Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): Valerian is used for insomnia and other disorders as an alternative to benzodiazepine drugs. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its properties, and Galen later prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia.
Valerian also contains isovaltrate, which has been shown to be an agonist for adenosine A1 receptor sites. This action may contribute to the herb's sedative effects.
Valerian is s a well-known and frequently used medicinal herb that has a long and proven history of efficacy. It is noted especially for its effect as a tranquilliser and nervine, particularly for those people suffering from nervous overstrain. Valerian has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure.
It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries. The root is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The active ingredients are called valepotriates, research has confirmed that these have a calming effect on agitated people, but are also a stimulant in cases of
Germany's Commission E approved valerian as an effective mild sedative and the United States Food and Drug Administration listed valerian as "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). Scientists aren't sure how valerian works, but they believe it increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and has a calming effect on anxiety. A class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which includes alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. Researchers think valerian may have a similar, but weaker effect.
Valerian, though an herbal supplement, might not be safe for everyone. It is very important to notify your medical practitioner of your medical condition and medications you are taking if you are considering using valerian, particularly if you have any allergies, epilepsy, seizures, or liver-related issues.
- Insomnia: Several studies in adults suggest that valerian improves the quality of sleep and reduces the time to fall asleep (sleep latency), for up to 4-6 weeks.
- Anxiety disorder: Several studies of valerian have reported benefits in reducing non-specific anxiety symptoms.
- Sedation: Although valerian has not been studied specifically as a sedative, evidence from studies conducted for other purposes suggests that valerian may not have significant sedative effects when used at recommended doses.
From the Spanimax List: "15 Top Herbs II"
- Treatment of insomnia: an alternative approach; Attele AS, Xie JT, Yuan CS.
- Edible and Medicinal Plants; Launert. E.
- Complete Guide to Herbs; Holtom. J. and Hylton. W.
- A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man; Usher. G.
- Northern Mythology; Thorpe, Benjamin.
- Valerian; University of Maryland, Medical Center.
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