Radix Valerianae consists of the subterranean parts of Valeriana officinalis L. (sensu lato) (Valerianaceae)1 including the rhizomes, roots, and stolons, carefully dried at a temperature below 40 °C (1–6).
Valeriana alternifolia Ledeb., Valeriana excelsa Poir., Valeriana sylvestris Grosch. (1).
Selected vernacular names
A tall perennial herb whose underground portion consists of a vertical rhizome bearing numerous rootlets and one or more stolons. The aerial portion consists of a cylindrical hollow, channelled stem attaining 2m in height, branched in the terminal region, bearing opposite exstipulate, pinnatisect, cauline leaves with clasping petioles. The inflorescence consists of racemes of cymes whose flowers are small, white, or pink. The fruits are oblong-ovate, 4-ridged, single-seeded achenes (1, 9).
Valeriana officinalis (sensu lato) is an extremely polymorphous complex of subspecies. The basic type is diploid, 2n = 14, (V. officinalis) and other subspecies have very similar characteristics: V. officinalis ssp. collina (Wallr.) Nyman (2n = 28) has leaves with 15–27 folioles, all of the same width, and V. officinalis ssp. sambucifolia (Mikan f.) Celak, V. excelsa Poiret (2n = 56) has leaves with 5– 9 folioles, with the apical one clearly larger than the others. In contrast to the other subspecies, the rhizome of the latter is clearly stoloniferous (epigenous and hypnogenous stolons). V. repens Host. (equivalent to V. procurrens Wallr.) could be considered a fourth species, according to the Flora Europaea. Often appended to this species are taxonomic groups of uncertain status and limited distribution (e.g. V. salina Pleigel or V. versifolia Brügger) (12).
Plant material of interest: dried roots, rhizomes and stolons
Rhizome, erect, entire or usually cut into 2–4 longitudinal pieces, 2–5cm long, 1–3cm thick; externally, dull yellowish brown or dark brown, sometimes crowned by the remains of stem bases and scale leaves, and bears occasional, short, horizontal branches (stolons), and numerous rootlets or their circular scars; fracture, short and horny. Internally, whitish, with an irregular outline, occasionally hollow and exhibiting a comparatively narrow ark traversed, here and there, by root-traces, and separated by a dark line, the cambium, from a ring, small xylem bundles surrounding a central pith. Roots, numerous, slender, cylindrical, usually plump; 2–12cm but mostly 8–10cm long, 0.5–2mm in diameter; externally, greyish brown to brownish yellow, longitudinally striated, with fibrous lateral rootlets; brittle; internally, showing a wide bark and a narrow central stele (1, 9).
Odour, characteristic, penetrating valeric acid-like, becoming stronger on aging; taste, sweetish initially, becoming camphoraceous and somewhat bitter (1–5, 9).
Rhizome, with epidermis of polygonal cells, having the outer walls slightly thickened; cork, immediately below the epidermis, of up to 7 layers of slightly suberized, brownish, large polygonal cells; cortex, parenchymatous with rather thick-walled parenchyma, containing numerous starch granules and traversed by numerous root-traces; endodermis of a single layer of tangentially elongated cells containing globules of volatile oil; pericycle, parenchymatous; vascular bundles, collateral, in a ring and surrounding a very large parenchymatous pith, containing starch granules and occasional scattered groups of sclereids with thick pitted walls and narrow lumen; xylem, with slender, annular, spiral, and pitted vessels, in small numbers. Branches similar to rhizome but with a prominent endodermis and a well-defined ring of vascular bundles, showing secondary thickening.
Root, with piliferous layer, of papillosed cells, some developed into root hairs; exodermis, or a single layer of quadrangular to polygonal cells, with suberized walls, and containing globules of volatile oil; cortex, parenchymatous, with numerous starch granules, the outermost cells containing globules of volatile oil; endodermis, of 1 layer of cells with thickened radial walls; primary xylem, of 3–11 arches surrounding a small central parenchymatous pith containing starch granules, 5–15µm in diameter, sometimes showing a cleft or stellate hilum; the compound granules, with 2–6 components, up to 20µm in diameter. Older roots show a pith of starch-bearing parenchyma, vascular bundles with secondary thickening and a periderm originating in the piliferous layer (1, 4, 9, 13).
Powdered plant material
Light brown and characterized by numerous fragments of parenchyma with round or elongated cells and containing starch granules, 5–15µm in diameter, sometimes showing a cleft or stellate hilum, the compound granules, with 2–6 components, up to 20µm in diameter; cells containing light brown resin; rectangular sclereids with pitted walls, 5–15µm thick; xylem, isolated or in noncompact bundles, 10–50µm in diameter; some absorbing root hairs and cork fragments are also present (4).
Valeriana officinalis (sensu lato) is an extremely polymorphous complex of subspecies with natural populations dispersed throughout temperate and sub-polar Eurasian zones. The species is common in damp woods, ditches, and along streams in Europe, and is cultivated as a medicinal plant, especially in Belgium, England, eastern Europe, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America (1, 9, 10, 12).
General identity tests
Macroscopic, microscopic, organoleptic, and microchemical examination (1–6, 9, 13); and by thin-layer chromatography for the presence of valerenic acid, acetoxyvalerenic acid, valtrate, and isovaltrate (1–5).
The test for Salmonella spp. in Radix Valerianae products should be negative. The maximum acceptable limits of other microorganisms are as follows (14– 16). For preparation of decoction: aerobic bacteria-not more than 107/g; fungi-not more than 105/g; Escherichia coli-not more than 102/g. Preparations for internal use: aerobic bacteria-not more than 105/g or ml; fungi-not more than 104/g or ml; enterobacteria and certain Gram-negative bacteria-not more than 103/g or ml; Escherichia coli-0/g or ml.
Foreign organic matter
Not more than 5% (1).
Not more than 7% (1–5).
Dilute ethanol-soluble extractive
Not less than 15% (2–5).
To be established in accordance with national requirements. Normally, the maximum residue limit of aldrin and dieldrin for Radix Valerianae is not more than 0.05 mg/kg (16). For other pesticides, see WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (14) and guidelines for predicting dietary intake of pesticide residues (17).
Recommended lead and cadmium levels are no more than 10 and 0.3mg/kg, respectively, in the final dosage form of the plant material (14).
Other purity tests
Chemical, moisture, total ash and water-soluble extractive tests are to be established in accordance with national standards.
Contains not less than 0.5% v/w of essential oil (3–5), quantitatively determined by distillation (2–5). Content of individual constituents including valepotriates, valerenic acids and valerenal, determined by high-performance liquid (18, 19) or gas–liquid (20) chromatographic methods.
Major chemical constituents
The chemical composition of Radix Valerianae varies greatly depending on the subspecies, variety, age of the plant, growing conditions, and type and age of the extract. The volatile oil (ranges 0.2–2.8%) contains bornyl acetate and bornyl isovalerate as the principal components. Other significant constituents include β-caryophyllene, valeranone, valerenal, valerenic acid, and other sesquiterpenoids and monoterpenes (12, 21). The co-occurrence of three cyclopentane-sesquiterpenoids (valerenic acid, acetoxyvalerenic acid, and valerenal) is confined to V. officinalis and permits its distinction from V. edulis and V. wallichii (12). The various subspecies of V. officinalis have different compositions of volatile oil and, for example, average bornyl acetate content varies from 35% in V. officinalis ssp. pratensis to 0.45% in V. officinalis ssp. illyrica (12).
A second important group of constituents (0.05–0.67% range) is a series of non-glycosidic bicyclic iridoid monoterpene epoxy-esters known as the valepotriates. The major valepotriates are valtrate and isovaltrate (which usually represent more than 90% of the valepotriate content). Smaller amounts of dihydrovaltrate, isovaleroxy-hydroxydihydrovaltrate, 1-acevaltrate or others are present (8, 12). The valepotriates are rather unstable owing to their epoxide structure, and losses occur fairly rapidly on storage or processing, especially if the drug is not carefully dried. Principal degradation products are baldrinal, homobaldrinal, and valtroxal (8).
R = Ac
R = iVal
R = Ac
R = iVal
Internal use as the expressed juice, tincture, extracts, and other galenical preparations (8, 22). External use as a bath additive (22). Store in tightly closed containers, in a cool dry place, protected from light (1–6).
Uses supported by clinical data
As a mild sedative and sleep-promoting agent (8, 12, 22–25). The drug is often used as a milder alternative or a possible substitute for stronger synthetic sedatives, such as the benzodiazepines, in the treatment of states of nervous excitation and anxiety-induced sleep disturbances (22–25).
Uses described in pharmacopoeias and in traditional systems of medicine
As a digestive aid, and an adjuvant in spasmolytic states of smooth muscle and gastrointestinal pains of nervous origin (8, 12). When associated with papaverine, belladonna, and other spasmolytics, Radix Valerianae has been shown to be useful as an adjuvant in spastic states of smooth muscle such as spastic colitis (8).
Uses described in folk medicine, not supported by experimental or clinical data
To treat epilepsy, gum sores, headaches, nausea, sluggish liver, urinary tract disorders, vaginal yeast infections, and throat inflammations; and as an emmenagogue, antiperspirant, antidote to poisons, diuretic, anodyne, and a decoction for colds (5, 8).
The sedative activity of V. officinalis has been demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro studies have demonstrated the binding of valerian extracts to GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) receptors, adenosine receptors and the barbiturate and benzodiazepine receptors (8, 26). Both hydroalcoholic and aqueous total extracts show affinity for the GABA-A receptors, but there is no clear correlation between any of the known chemical components isolated from Radix Valerianae and GABA-A binding activity (8). Aqueous extracts of the roots of V. officinalis inhibit re-uptake and stimulate the release of radiolabelled GABA in the synaptosomes isolated from rat brain cortex (27, 28). This activity may increase the extracellular concentration of GABA in the synaptic cleft, and thereby enhance the biochemical and behavioural effects of GABA (8, 27). Interestingly, GABA has been found in extracts of V. officinalis and appears to be responsible for this activity (29). The valtrates, and in particular dihydrovaltrate, also show some affinity for both the barbiturate receptors and the peripheral benzodiazepine receptors (8).
