Baldrian, Cat’s Valerian, Valerian
Valeriana officinalis L.
This plant is native to Europe and Asia and also part of east of North American. Valerian that is also called cat`s grass is available in humid areas with temperate climate and mostly in the forests and rivers side. The members of the Valeriana genus are perennial herbaceous plants widely distributed in mild regions of North America, Europe and Asia. There are nearly 200 known species; most Eurasian valerian is cultivated for medicinal uses. The product of valerian is a natural product of this plant root and rhizome.
1. Calming Anxiety and Stress
In a research that its results were published in journal of Phytotherapy Research in 2002, the moderating effect of valerian on physiological stress induced under laboratory conditions was evaluated in 54 healthy volunteers participating in the standardized mental stress test and compared with placebo effect. Unlike placebo valerian reduced the amount of systolic blood pressure and stress reported by individuals and inhibited the increase in heart beat rate due to stress. In 2014 also the effects of hydro alcoholic extract of valerian on behaviors like depression in susceptible rats with ovalbumin were investigated and its results were published in Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. Based on the results of this study hydro alcoholic extract of valerian prevents behaviors like depression in susceptible rats with ovalbumin. These results support the traditional beliefs about the beneficial effects of valerian on the nervous system. In 2011 a study was conducted to compare the effect of valerian extract and placebo effect on treatment disorder of compulsive- practical obsessive (OCD) and its results were published in Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. In this preliminary double blind random study that was performed for 8 weeks 31 mature outpatients participated that had a measurement of mental disorder for this disease. In this study patients randomly received capsules containing valerian extract (765 mg in a day) and placebo (30 mg in a day) for 8 weeks. Based on the results valerian has effects of anti- obsessive of practical-compulsive and of course more studies are needed to confirm these findings.
2. Improving Sleep Quality
Valerian has effects of sedative and relief and is used to treat insomnia and sleep disorders. It seems that the mechanism of this plant is related to its interaction with gamma- aminobutyric acid (an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system). The effect of aqueous extract of valerian root on amount of evaluated sleep based on individual report in 128 men was studied and its results were published in journal of pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. Valerian created a significant reduction in sleep delay and significant improvement in sleep quality. Improving the quality of sleep was more significant in smokers, those who had inappropriate or irregular sleep patterns and those who usually had a long delay in falling asleep. In another experiment that its results were published in Planta medica, the effect of valerian aqueous extract has been investigated on time of falling asleep in men. In this experiment a group of 8 volunteers with mild insomnia received aqueous extract of valerian root with the doses of 400 and 900 mg and placebo. The findings showed that valerian improves delay time in falling asleep and sleep quality.
3. Improving Nervous System Function
In 2009 the effect of cytoprotective (cell protection) of valerian extract on experimental model of Parkinson`s disease in laboratory condition was investigated and its results were published in journal of Neurochemical Research. Cytroprotective potential of valerian aqueous extract is detected on apoptosis (cell death) of human neuroblastoma cells SH-SY5Y (neuroblastoma is a cancer that grows in immature cells of the sympathetic nervous system). This extract increases the cells ability in surviving. Based on the results of this study neuroprotectory activity (neuronal protection) of valerian extract can be used for next studies for developing the treatment cytroprotective of Parkinson`s disease.
4. Improving Brain Function
The consumption of extract of valerian and Melissa roots has shown good tolerance in children under the age of 12 who suffer from restlessness and insomnia. In 2014 a study was done on effect of valerian and Melissa extract on hyperactivity, decentralization and impulsivity of primary school children during 7 weeks and its results were published in journal of Phytomedicine. In this study the effect of treatment with fixed mixture of two plants as well as improvement of concentration, hyperactivity and impulsivity were tested. In this study 169 primary school children who suffered from hyperactivity and hardly focused were treated by 27 pediatricians at a recommended daily dose of 640 mg of valerian root extract and 320 mg of Melissa extract and at the beginning of the study and the second and seventh weeks were evaluated by pediatricians and their parents (using a standard questionnaire). In some children severe symptoms of inability to concentration, hyperactivity and impulsivity have been reduced. Sleep and social behavior assessed by parents were significantly improved. Based on the results for the treatment of primary school children with problems of restlessness and lack of concentration in addition to counseling and training, the use of root extract of valerian and Melissa is also an acceptable option.
5. Improving Cardiovascular System Function
In 2009 the effect of valerian on rabbit`s heart beat rate and arterial blood pressure was investigated and its results were published in Journal of Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The heart beat rate was recorded by the electrocardiogram (ECG). After the intravenous injection of the valerian extract into the rabbit, heart beat rate and arterial blood pressure (the reduction of diastolic pressure was lower than systolic pressure) reduced. Based on the results valerian can reduce arterial blood pressure. In 2003 also the effect of extract of ethyl alcohol (mg/ml) and hydroxyl pinoresinol-8 (100 micromole) derived of valerian root on reduction of blood vessel wall pressure in cat was observed.
Also in 2009 the effect of valerian extract on arrhythmia of the heart (irregular heart beat rate) was investigated and its results were published in Chinese Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. Based on this study aqueous extract, essential oil and the other ingredients of valerian can protect rats against induced arrhythmia with Aconitine and Chloroform. Aqueous extract at the doses of 25 and 50 g/kg effectively reduced the ventricular fibrillation (irregular contractions of the ventricle), delayed incidence of arrhythmia and decreased mortality rates. