states of anxiety, by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. This is how tranquilizers in the Valium family work.

The root of the valerian plant contains a mix of compounds that are thought to induce the sedation, including valepotriates, valeric acid and volatile oils.

History

Despite its odor, valerian was considered a perfume in 16th century Europe. The tincture has been used for its sedative properties for centuries; It is still widely used in France, Germany, and Switzerland as a sleep aid. About 50 tons of valerian are sold each year in France.

Botany :- Members of the genus Valeriana are herbaceous perennials widely distributed in the temperate regions of North America,Europe, and Asia. Of the 200 known species, the Eurasian V. officinalis is the species most often , cultivated for medicinal use. The dried rhizome contains a volatile oil with a distinctive, unpleasant odor.The fresh drug has no appreciable smell, but drying liberates the odiferous constituent isovaleric acid.

Uses of Valerian

Valerian has been used for the treatment of restlessness and sleep disorders, Valerian is classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in the US for food use. Extracts and the root oil are used as flavoring in foods and beverages.

Valerian is primarily used for the treatment of occasional insomnia. It appears to be more effective than other herbs for insomnia, such as skullcap, hops, and passionflower, but less effective than pharmaceutical drugs for insomnia.

Side Effects of Valerian

Studies have generally found valerian to have fewer side effects than other positive control drugs.

Dosage

For insomnia , some doctors suggest 300-500 mg of a concentrated valerian root herbal extract (standardized to at least 0.5% volatile oils) in capsules or tablets 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Non-standardized dried root products, 1.5 to 2 grams 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, may also be used. As an alcohol-based tincture, 5 ml can be taken before bedtime. Combination products with lemon balm , hops , passion flower , and scullcap can also be used.

Toxicology

Concern was raised over the discovery that valepotriates are mutagenic in the Ames assay; their poor bio-availability makes them a dubious source of toxicity for patients.

Clinical studies have generally found valerian to have fewer side effects than positive control drugs such as diazepam, producing little hangover effect when used as a sleep aid. An intentional overdose has been reported in which 20 times the recommended dose was ingested; the patient experienced mild symptoms that resolved within 24 hours. A case of withdrawal after chronic use of valerian has been reported; however, the complex nature of the patient's medical history provides weak support for valerian's role.

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