In vivo studies suggest that the sedative properties of the drug may be due to high concentrations of glutamine in the extracts (29). Glutamine is able to cross the blood–brain barrier, where it is taken up by nerve terminals and subse- quently metabolized to GABA (29). The addition of exogenous glutamine stimulates GABA synthesis in synaptosomes and rat brain slices (29).
The spasmolytic activity of the valepotriates is principally due to valtrate or dihydrovaltrate (30). These agents act on centres of the central nervous system and through direct relaxation of smooth muscle (31), apparently by modulating Ca2+ entry into the cells or by binding to smooth muscle (8, 32).
A number of clinical investigations have demonstrated the effectiveness of Radix Valerianae as a sleep aid and minor sedative (8, 22–25). In a double-blind study, valerian (450mg or 900mg of an aqueous root extract) significantly decreased sleep latency as compared with a placebo (23). The higher dose of valerian did not further decrease sleep latency (23). Additional clinical studies have demonstrated that an aqueous extract of valerian root significantly increased sleep quality, in poor and irregular sleepers, but it had no effect on night awakenings or dream recall (24). The use of Radix Valerianae appears to increase slow-wave sleep in patients with low baseline values, without altering rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (24).
While extracts of the drug have been clearly shown to depress central nervous system activity, the identity of the active constituents still remains controversial. Neither the valepotriates, nor the sesquiterpenes valerenic acid and valeranone, nor the volatile oil alone can account for the overall sedative activity of the plant (8, 33). It has been suggested that the baldrinals, degradation products of the valepotriates, may be responsible (26). Currently, it is still not known whether the activity of Radix Valerianae extracts resides in one compound, a group of compounds, or some unknown compound, or is due to a synergistic effect.
Radix Valerianae should not be used during pregnancy or lactation (31, 34).
No information available.
May cause drowsiness. Those affected should not drive or operate machinery. Although no interaction between valerian and alcohol has been demonstrated clinically, as a precautionary measure patients should avoid consuming alcoholic beverages or other sedatives in conjunction with Radix Valerianae (31).
Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, impairment of fertility
Some concern has been expressed over the cytotoxicity of the valepotriates. Cytotoxicity has been demonstrated in vitro but not in vivo, even in doses of 1350mg/kg (35). Some of the valepotriates demonstrate alkylating activity in vitro. However, because the compounds decompose rapidly in the stored drug, there is no cause for concern (35). The valepotriates are also poorly absorbed and are rapidly metabolized to the baldrinals (26), which have better sedating effects. In vitro, the baldrinals are less toxic than the valepotriates, but in vivo they are more cytotoxic because they are more readily absorbed by the intestine. Baldrinals have been detected at levels up to 0.988mg/dose in commercial preparations standardized with respect to the concentration of valepotriates and may be of cytotoxic concern (36).
Pregnancy: teratogenic effects
Prolonged oral administration of valepotriates did not produce any teratogenic effects (8, 37).
Pregnancy: non-teratogenic effects
The safety of Radix Valerianae during pregnancy has not been established; therefore it should not be administered during pregnancy.
Excretion of Radix Valerianae into breast milk and its effects on the newborn infant have not been established; therefore it should not be administered during lactation.
Radix Valerianae preparations should not be used for children less than 12 years of age without medical supervision (34).
No information on general precautions or drug interactions or drug and laboratory test interactions was found.
Minor side-effects have been associated with chronic use of Radix Valerianae and include headaches, excitability, uneasiness, and insomnia. Very large doses may cause bradycardia and arrhythmias, and decrease intestinal motility (38). The recommended first aid is gastric lavage, charcoal powder, and sodium sulfate (38). Doses up to 20 times the recommended therapeutic dose have been reported to cause only mild symptoms which resolved within 24 h (38). Four cases of liver damage have been associated with use of preparations containing Radix Valerianae (39). However, in all cases the patients were taking a combination herbal product containing four different plant species and thus a causal relationship to the intake of valerian is extremely doubtful.
1. African pharmacopoeia, 1st ed. Lagos, Organization of African Unity, Scientific, Technical & Research Commission, 1985.
2. British pharmacopoeia. London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1988.
3. Deutsches Arzneibuch 1996. Stuttgart, Deutscher Apotheker Verlag, 1996.
4. European pharmacopoeia, 2nd ed. Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 1995.
5. Pharmacopée française. Paris, Adrapharm, 1996.
6. Pharmacopoea hungarica VII. Budapest, Medicina konyvkiado, 1986.
7. The Japanese pharmacopoeia XIII. Tokyo, Ministry of Health and Welfare, 1996.
8. Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Valeriana officinalis: traditional use and recent evaluation of activity. Fitoterapia, 1995, 66:99–112.
9. Youngken HW. Textbook of pharmacognosy, 6th ed. Philadelphia, Blakiston, 1950.
10. Bisset NG. Max Wichtl’s herbal drugs & phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press, 1994.
11. Farnsworth, NR. ed. NAPRALERT database. Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, March 15, 1995 production (an on-line database available directly through the University of Illinois at Chicago or through the Scientific and Technical Network (STN) of Chemical Abstracts Services).
12. Bruneton J. Pharmacology, phytochemistry, medicinal plants. Paris, Lavoisier, 1995.
13. Jackson BP, Snowden DW. Atlas of microscopy of medicinal plants, culinary herbs and spices. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press, 1990.
14. Quality control methods for medicinal plant materials. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1998.
15. Deutsches Arzneibuch 1996. Vol. 2. Methoden der Biologie. Stuttgart, Deutscher Apotheker Verlag, 1996.
16. European pharmacopoeia, 3rd ed. Strasbourg, Council of Europe, 1997.
17. Guidelines for predicting dietary intake of pesticide residues, 2nd rev. ed. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1997 (unpublished document WHO/FSF/FOS/97.7; available from Food Safety, WHO, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland).
18. Feytag WE. Bestimmung von Valerensäuren und Valerenal neben Valepotriaten in Valeriana officinalis durch HPLC. Pharmazeutische Zeitung, 1983, 128:2869–2871.
19. van Meer JH, Labadie RP. Straight-phase and reverse phase high-performance liquid chromatographic separations of valepotriate isomers and homologues. Journal of chromatography, 1981, 205:206–212.
20. Graf E, Bornkessel B. Analytische und pharmazeutisch-technologische Versuche mit Baldrian. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, 1978, 118:503–505.
21. Hänsel R, Schultz J. Valerensäuren und Valerenal als Leitstoffe des offizinellen Baldrians. Bestimmung mittels HPLC-Technik. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, 1982, 122:333–340.
22. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Quantifying the effects of mild sedatives. Journal of psychological research, 1982/1983, 17:115.
23. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Aqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in man. Planta medica, 1985, 2:144–148.
24. Schultz H, Stolz C, Muller J. The effect of valerian extract on sleep polygraphy in poor sleepers: a pilot study. Pharmacopsychiatry, 1994, 27:147–151.
25. Balderer G, Borbely A. Effect of valerian on human sleep. Psychopharmacology, 1985, 87:406–409.
26. Wagner H, Jurcic K, Schaette R. Comparative studies on the sedative action of Valeriana extracts, valepotriates and their degradation products. Planta medica, 1980, 37:358–362.
27. Santos MS et al. Synaptosomal GABA release as influenced by valerian root extract, involvement of the GABA carrier. Archives of international pharmacodynamics, 1994, 327:220–231.
28. Santos MS et al. An aqueous extract of valerian influences the transport of GABA in synaptosomes. Planta medica, 1994, 60:278–279.
29. Santos MS et al. The amount of GABA present in the aqueous extracts of valerian is sufficient to account for 3H-GABA release in synaptosomes. Planta medica, 1994, 60:475–476.
30. Wagner H, Jurcic K. On the spasmolytic activity of Valeriana extracts. Planta medica, 1979, 37:84–89.
31. Houghton P. Herbal products: valerian. Pharmacy journal, 1994, 253:95–96.
32. Hazelhoff B, Malingre TM, Meijer DKF. Antispasmodic effects of Valeriana compounds: An in vivo and in vitro study on the guinea pig ileum. Archives of international pharmacodynamics, 1982, 257:274–278.
33. Krieglstein J, Grusla D. Zentraldämpfende Inhaltsstoffe im Baldrian. Valepotriate, Valerensäure, Valeranon und ätherisches Öl sind jedoch unwirksam. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, 1988, 128:2041–2046.
34. German Commission E Monograph, Valerianae radix. Bundesanzeiger, 1985, 90:15 May.
35. Tortarolo M et al. In vitro effects of epoxide-bearing valepotriates on mouse early hematopoietic progenitor cells and human T-lymphocytes. Archives of toxicology, 1982, 51:37–42.
36. Braun R. Valepotriates with an epoxide structure-oxygenating alkylating agents. Planta medica, 1982, 41:21–28.
37. Tufik S. Effects of a prolonged administration of valepotriates in rats on the mothers and their offspring. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 1985, 87:39–44.
38. Willey LB et al. Valerian overdose: a case report. Veterinary and human toxicology, 1995, 37:364–365.
39. MacGregor FB. Hepatotoxicity of herbal remedies. British medical journal, 1989, 299:1156–1157.
- Valeriana officinalis L.
- Valeriana officinalis L.
- Botanical characteristics
- Identifying Valerian
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- Valerian Root
- What is valerian?
- Important Information
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(Valeriana officinalis LINN.)
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Botanical: Valeriana officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Valerianaceae
- Harvesting and Preparation for Market
- Chemical Constituents
- Medicinal Action and Uses
- Preparations and Dosages
- Other Species
—Synonyms—Phu (Galen). All-Heal. Great Wild Valerian. Amantilla. Setwall. Setewale Capon’s Tail.
—Habitat—Europe and Northern Asia. Two species of Valerian, Valeriana officinalis and V. dioica, are indigenous in Britain, while a third, V. pyrenaica, is naturalized in some parts. The genus comprises about 150 species, which are widely distributed in the temperate parts of the world.
In medicine, the root of V. officinalis is intended when Valerian is mentioned. It is supposed to be the Phu (an expression of aversion from its offensive odour) of Dioscorides and Galen, by whom it is extolled as an aromatic and diuretic.
It was afterwards found to be useful in certain kinds of epilepsy. The plant was in such esteem in mediaeval times as a remedy, that it received the name of All Heal, which is still given it in some parts of the country.
The plant is found throughout Europe and Northern Asia, and is common in England in marshy thickets and on the borders of ditches and rivers, where its tall stems may generally be seen in the summer towering above the usual herbage, the erect, sturdy growth of the plant, the rich, dark green of the leaves, their beautiful form, and the crowning masses of light-coloured flowers, making the plant conspicuous.
—Description—The roots tend to merge into a short, conical root-stock or erect rhizome, the development of which often proceeds for several years before a flowering stem is sent up, but slender horizontal branches which terminate in buds are given off earlier, and from these buds proceed aerial shoots or stolons, which produce fresh plants where they take root. Only one stem arises from the root, which attains a height of 3 or 4 feet. It is round, but grooved and hollow, more or less hairy, especially near the base. It terminates in two or more pairs of flowering stems, each pair being placed at right angles to those above and below it. The lower flowering stems lengthen so as to place their flowers nearly or often quite on a level with the flowers borne by the upper branches, forming a broad and flattened cluster at the summit, called a cyme. The leaves are arranged in pairs and are united at their bases. Each leaf is made up of a series of lance-shaped segments, more or less opposite to one another on each side of the leaf (pinnate). The leaflets vary very much in number, from six to ten pairs as a rule, and vary also in breadth, being broad when few in number and narrower when more numerous; they are usually 2 to 3 inches long. The margins are indented by a few coarsely-cut teeth. The upper surface is strongly veined, the under surface is paler and frequently more or less covered with short, soft hairs. The leaves on the stem are attached by short, broad sheaths, the radical leaves are larger and long-stemmed and the margins more toothed.
The flowers are in bloom from June to September. They are small, tinged with pink and flesh colour, with a somewhat peculiar, but not exactly unpleasant smell. The corolla is tubular, and from the midst of its lobes rise the stamens, only three in number, though there are five lobes to the corolla. The limb of the calyx is remarkable for being at first inrolled and afterwards expanding in the form of a feathery pappus, which aids the dissemination of the fruit. The fruit is a capsule containing one oblong compressed seed. Apart from the flowers, the whole plant has a foetid smell, much accentuated when bruised.
Although more often growing in damp situations, Valerian is also met with on dry, elevated ground. It is found throughout Britain, but in the northern counties is more often found on higher and dryer ground – dry heaths and hilly pastures – than in the south, and then is usually smaller, not more than 2 feet high, with narrow leaves and hairy, and is often named sylvestris. The medicinal qualities of this form are considered to be especially strong.
Though none of the varieties differ greatly from the typical form, Valerian is more subject than many plants to deviations, which has caused several more or less permanent varieties to be named by various botanists. One of the chief is V. sambucifolia (Mikan), the name signifying ‘Elder-leaved,’ from the form of its foliage, the segments being fewer (only four to six pairs) and broader than in the type form, and having somewhat of the character of the elder.
V. celtica is supposed to be the Saliunca of ancient writers. It is used by Eastern nations to aromatize their baths. The roots are collected by the Styrian peasants, and are exported by way of Trieste to Turkey and Egypt, whence they are conveyed to India and Ethiopia. V. sitchensis, a native of northwestern America, is considered by the Russians the most powerful of all species.
Valerian is cultivated for the sake of the drug in England (in Derbyshire), but to a much greater extent in Prussia, Saxony (in the neighbourhood of Colleda, north of Weimar), in Holland and in the United States (Vermont, New Hampshire and New York). English roots have always commanded about four times the price of the imported. In Derbyshire, the cultivation of Valerian takes place in many villages near Chesterfield, the wild plants occurring in the neighbourhood not being sufficient to supply the demand. Derbyshire Valerian plants are of two varieties: V. Milkanii (Syme), on limestone, and V. sambucifolia (Mikan) on the coal measures. The former yields most of the cultivated Derbyshire rhizome.
The derivation of the name of this genus of plants is differently given. It is said by some authors to have been named after Valerius, who first used it in medicine; while others derive the name from the Latin word valere (to be in health), on account of its medicinal qualities. The word Valeriana is not found in the classical authors; we first meet with it in the ninth or tenth century, at which period and for long afterwards it was used as synonymous with Phu or Fu; Fu, id est valeriana, we find it described in ancient medical works of that period. The word Valerian occurs in the recipes of the AngloSaxon leeches (eleventh century). Valeriana, Amantilla and Fu are used as synonymous in the Alphita, a mediaeval vocabulary of the important medical school of Salernum. Saladinus of Ascoli (about 1450) directs the collection in the month of August of radices fu, id est Valerianae. Referring to the name Amantilla, by which it was known in the fourteenth century, Professor Henslow quotes a curious recipe of that period, a translation of which runs as follows: ‘Men who begin to fight and when you wish to stop them, give to them the juice of Amantilla id est Valeriana and peace will be made immediately.’ Theriacaria, Marinella, Genicularis and Terdina are other old names by which Valerian has been known in former days. Another old name met with in Chaucer and other old writers is ‘Setwall’ or ‘Setewale,’ the derivation of which is uncertain. Mediaeval herbalists also called the plant ‘Capon’s Tail,’ which has rather fantastically been explained as a reference to its spreading head of whitish flowers.
Drayton (Polyolbion) mentions the use of Valerian for cramp; and a tea was made from its roots.
—Cultivation—Valerian does well in all ordinary soils, but prefers rich, heavy loam, well supplied with moisture.
In Derbyshire, cultivation is from wild plants collected in local woods and transplanted to the prepared land. Preference is given in collecting to root offsets – daughter plants and young flowering plants, which develop towards the close of summer, at the end of slender runners given off by the perennial rhizomes of old plants. These should be set 1 foot apart in rows, 2 or 3 feet apart. The soil should first be treated with farmyard manure, and after planting it is well to give liquid manure from time to time, as well as plenty of water. The soil must be well manured to secure a good crop. Weeding requires considerable attention.
Propagation may also be by seed, either sown when ripe in cold frames, or in March in gentle heat, or in the open in April. In the first two cases, transplant in May to permanent quarters. But to ensure the best alkaloidal percentage, it is best to transplant and cultivate the daughter plants of the wild Valerian.
—Harvesting and Preparation for Market—The flowering tops must be cut off as they appear, thus enabling the better development of the rhizome. Many of the young plants do not flower in the first year, but produce a luxuriant crop of leaves, and yield rhizome of good quality in the autumn.
In September or early October, all the tops are cut off with a scythe and the rhizomes are harvested, the clinging character of the Derbyshire soil not allowing them to be left in the ground longer.
The drug as found in commerce consists usually of the entire or sliced erect rhizome, which is dark yellowish-brown externally, about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch thick, and gives off numerous slender brittle roots from 2 1/2 to 4 inches long, whilst short, slender, lateral branches (stolons) are also occasionally present. The root-stock, which is sometimes crowned with the remains of flowering stems and leaf-scales is usually firm, horny and whitish or yellowish internally, but old specimens may be hollow. A transverse section is irregular in outline and exhibits a comparatively narrow bark, separated by a dark line from an irregular circle of wood bundles of varying size.
The drug may also consist of small, undeveloped rhizomes about 1/4 inch long, crowned with the remains of leaves and bearing short slender roots, the young rhizome having been formed where the stolons given off from mature root-stocks have taken root and produced independent plants.
The roots of Valerian are of similar colour to the erect rhizome, about 1/10 inch thick, striated longitudinally and usually not shrivelled to any great extent; a transverse section shows a thick bark and small wood.
The drug has a camphoraceous, slightly bitter taste and a characteristic, powerful, disagreeable odour, which gradually develops during the process of drying, owing to a change which occurs in the composition of the volatile oil contained in the sub-epidermal layer of cells: the odour of the fresh root, though not very agreeable, is devoid of the unpleasant valerianaceous odour.
The colour and odour of Valerian rhizome distinguish it readily from other drugs. The rhizome somewhat resembles Serpentary rhizome (Aristolochia Serpentaria, Virginian Snakeroot), but may be distinguished therefrom by its odour, erect method of growth, and by the roots being thicker, shorter and less brittle.
—Substitutes—Valerian root is often fraudulently adulterated with those of other species, notably with those of V. dioica (Linn.) (Marsh Valerian), which are smaller and of much feebler odour, and not possessed of such active properties. This Valerian is also a native of Great Britain, found in wet meadows and bogs, but rather scarce. It is a smaller plant than the official Valerian, its stem only growing 6 to 18 inches high. The leaves are very variable, the lower ones generally entire, oval but broader at the base, the upper ones cut into pairs of leaflets, and the flowers dioecious, i.e. stamens and pistil, or seed-producing organs in different flowers, the male flowers being arranged rather loosely, and the female flowers, which are smaller and darker, being in more compact heads.
The roots of V. Phu (Linn.) are also frequently found mingled with those of the official plant in the imported drug. This species is a native of Southern Europe and Western Asia, often grown in gardens for its decorative golden foliage, being easy of culture. Its rhizome is sometimes known as V. Radix Majoris. It is from 4 to 6 inches long, 1/2 inch in thickness, brown and with a feeble, valerian-like odour and taste. Its thicker rhizome lies obliquely in the earth instead of being erect like that of V. officinalis, and is rooted at the bottom only, the roots being numerous and yellowish.
It is stated also that in Germany various Ranunculaceous (or Buttercup) roots are a dangerous adulterant of Valerian; they may be readily detected by their want of the peculiar odour of the official root. The Valerian in the markets of Paris is often largely adulterated with the roots of Scabious (Scabiosus succisa, Linn.) and S. arvensis (Linn.). They are shorter than the genuine root, less rough, very brittle, not striated, or channelled, and with a white fracture. Though inodorous in themselves, they are very apt to acquire odour from contact with the Valerian. The roots of Geum urbanum, or Avens, which in themselves are pleasingly aromatic, but may also on contact acquire some of the odour, have also occasionally been found in parcels of imported Valerian root.
—Chemical Constituents—The chief constituent of Valerian is a yellowish-green to brownish-yellow oil, which is present in the dried root to the extent of 0.5 to 2 per cent though an average yield rarely exceeds 0.8 per cent. This variation in quantity is partly explained by the influence of locality, a dry, stony soil, yielding a root richer in oil than one that is moist and fertile.
Lindley’s Treasury of Botany states: ‘What is known to chemists as volatile oil of Valerian seems not to exist naturally in the plant, but to be developed by the agency of water.’
The oil is contained in the sub-epidermal layer of cells in the root, not in isolated cells or glands. It is of complex composition, containing valerianic, formic and acetic acids, the alcohol known as borneol, and pinene. The valerianic acid present in the oil is not the normal acid, but isovalerianic acid, an oily liquid to which the characteristically unpleasant odour of Valerian is due. It is gradually liberated during the process of drying, being yielded by the decomposition of the chief constituent, bornyl-isovalerianate, by the ferment present. It is strongly acid, burning to the palate and with the odour of the plant. The oil is soluble in 30 parts of water and readily in alcohol and ether. It is found in nature in the oil of several plants, also in small proportion in train oil and the oil of Cetacea (whales, porpoises, etc.), which owe their smell to it. It is also one of the products of oxidation of animal matters and of fat oils, and is secreted in certain portions of animal bodies. Its salts are soluble and have a sweetish taste and fatty aspect.
The root also contains two alkaloids – Chatarine and Valerianine – which are still under investigation and concerning which little is known, except that they form crystalline salts. There are also a glucoside, alkaloid and resin all physiologically active, discovered in the fresh rhizome by Chevalier as recently as 1907. He claims that the fresh root is of greater medicinal value than the dry on this account.
On incineration, the drug, if free from adherent earthy matter, yields about 8 or 9 per cent of ash.
The chief preparation of the British Pharmacopoeia is the Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, containing Valerian, oil of Nutmeg, oil of Lemon and Ammonia: it is an extremely nauseous and offensive preparation. An etherial tincture and the volatile oil are official in some of the Continental Pharmacopceias, and a distilled water and syrup in the French Codex.
Valerianate of oxide of ethyl, or valerianic ether is a fragrant compound occurring in some vegetable products. The valerianic acid in use is not prepared from the root, but synthetically from amyl alcohol. Valerianic acid combines with various bases (the oxides of metals) to form salts called Valerianates. Valerianate of zinc, prepared by double decomposition, is used as an antispasmodic and is official in the British Pharmacopoeia.
—Medicinal Action and Uses—Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic.
It has a remarkable influence on the cerebro-spinal system, and is used as a sedative to the higher nerve centres in conditions ofnervous unrest, St. Vitus’s dance, hypochrondriasis, neuralgic pains and the like.
The drug allays pain and promotes sleep. It is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrain, as it possesses none of the after-effects produced by narcotics.
During the recent War, when air-raids were a serious strain on the overwrought nerves of civilian men and women, Valerian, prescribed with other simple ingredients, taken in a single dose, or repeated according to the need, proved wonderfully efficacious, preventing or minimizing serious results.
Though in ordinary doses, it exerts an influence quieting and soothing in its nature upon the brain and nervous system, large doses, too often repeated, have a tendency to produce pain in the head, heaviness and stupor.
It is commonly administered as Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, and often in association with the alkali bromides, and is sometimes given in combination with quinine, the tonic powers of which it appreciably increases.
Oil of Valerian is employed to a considerable extent on the Continent as a popular remedy for cholera, in the form of cholera drops, and also to a certain extent in soap perfumery.
Ettmuller writes of its virtues in strengthening the eyesight, especially when this is weakened by want of energy in the optic nerve.
The juice of the fresh root, under the name of Energetene of Valerian, has of late been recommended as more certain in its effects, and of value as a narcotic in insomnia, and as an anti-convulsant in epilepsy. Having also some slight influence upon the circulation, slowing the heart and increasing its force, it has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations.
Valerian was first brought to notice as a specific for epilepsy by Fabius Calumna in 1592, he having cured himself of the disease with it.
Culpepper (1649) joins with many old writers to recommend the use both of herb and root, and praises the herb for its longevity and many comforting virtues, reminding us that it is ‘under the influence of Mercury, and therefore hath a warming faculty.’ Among other uses, he adds: ‘The root boiled with liquorice, raisons and aniseed is good for those troubled with cough. Also, it is of special value against the plague, the decoction thereof being drunk and the root smelled. The green herb being bruised and applied to the head taketh away pain and pricking thereof.’ Gerard tells us that herbalists of his time thought it ‘excellent for those burdened and for such as be troubled with croup and other like convulsions, and also for those that are bruised with falls.’ He relates that the dried root was held in such esteem as a medicine among the poorer classes in the northern counties and the south of Scotland, that ‘no broth or pottage or physicall meats be worth anything if Setewale (the old name for Valerian) be not there.’
Sutherland describes many varieties of Valerian, and himself grew the Indian Valerian which is still sent to Mincing Lane, and offered on the British market. Hanbury states that, according to its habitat, it has many variations which some botanists take as separate species. In the south of England, when once it obtains a hold of the ground, nothing will eradicate it. It was well known to the Anglo-Saxons, who used it as a salad.
Valerian has an effect on the nervous system of many animals, especially cats, which seem to be thrown into a kind of intoxication by its scent. It is scarcely possible to keep a plant of Valerian in a garden after the leaves or root have been bruised or disturbed in any way, for cats are at once attracted and roll on the unfortunate plant. It is equally attractive to rats and is often used by rat-catchers to bait their traps. It has been suggested that the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin owed his irresistible power over rats to the fact that he secreted Valerian roots about his person.
In the Middle Ages, the root was used not only as a medicine but also as a spice, and even as a perfume. It was the custom to lay the roots among clothes as a perfume (vide Turner, Herbal, 1568, Pt. III, p. 56), just as some of the Himalayan Valerians are still used in the East, especially V. Jatamansi, the Nard of the Ancients, believed to be the Spikenard referred to in the Scriptures. It is still much used in ointments. Its odour is not so unpleasant as that of our native Valerians, and this and other species of Valerian are used by Asiatic nations in the manufacture of precious scents. Several aromatic roots were known to the Ancients under the name of Nardus, distinguished according to their origin or place of growth by the names of Nardus indica, N. celtica, N. montana, etc., and supposed to have been derived from different valerianaceous plants. Thus the N. indica is referred to V. Jatamansi (Roxb.), of Bengal, the N. celtica to V. celtica (Linn.), inhabiting the Alps and the N. montana to V. tuberosa, which grows in the mountains of the south of Europe.
JAPANESE VALERIAN, or Kesso Root, was formerly believed to be the product of Patrinia scabiosaefolia (Link.), but is now known to be obtained from a Japanese variety of V. officinalis. It yields a volatile oil. By the absence of a well-marked, upright rhizome, it widely differs from true Valerian, though at first sight agrees to some extent with it. In colour and taste it is almost identical.
The roots of V. Mexicana (D.C.), MEXICAN VALERIAN, which occurs in Mexican commerce in slices, or fleshy disks, contain a large percentage of valerianic acid, which they yield readily and economically. As much as 3.3 per cent of oil has been extracted from the roots of this species.
V. pyrenaica (Linn.), the HEART-LEAVED VALERIAN, a native of the Pyrenees, is occasionally found in Great Britain naturalized in plantations. It is a large, coarse herb, the stem 2 to 4 feet high, the radical leaves sometimes very large, often a foot in diameter, heart-shaped, the upper ones smaller, with a few basal leaflets, the flowers much as in V. officinalis. It is not employed medicinally.
V. montana and V. angustifolia are Alpine varieties, but can be grown in this country with a little care. They are almost entirely grown for decorative purposes, flowering from May to August, and possessing none of the unpleasant smell of Valerian.
Culpepper describes a plant which he calls ‘Water Valerian’ (V. Aquatica), with ‘much larger’ flowers than the garden Valerian, which, however, they resemble, and of a ‘pale purple colour.’ He states it grows ‘promiscuously in marshy grounds and moist meadows’ and flowers in May.
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Valeriana officinalis L.
Known compounds detected in valerian that may contribute to its method of action are:
Alkaloids: actinidine,Fereidoon Shahidi and Marian Naczk, Phenolics in food and nutraceuticals (Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press, 2004), pp. 313–314 . chatinine,Although many sources list “catinine” as an alkaloid present in extracts from the root of Valeriana officinalis, those sources are incorrect. The correct spelling is “chatinine”. It was discovered by S. Waliszewski in 1891. See: S. Waliszewski (15 March 1891) L’Union pharmaceutique, page 109. Abstracts of this article appeared in: “Chatinine, alcaloïde de la racine de valériane” Répertoire de pharmacie, series 3, vol. 3, pp. 166–167 (April 10, 1891) ; American Journal of Pharmacy, vol. 66, p. 285 (June 1891). shyanthine, valerianine, and valerine Isovaleramide may be created in the extraction process.Isovaleramide does not appear to be a naturally occurring component of valerian plants; rather, it seems to be an artifact of the extraction process; specifically, it is produced by treating aqueous extracts of valerian with ammonia. See: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Isovaleric acidIsovaleric acid does not appear to be a natural constituent of V. officinalis; rather, it is a breakdown product that is created during the extraction process or by enzymatic hydrolysis during (improper) storage. See pp. 22 and 123 of Peter J. Houghton, Valerian: the genus Valeriana (Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Harwood Academic Press, 1997) . Iridoids, including valepotriates: isovaltrate and valtrate Sesquiterpenes (contained in the volatile oil): valerenic acid, hydroxyvalerenic acid and acetoxyvalerenic acid Flavanones: hesperidin, 6-methylapigenin, and linarin
Potential mechanism Because of valerian’s historical use in traditional medicine for diverse purposes, such as for sedation or pain relief, laboratory research has been directed at the GABAA receptor, a class of receptors on which benzodiazepines act. Valeric acid, which is responsible for the typical odor of mostly older valerian roots, does not have any sedative properties. Valproic acid, a widely prescribed anticonvulsant is a derivative of valeric acid. Valerian also contains isovaltrate, which has been shown to be an inverse agonist for adenosine A1 receptor sites. This action likely does not contribute to the herb’s possible sedative effects, which would be expected from an agonist, rather than an inverse agonist, at this particular binding site. Hydrophilic extractions of the herb commonly sold over the counter, however, probably do not contain significant amounts of isovaltrate. Valerenic acid in valerian stimulates serotonin receptors as a partial agonist, including 5-HT5A which is implicated in the sleep-wake cycle.
Preparation The chief constituent of valerian is a yellowish-green to brownish-yellow oil present in the dried root, varying in content from 0.5 to 2.0%. This variation in quantity may be determined by location; a dry, stony soil yields a root richer in oil than moist, fertile soil. The volatile oils that form the active ingredient are pungent, somewhat reminiscent of well-matured cheese. Though some people remain partial to the earthy scent, some find it unpleasant, comparing the odor to that of unwashed feet.Harrington, H.D., Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains, The University of New Mexico Press, 1967, LCCN 67-29685, p. 225
Medicinal use Valerian (V. officinalis) essential oil
Although valerian is a common traditional medicine used for treating insomnia, there is no good evidence it is effective for this purpose. Valerian is not helpful in treating restless leg syndrome or anxiety. There is insufficient evidence for efficacy and safety of valerian for anxiety disorders. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the health claim that valerian can be used as a traditional herbal medicine to relieve mild nervous tension and to aid sleep; EMA stated that although there is insufficient evidence from clinical studies, its effectiveness as a dried extract is considered plausible.
Oral forms, use, and adverse effects
Oral forms A bottle of Valerian capsules
Oral forms are available in both standardized and unstandardized forms. Standardized products may be preferable considering the wide variation of the chemicals in the dried root, as noted above. When standardized, it is done so as a percentage of valerenic acid or valeric acid.
Because the compounds in valerian produce central nervous system depression, they should not be used with other depressants, such as ethanol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates, kava, or antihistamine drugs. Although no liver problems are normally encountered with valerian use, there have been case studies in which hepatotoxicity has been observed in apparently hypersensitive individuals following short-term use (e.g. one month). As an unregulated product, the concentration, contents, and potential contaminants in valerian preparations cannot be easily determined. Because of this uncertainty and the potential for toxicity in the fetus and hepatotoxicity in the mother, valerian use is discouraged during pregnancy.
Other Common Names: The other common names for the herb valerian are Blessed Herb, Capon’s Tail, English Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, German Valerian, Great Wild Valerian, Heliotrope, Setwall, Tagara, Valerian, Vandalroot and Vermont Valerian.
HistoryThe word Valerian occurs in the recipes of the Anglo Saxon leeches (eleventh century). Valerian, Amantilla and Fu are used as synonymous in the Alphita, a mediaeval vocabulary of the important medical school of Salernum.The derivation of the name of this genus of plants is differently given. It is said by some authors to have been named after Valerius, who first used it in medicine; while others derive the name from the Latin word valere (to be in health), on account of its medicinal qualities.Theriacaria, Marinella, Genicularis and Terdina are other old names by which Valerian has been known in former days. Another old name met with in Chaucer and other old writers is ‘Setwall’ or ‘Setewale,’ the derivation of which is uncertain. Mediaeval herbalists also called the plant ‘Capon’s Tail,’ which has rather fantastically been explained as a reference to its spreading head of whitish flowers. The plant was in such esteem in mediaeval times as a remedy, that it received the name of All Heal, which is still given it in some parts of the country. Valerian extracts became popular in the United States and Europe in the mid-1800s, and continued to be used by both physicians and the lay public until it was widely replaced by prescription sedative drugs.
DescriptionValerian is a perennial plant, about 2-4 feet high. The yellow-brown, tuberous rootstock produces a hollow, angular, furrowed stem with slender. Horizontal branches which terminate in buds are given off earlier, and from these buds proceed aerial shoots or stolons, which produce fresh plants where they take root. It terminates in two or more pairs of flowering stems, each pair being placed at right angles to those above and below it. The lower flowering stems lengthen so as to place their flowers nearly or often quite on a level with the flowers borne by the upper branches, forming a broad and flattened cluster at the summit, called a cyme.The limb of the calyx is remarkable for being at first inrolled and afterwards expanding in the form of a feathery pappus, which aids the dissemination of the fruit. The leaves are arranged in pairs and are united at their bases. Each leaf is made up of a series of lance-shaped segments, more or less opposite to one another on each side of the leaf (pinnate). The leaflets vary very much in number, from six to ten pairs as a rule, and vary also in breadth, being broad when few in number and narrower when more numerous; they are usually 2 to 3 inches long. The margins are indented by a few coarsely-cut teeth. The upper surface is strongly veined, the under surface is paler and frequently more or less covered with short, soft hairs. The leaves on the stem are attached by short, broad sheaths, the radical leaves are larger and long-stemmed and the margins more toothed. The fruit is a capsule containing one oblong compressed seed. Apart from the flowers, the whole plant has a foetid smell, much accentuated when bruised.
Range The plant is found throughout Europe and Northern Asia, and is common in England Two species of Valerian, Valeriana officinalis and V. dioica, are indigenous in Britain, while a third, V. pyrenaica, is naturalized in some parts. The genus comprises about 150 species, which are widely distributed in the temperate parts of the world.
Habitat This herb thrives best in marshy thickets and on the borders of ditches and rivers. valerian grows wild in damp conditions. Valerian does well in all ordinary soils, but prefers rich, heavy loam, well supplied with moisture.
Cultivation The wild plants are collected from local woods and transplanted to the prepared land. Generally the young flowering plants given off by the perennial rhizomes of old plants which develop towards the close of summer are given preference. These should be set 1 foot apart in rows, 2 or 3 feet apart. The soil should first be treated with farmyard manure, and after planting it is well to give liquid manure from time to time, as well as plenty of water. The soil must be well manured to secure a good crop. Weeding requires considerable attention.
Propagation may also be by seed, either sown when ripe in cold frames, or in March in gentle heat, or in the open in April. In the first two cases, transplant in May to permanent quarters. But to ensure the best alkaloidal percentage, it is best to transplant and cultivate the daughter plants of the wild Valerian. The flowering tops must be cut off as they appear, thus enabling the better development of the rhizome. Many of the young plants do not flower in the first year, but produce a luxuriant crop of leaves, and yield rhizome of good quality in the autumn.
Flowering Season The flowers of the valerian are in full bloom in late spring.
Pests and Diseases Valerian succumbed to disease that is exacerbated by moisture and mulch retains too much water.Rarely it is been affected by plant feeding insects and mites.
|The roots and rhizome are the most commonly used part of the valerian herb.|
Medicinal and Commercial Applications
- It is excellent for headaches, trembling, palpitations, hysteric complaints and the vapours.
- It is used by Eastern nations to aromatize their baths.
- It is used in treating cramps.
- Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic.
- It has a remarkable influence on the cerebro-spinal system, and is used as a sedative. The drug allays pain and promotes sleep. It is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrains.
- Oil of Valerian is employed to a considerable extent on the Continent as a popular remedy for cholera, in the form of cholera drops, and also to a certain extent in soap perfumery.
- Valerian helps in strengthening the eyesight, by giving energy to the optic nerve.
- It is used as an anti-convulsant in epilepsy.
- Valerian has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations.
- Valerian is beneficial for almost any stress-related condition, and, in general, has a calming, rather than directly sedative, effect on the mind.
- Many symptoms of anxiety, including tremors, panic, palpitations, and sweating, can be relieved with valerian.
- Valerian relaxes over contracted muscles, and is helpful for shoulder and neck tension, asthma, colic, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle spasms, and menstrual pain.
Folklore and Myths ‘Men who begin to fight and when you wish to stop them, give to them the juice of Amantilla id est Valeriana and peace will be made immediately. Valerian is sedative to humans, but excites both cats and mice. In the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, he baited the rodents with valerian to drive them out of the city. The flowers are used in charm bags to encourage love, protection and sleep.
Valeriana officinalis L.
As early as the 4th and 5th centuries B.C., valerian was of great importance to followers of Hippocrates, who used it to treat women’s diseases. Ancient physicians referred to this plant as “Phu” (this name also appears in medieval almanacs). These early healers differentiated between phu magnum, or Theriacaria; phu vulgare or common valerian (also known as cat’s valerian) and phu minus, or small valerian. We come across the plant in the writings of Dioscorides, Pliny and in the medical works of the abbess Hildegard von Bingen.
The botanical name valeriana is not to be found in classical Latin texts and does not appear in a Latin translation until Isaac Judaeus’ 10th century work “De diaetis”; it later appears in various herbals. According to Bartoldi, the plant was named after the Roman district of Valeria in the province of Pannonia (an area south and west of the Danube). Contrary to popular belief, the herb’s name probably has nothing to do with the Latin word valere meaning “healthy, valuable”; rather it may perhaps only share an etymological root. Tschirch believes it possible that the name derives from Arabic. Still another claim purports the word Valeriana to have evolved from the German term baldrian and before that from the low German word bullerjan, which was adulterated to balderjan. This term can be linked to the god of light, Baldur and his Christian version, St. John. The word officinalis is a medieval Latin term meaning “of use in the apothecary”.
In the old days, valerian was much more widely used than it is now. It was used as a warming drug, an emmenagogic, febrifugal and diuretic. It was also administered to cure afflictions of the spleen and the plague, back pain, coughs and eye complaints. It was used externally to combat ulcers and fig warts (condyloma). Today’s use as a nervine and sleeping draft is not mentioned anywhere. It was not until Italy in the seventeenth century that the plant was used to cure epilepsy. Strong-smelling plants such as Valeriana officinalis were always important to ward off devils, witches and all manner of bad spirits. Even today in certain rural areas, a bunch of valerian is often hung up together with a bunch of wild marjoram above the entrance to one’s home or a barn in order to protect the inhabitants from misfortune and evil.
Valerian is a perennial plant with an extremely varied morphology. It comprises a sturdy rhizome with many secondary roots and short runners. In spring the plant develops a basal rosette with pinnate leaves. From around the second year of growth the plant sends up a rotund, furrowed, hollow flowering stem which grows to a height of between 80 and 120 cm and branches out at the top. The lance-like pinnate leaves issue forth from either 9 to 21 finely serrated leaflets, or from a single pinnate. The leaves are pale green on the upper surface and darker underneath; they are attached in pairs to either side of the stem. The stems terminate in umbels bearing many branches and tiny white and pale pink flowers. The fresh plant is odourless. The typical valerian smell can only be detected faintly emanating from the fresh root and its intensity increases only once the plant has been dried. This odour attracts cats and it has a curiously intoxicating effect on them.
The flowers are in bloom from May to August.
There are 150 species of the genus Valeriana, of which four species are officinal in Europe. The European Pharmacopoeia lists Valeriana officinalis LINNÉ as a collectable species, giving it the additional category of “s.l.” (meaning “sensu latiore”, in the broader sense). In order to prepare the drug, “Valeriana radix”, V. sambucifolia, V. procurrens, V. collina and V. exalta may be harvested . Besides Valeriana officinalis, two other species of this genus are used to prepare herbal remedies: the Mexican species of valerian, V. edulis NUTT. ssp. procera and the valerian indigenous to Pakistan and India, V. wallichii DC. Both species are rich in valepotriates. Unlike V. officinalis, these species are used as daytime sedatives .
Valerian can be found in temperate zones throughout Europe, but it also grows in the Caucasus, west and central Asia, Siberia, Manchuria and Japan. It grows in all sorts of weather conditions and its various leaf-forms are able to adapt to the specific conditions of each particular environment. Generally speaking, the plant prefers damp locations on the banks of streams and rivers, in ditches or on damp pastures, but it is also to be found on elevated ground in mountainous areas. Plants originating from mountainous regions are usually more aromatic than those occurring in areas of swamp or marshland.
Valerian is cultivated in organically controlled crops by farmers specially appointed by A.Vogel/Bioforce to grow the plant. Following harvesting in autumn, the roots and rhizome are macerated in alcohol without undergoing a drying process.
When I first started studying herbs in high school, I didn’t really understand why anyone would need herbs for sleep. I slept perfectly well, waking up in the morning was the real problem. It wasn’t until college with stress and deadlines that I finally learned the true importance of valerian.
On a foreign study in Italy, I went to visit the Papal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. I normally avoid gift shops, but I had heard that the monks in this particular church had an affinity for herbs. I was not disappointed, and I found a bottle of Valerian tincture. Just what the doctor ordered.
A decade and a half later, I grow my own valerian for homemade tinctures. In growing my own, I’ve had plenty of time to observe the plant’s characteristics. I’ve also watched as the little aerial seeds are blown around to every corner of my land, just like dandelion seeds. It spreads so easily and loves to grow in both shady and wet soil, so it’s no surprise that it’s colonized the countryside.
Valerian is native to Europe and Asia, but it’s escaped gardens just like mine for hundreds of years and naturalized to much of the United States.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial that readily spreads by seed. It prefers moist soils and tolerates shade, meaning that it’s often found by woods edges and along roadsides in drainage areas.
When the plants are young, they look a bit like wild parsnip. The leaves are lobed and grow in pairs out of the sides of a tall hollow stalk.
The stalks grow quite tall, often 6 feet or more. In midsummer, valerian produces clusters of tiny white flowers. This is when it’s easiest to find wild valerian. Driving along on back roads, you can spot their telltale flowers.
Valerian flowers are quite different than yarrow or Queen Anne’s lace in appearance, and beyond that, the plants are generally much taller. The flowers are also wonderfully fragrant, and attract plenty of pollinators, much more so than other flowers nearby in my experience.
Every part of the plant is aromatic, from the flowers to the leaves, and especially the root. If you have ever smelled dried valerian root that you purchased for your own homemade herbal medicines, you know what I mean. Valerian root has a very distinctive smell.
To my nose it smells pleasant but very medicinal. It’s almost like when I smell it I know I’m holding something potent. If you don’t understand, try smelling a bit of purchased valerian root and it’ll all make sense.
Either way, when I pull up wild valerian to harvest the root, I know right away by the smell that I have the right plant.
The root is traditionally the part that is used to make valerian tincture. The mature roots are harvested from 3-year-old plants. Older plants are easy to identify because they have multiple flower stalks. Those mature plants will produce bigger roots.
If you harvest younger plants, the roots will be smaller, and they’ll only have a single stalk like the root in the picture below.
So lets review. The leaves come in pairs out of the sides of a tall, hollow central stalk. The flowers form in white clusters once the plants have reached 3 to 6 feet tall. The flowers sometimes have a pink tinge as well, and they’re sought after by bees. The roots are stringy and white, and larger on older valerian plants.
Once you’ve harvested a bit of valerian root, it can be a bit tricky to clean. Wash it as best you can to remove clinging dirt. The roots can be chopped and then submerged in a neutral alcohol to make a valerian tincture while still fresh. Root clusters can also be hung to dry for teas, or to preserve them to make valerian tincture later on.
I’ve found the best way to learn to identify wild valerian is to grow it. If you want to grow your own Valerian, the seeds can be purchased here. The plants put out a lot of seeds, so a pack of 5000 only costs a few dollars.
In the meantime, while you’re waiting for your valerian to grow, you can make valerian tincture with dried valerian root. The process of making a valerian tincture is the same as making an echinacea tincture or burdock tincture. Or if you prefer, you can purchase ready-made valerian tincture.
Valerian Roots make a gentle sleepy tea
It’s easy to grow valerian. Though it can get tall and can be knocked down by wind, it’s generally tolerant of both heavy and light soil. The flowers smell gorgeous in summer and attract bees and butterflies. In autumn you dig up some of the roots to use.
Valerian is used as a mild sedative and is taken as a tea or in capsules. The way it works is by gradually making you drowsy and you fall into a natural sleep. Best of all, there’s no hangover in the morning like you’d have with conventional sleeping pills.
In its second year valerian can grow over five feet tall
Valerian for better sleep
Valerian is non-habit-forming which is a good thing if you have irregular sleep patterns. You use second year roots for this purpose and once dried they can be simmered into a strong-tasting sleepy tea. Blend valerian with better tasting calming herbs such as chamomile, passion flower, and lemon balm if the flavour is too strong for you.
The taste is why some people prefer to take valerian in capsules. You can fill empty capsules with your own dried herbs and keep them stored for up to a year.
Cats adore Valerian in the same way that they love Catnip
Cats go crazy for Valerian
Valerian has a second use that might surprise you. Its pungent scent is irresistible to many cats and they’ll go absolutely mad for it! It causes cats to start drooling and rolling around until they’re properly silly. If you have a cat that isn’t keen on catnip (it does happen) it’s good to know that Valerian can have the same effect on them.
Giving your kitty a little valerian before taking them into stressful situations can calm them down.
First season Valerian leaves grow to about 2.5 to 3 feet tall
If you have space at the back of a border, definitely grow valerian. I started mine off as seeds that I sowed in spring. I let them grow in the seed tray until they had true leaves before planting them into large modules. They were about three inches tall when I planted them outside.
That first year the Valerian plants grew about 2.5 feet in height and then died down for the winter. They regrew this year sending up new leaves and tall flower spikes with beautifully scented flowers. You can increase the medicinal strength of the Valerian root by removing the flower stalks but I left them on for the bees.
2017 update: I’ve been growing Valerian for six years now and can add that it does well in both clay soil and lighter soil. I’ve given it the occasional mulch of composted manure but have left it to do it’s own thing most of the time. What you should be aware of is that in a good situation it can grow to five feet in height and needs staking. Otherwise you’ll find your plants knocked over by both the wind and their own weight.
You don’t need seed to grow valerian. The plants can send out runners that you can transplant elsewhere and you can also use root divisions to create more plants. In spring or autumn dig up the plant and chop it into a few pieces with leaf, crown, and roots attached. Replant and you’ll have more plants. Valerian also self seeds so you can transplant the volunteers if you wish.
Valerian grows wild throughout Europe and the British Isles. Image via Flickr
Harvesting & Drying
Last week, and after nearly eighteen months of growth, I harvested two of my plants. To grow valerian is an investment but a worthwhile one!
Valerian has long spindly roots that dig up easily but take a lot of cleaning. I can recommend spraying them with the hose to loosen any hard clumps of soil.
Scissors are a great way of cutting the roots off the plant and then give them another wash afterward. Next, cut them to about 1/4″ in length for drying. You can compost the rest of the plant or if there are enough roots attached, you can replant it for next year. I’ve tried it and it works, especially if you remove most of the leaves and cut the plant down to about 6-8″ in height.
Valerian roots are long and stringy and can be difficult to clean
The roots need to be thoroughly cleaned before they’re cut up and dried
Drying Valerian for Tea
There are at least two ways to dry Valerian. The first is to spread the pieces out on drying racks and to let them dry naturally in a dim and airy place in the home. A drying cupboard if you have one would be ideal but I’ve dried Valerian in my garage and it works fine too. It can take up to several weeks for them to dry this way — you know they’re dry when the pieces are dark and brittle.
The other way is to use a food dehydrator. Each model is different so follow the instructions that yours comes with as far as temperature and time. It’s likely that your Valerian roots will be fully dried within a day this way.
Valerian roots laid out to dry
Preparing the Tea
To make a Valerian tea you prepare it as a decoction — basically you need to boil it. Place 2 tsp of the dried herb or 5 tsp of the fresh herb into four cups of boiling water. Boil for a minute then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let it seep for half an hour before straining out the liquid. Drink 2-3 cups before you want to go to sleep.
If you’re having sleeping issues due to a cold or flu, these herbs can help you recover.
Dried Valerian available on Amazon: Frontier cut & sifted Valerian Root Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag
Description: This herbaceous perennial plant is 1½-4′ tall and sparingly branched. Both basal and cauline leaves are produced that are similar in appearance. The central stem of each plant is light green (less often dark red), stout, terete, finely ribbed, and either glabrous or pubescent; the interior of this stem is hollow. Pairs of opposite leaves occur primarily along the lower one-half of each stem; they are widely spreading. These leaves are odd-pinnate with 4-9 pairs of sessile leaflets and a terminal leaflet (alternately, the leaves could be described as pinnatifid with 4-9 pairs of deep lobes and a terminal lobe); the leaves are up to 8″ long. The leaflets are linear-lanceolate to lanceolate-oblong in shape with margins that are either smooth or sparingly dentate toward their tips. The upper leaflet surface is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface is more pale and either glabrous or slightly hairy. The rachis (central stalk) of each leaf is primarily white with winged margins that are green. The lower and basal leaves have longer petioles than the upper leaves; the latter are sometimes sessile.
The central stem terminates in one or more flat-topped panicles of flowers about 2-5″ across. On a robust plant, stalks of smaller flat-topped panicles may be produced from the axils of 1-2 pairs of upper leaves. The peduncles and pedicels of these panicles are light green (less often dark red) and either glabrous or pubescent. Individual trumpet-shaped flowers are about 4 mm. (3/16″ ) long, consisting of a light pink or white corolla with 5 spreading lobes, a short green calyx with 5 teeth, 3 stamens, and a pistil with a style that is tripartite at its tip. The blooming period occurs during the summer for a month or two; the flowers are fragrant. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by achenes with feathery hairs. The achenes are about 4 mm. (3/16″) long, lanceoloid in shape, and slightly flattened; they are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. Colonies of clonal plants are sometimes produced by the rhizomes.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun, consistently moist conditions, and soil consisting of fertile loam. However, this plant can adapt to less ideal circumstances. There are very few problems with disease organisms or pests.
Range & Habitat: The non-native Garden Valerian has naturalized in NE Illinois, where it is uncommon (see Distribution Map). It was introduced into North America from Europe as an ornamental and medicinal plant. Habitats consist of soggy thickets and meadows, fens, and roadside ditches. So far, Garden Valerian has not been a problem in Illinois, although in the northeastern states it appears to be more abundant and aggressive, possibly because of the cooler climate and more abundant rainfall in these states.
Faunal Associations: According to Müller (1873/1883), the nectar and pollen of the flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, Halictid bees, dance flies (Empididae), flower flies (Syrphidae), Muscid flies, blow flies (Calliphoridae), flesh flies (Sarcophagidae), and thick-headed flies (Conopidae). The flowers also attract skippers and butterflies during the day (personal observation), and perhaps moths at night. Because of its bitter taste and other properties, the foliage of Garden Valerian is not attractive to mammalian herbivores.
Photographic Location: A flower garden at the Arboretum of the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: This interesting plant has attractive foliage and flowers, therefore it is no surprise that it is occasionally cultivated in flower gardens; it is also cultivated in medicinal herb gardens. When the pulverized roots of Garden Valerian are consumed, they exert hypnotic, sedative, and anti-spasmodic effects in the human body. It is thought that neurologically active chemicals in the roots affect the GABA neurotransmitter system and possibly other neurotransmitter systems within the brain to produce these effects. Unlike native Valeriana spp. (Valerian species), Garden Valerian has odd-pinnate leaves (or deeply pinnatifid leaves) from top to bottom. The lower leaves of native Valerian species are either undivided or less so.
- Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia; it also grows in North America.
- Valerian has been used medicinally since the times of early Greece and Rome; Hippocrates wrote about its uses. Historically, valerian was used to treat nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations.
- Today, valerian is used as a dietary supplement for insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions such as depression and menopause symptoms.
- The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of valerian are used to make capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts, as well as teas.
How Much Do We Know?
- Knowledge about valerian is limited because there have been only a small number of high-quality studies in people.
What Have We Learned?
- The evidence on whether valerian is helpful for sleep problems is inconsistent.
- There’s not enough evidence to allow any conclusions about whether valerian can relieve anxiety, depression, or menopausal symptoms.
What Do We Know About Safety?
- Studies suggest that valerian is generally safe for use by most healthy adults for short periods of time.
- No information is available about the long-term safety of valerian or its safety in children younger than age 3, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.
- Few side effects have been reported in studies of valerian. Those that have occurred include headache, dizziness, itching, and digestive disturbances.
- Because it is possible (though not proven) that valerian might have a sleep-inducing effect, it should not be taken along with alcohol or sedatives.
Keep in Mind
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Generic Name: valerian (vah LEH ree un)
Brand Name: Valerian Root
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Sep 30, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum
- Side Effects
What is valerian?
Valerian is a flowering plant, the root of which is dried and used as an herbal remedy.
Valerian has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in treating sleep problems (insomnia).
Other uses not proven with research have included treating anxiety, stress, depression, attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, tremors, epilepsy, menopause symptoms, and other conditions.
It is not certain whether valerian is effective in treating any medical condition. Medicinal use of this product has not been approved by the FDA. Valerian should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.
Valerian is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.
Valerian may also be used for purposes not listed in this product guide.
Follow all directions on the product label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use valerian if you are allergic to it.
Before using valerian, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use valerian if you have certain medical conditions.
It is not known whether valerian will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are pregnant.
It is not known whether valerian passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.
How should I take valerian?
When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.
If you choose to use valerian, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.
Do not crush, chew, break, or open a valerian capsule. Swallow it whole.
If you need surgery, stop taking valerian at least 2 weeks ahead of time.
Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with valerian does not improve, or if it gets worse while using this product.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Since valerian is used when needed, you are not likely to miss a dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
What should I avoid while taking valerian?
Valerian may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.
Avoid using valerian with other herbal/health supplements that can cause drowsiness. This includes 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), California poppy, catnip, chamomile, gotu kola, Jamaican dogwood, kava, melatonin, St. John’s wort, skullcap (or scullcap), yerba mansa, and others.
Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase drowsiness caused by valerian.
Valerian side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Although not all side effects are known, valerian is thought to be possibly safe when taken for a short period of time (4 to 8 weeks).
Stop using valerian and call your doctor at once if you have:
Common side effects may include:
feeling excited or uneasy;
strange dreams; or
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What other drugs will affect valerian?
Taking this medicine with other drugs that make you sleepy can worsen this effect. Ask your doctor before taking valerian with a sleeping pill, narcotic pain medicine, muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.
Do not take valerian without medical advice if you are using a medication to treat any of the following conditions:
any type of infection (including HIV, malaria, or tuberculosis);
anxiety or depression;
asthma or allergies;
heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);
high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a heart condition;
psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders;
a psychiatric disorder; or
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with valerian, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this product guide.
- Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal/health supplement. Whether you are treated by a medical doctor or a practitioner trained in the use of natural medicines/supplements, make sure all your healthcare providers know about all of your medical conditions and treatments.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 3.02.
More about Valerian Root (valerian)
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Use of Valerian to Relieve Anxiety in Patients With Cancer
By Eugenie Spiguel, MSN, ANP-BC, and Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
January 25, 2019
Eugenie Spiguel, MSN, ANP-BC
Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
The ASCO Post’s Integrative Oncology series is intended to facilitate the availability of evidence-based information on integrative and complementary therapies sometimes used by patients with cancer. Eugenie Spiguel, MSN, ANP-BC, and Jyothirmai Gubili, MS, explore the use of valerian for relieving anxiety and improving sleep in patients with cancer.
Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE
Integrative Oncology is guest edited by Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair in Integrative Medicine and Chief, Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.
Scientific Name: Valeriana officinalis, Valeriana radix
Common Names: Garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, and garden heliotrope
Valerian is a perennial flowering plant commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Its medicinal history dates back many centuries, and it was first described by Hippocrates as a remedy for insomnia.
Valerian continues to be employed in modern times to treat nervousness, headaches, and sleeplessness. It is also used to address epilepsy, gastrointestinal spasms, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Valerian is popular in many parts of the world—in supplemental form, as an anxiety reliever, and as a sleep aid. Its powdered root is marketed as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, and teas; the fluid extracts and tinctures are sold in both alcohol and alcohol-free bases.
Valerian demonstrated antioxidant,1 neuroprotective,2 antispasmodic,3 anxiolytic,4 anticancer,5,6 and antidepressant7 effects in preclinical studies. The potential of valerian as a sleep aid has been explored in a few studies.
In a randomized trial involving 100 postmenopausal women, 530 mg of valerian extract (taken twice a day for 4 weeks) was reported to improve the quality of sleep, compared with placebo (P < .001).8 But in a study of 119 patients undergoing active treatment for cancer, valerian (450 mg) taken orally at bedtime for 8 weeks did not improve sleep compared with placebo, as measured by Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores. Researchers, however, reported improvements in secondary outcomes, which included fatigue.9
In a systematic review of 16 studies (1,093 patients), just 6 reported a statistically significant benefit in improving sleep quality with valerian, whereas the remaining trials had methodologic issues and differed considerably in dosage and treatment durations.10 Also, a meta-analysis involving 18 trials concluded that valerian may help affect subjective improvements in insomnia alone, highlighting the need for rigorous trials.11
Additional studies have reported that valerian may help mitigate vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes in menopausal women and in treating symptoms associated with dysmenorrhea.12,13 Preliminary findings have suggested the utility of valerian products in facilitating benzodiazepine withdrawal.14 Interestingly, even though small studies suggest the positive effects of valerian against anxiety, definitive data are lacking. Literature reviews also cite insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions,15,16 so further research is needed.
Physicians should be aware of the popularity of valerian as an anxiolytic; of the adverse effects and drug interactions associated with its use; as well as of the lack of long-term safety data.
Mechanistic studies indicate that constituents in valerian bind to neurotransmitter receptors that are implicated in circadian rhythms and anxiety.17 Experiments conducted with murine models have demonstrated that the anxiolytic activity of valerian is primarily due to valerenic acid, with enhanced activity due to its interaction with gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).18 Compounds including sesquiterpenes and valepotriates were shown to have antidepressant effects as well,7,19 evidenced by elevated norepinephrine and dopamine levels in rodents treated with a valepotriate-rich extract.19 Valerian also demonstrated antispasmodic and hypotensive effects via potassium channel activation, which may be useful for patients with gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders.3
Adverse reactions associated with valerian include headache, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal complaints, daytime sedation/dullness, impaired alertness, depression, irritability, dizziness, sweating, heart palpitations, bitter taste, and benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms with supplement cessation.1,9,20
Hepatotoxicity has been reported after using valerian products, with symptom resolution following cessation.21,22
Valerian was identified as a potential contributor to cases of idiopathic acute pancreatitis.23
Valerian administration to pregnant mice resulted in significant reduction in zinc levels in the fetal brain.24
Patients and their care teams need to be aware that valerian may potentially interact with some drugs via CYP450 substrates. — Eugenie Spiguel, MSN, ANP-BC, and Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
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Barbiturates: Valerian was reported to prolong pentobarbital-induced sleep.25
Benzodiazepines: Valerian may have synergistic effects.26
Haloperidol: Valerian may have additive effects resulting in hepatic damage.27
Cytochrome P450 (CYP450) substrates: Valerian inhibits CYP2D628 and CYP3A429,30 and may affect the serum concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes.
P-glycoprotein (P-gp) substrates: Valerian inhibits P-gp transporters and may elevate the intracellular concentration of substrate drugs.30
Uridine 5′-diphosphoglucuronosyltransferase (UGT) substrates: Valerian modulates UGT enzymes in vitro and may enhance the side effects of drugs metabolized by them.31
Valerian is a popular supplement used as an anxiolytic and as a sleep aid. There is limited evidence of its effectiveness for sleep disturbance and anxiety. Patients and their care teams need to be aware that valerian may potentially interact with some drugs via CYP450 substrates. Also, abrupt cessation of its use may result in benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms. Further research on valerian is needed. ■
Ms. Spiguel is a nurse practitioner with the Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Ms. Gubili is Editor, Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.
DISCLOSURE: Ms. Spiguel and Ms. Gubili reported no conflicts of interest.
1. Sudati JH, Fachinetto R, Pereira RP, et al: In vitro antioxidant activity of Valeriana officinalis against different neurotoxic agents. Neurochem Res 34:1372-1379, 2009.
2. Xu J, Guo Y, Xie C, et al: Isolation and neuroprotective activities of acylated iridoids from Valeriana jatamansi. Chem Biodivers 9:1382-1388, 2012.
3. Gilani AH, Khan AU, Jabeen Q, et al: Antispasmodic and blood pressure lowering effects of Valeriana wallichii are mediated through K+ channel activation. J Ethnopharmacol 100:347-352, 2005.
4. Murphy K, Kubin ZJ, Shepherd JN, et al: Valeriana officinalis root extracts have potent anxiolytic effects in laboratory rats. Phytomedicine 17:674-678, 2010.
5. Li X, Chen T, Lin S, et al: Valeriana jatamansi constituent IVHD-valtrate as a novel therapeutic agent to human ovarian cancer: In vitro and in vivo activities and mechanisms. Curr Cancer Drug Targets 13:472-483, 2013.
6. Lin S, Zhang ZX, Chen T, et al: Characterization of chlorinated valepotriates from Valeriana jatamansi. Phytochemistry 85:185-193, 2013.
7. Liu XG, Gao PY, Wang GS, et al: In vivo antidepressant activity of sesquiterpenes from the roots of Valeriana fauriei Briq. Fitoterapia 83:599-603, 2012.
8. Taavoni S, Ekbatani N, Kashaniyan M, et al: Effect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Menopause 18:951-955, 2011.
9. Barton DL, Atherton PJ, Bauer BA, et al: The use of Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) in improving sleep in patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer: A phase III randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (NCCTG Trial, N01C5). J Support Oncol 9:24-31, 2011.
10. Diaper A, Hindmarch I: A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of two doses of a valerian preparation on the sleep, cognitive and psychomotor function of sleep-disturbed older adults. Phytother Res 18:831-836, 2004.
11. Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, et al: Valerian for sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med 119:1005-1012, 2006.
12. Mirabi P, Mojab F: The effects of valerian root on hot flashes in menopausal women. Iran J Pharm Res 12:217-222, 2013.
13. Mirabi P, Dolatian M, Mojab F, et al: Effects of valerian on the severity and systemic manifestations of dysmenorrhea. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 115:285-288, 2011.
14. Lopez-Peig C, Mundet X, Casabella B, et al: Analysis of benzodiazepine withdrawal program managed by primary care nurses in Spain. BMC Res Notes 5:684, 2012.
15. Sarris J, McIntyre E, Camfield DA: Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: A review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs 27:301-319, 2013.
16. Miyasaka LS, Atallah AN, Soares BG: Valerian for anxiety disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4):CD004515, 2006.
17. Kennedy DO, Wightman EL: Herbal extracts and phytochemicals: Plant secondary metabolites and the enhancement of human brain function. Adv Nutr 2:32-50, 2011.
18. Felgentreff F, Becker A, Meier B, et al: Valerian extract characterized by high valerenic acid and low acetoxy valerenic acid contents demonstrates anxiolytic activity. Phytomedicine 19:1216-1222, 2012.
19. Sah SP, Mathela CS, Chopra K: Antidepressant effect of Valeriana wallichii patchouli alcohol chemotype in mice: Behavioural and biochemical evidence. J Ethnopharmacol 135:197-200, 2011.
21. Cohen DL, Del Toro Y: A case of valerian-associated hepatotoxicity. J Clin Gastroenterol 42:961-962, 2008.
22. Vassiliadis T, Anagnostis P, Patsiaoura K, et al: Valeriana hepatotoxicity. Sleep Med 10:935, 2009.
23. Douros A, Bronder E, Andersohn F, et al: Drug-induced acute pancreatitis: Results from the hospital-based Berlin case-control surveillance study of 102 cases. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 38:825-834, 2013.
24. Mahmoudian A, Rajaei Z, Haghir H, et al: Effects of valerian consumption during pregnancy on cortical volume and the levels of zinc and copper in the brain tissue of mouse fetus. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao 10:424-429, 2012.
25. Komori T, Matsumoto T, Motomura E, et al: The sleep-enhancing effect of valerian inhalation and sleep-shortening effect of lemon inhalation. Chem Senses 31:731-737, 2006.
26. Bhatt C, Kanaki N, Nayak R, et al: Synergistic potentiation of anti-anxiety activity of valerian and alprazolam by liquorice. Indian J Pharmacol 45:202-203, 2013.
27. Dalla Corte CL, Fachinetto R, Colle D, et al: Potentially adverse interactions between haloperidol and valerian. Food Chem Toxicol 46:2369-2375, 2008.
28. Hellum BH, Nilsen OG: The in vitro inhibitory potential of trade herbal products on human CYP2D6-mediated metabolism and the influence of ethanol. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 101:350-358, 2007.
29. Mooiman KD, Maas-Bakker RF, Hendrikx JJ, et al: The effect of complementary and alternative medicines on CYP3A4-mediated metabolism of three different substrates: 7-benzyloxy-4-trifluoromethyl-coumarin, midazolam and docetaxel. J Pharm Pharmacol 66:865-874, 2014.
30. Hellum BH, Nilsen OG: In vitro inhibition of CYP3A4 metabolism and P-glycoprotein-mediated transport by trade herbal products. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 102:466-475, 2008.
31. Mohamed ME, Frye RF: Effects of herbal supplements on drug glucuronidation: Review of clinical, animal, and in vitro studies. Planta Med 77:311-321, 2011.
Valerian, Select (Valeriana officinalis), potted plant, organic
Greetings! Plants are available to the US only. Potted plants, trees and succulents listed on this website may be ordered now, and will begin shipping September 5th. If you have a preferred ship date, tell us right away! Our plant shipping seasons are: March 15 through July 31, then again Sep 5 through Thanksgiving. Order early to assure availability.
Family: Valerian (Valerianaceae)
Hardy to Zones 4 to 8.
Herbaceous perennial native to Europe and temperate Asia. Traditional usage (TWM): sedative. This cultivar selected for high concentration of valeric and valerenic constituents. Valerian prefers full sun to part shade and moist but well-drained soils. I have seen excellent clumps form, during a wet spring, when planted on the peak of a pile of ground pumice with a soil substrate. However, regular garden soil amended with organic compost will do nicely. The plant adapts rather well to a wide range of conditions. Space plants 1 to 2 feet apart. Flowers white in the second year to a height of 5 feet or more.
Potted plant, Certified Organically Grown
Statements about medicinal use of plants have not been evaluated by the FDA, and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any ailment. Before using or ingesting any medicinal plant, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with botanical medicine.
About medicinal herbs: Archeological evidence dates the medicinal use of herbs back 60,000 years to the Neandertals. 85% of the world’s population employ herbs as medicines, and 40% of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. contain plant-derived materials. Fewer than 10% of higher plant species have been investigated for their medicinal components. Interest in traditional herbal remedies continues to grow.
Herb culture: To substitute fresh herbs for dried in cooking, use triple the dried quantity called for in a recipe.
Drying herbs at home is not difficult. Whole leaves retain their flavor at least a year.
Some herbs are customarily grown from divisions because they cannot come true from seed, such as scented thymes and flavored mints. Some require fall sowing of fresh seed, such as sweet cicely and angelica, and these become available in August or September.
Takinagawa Burdock and Resina Calendula, as well as oats, mammoth red clover and alfalfa in the Farm Seed section, also have medicinal uses. Medicinal herbs such as black cohosh and goldenseal are available as plants, and shipped with Trees in the spring.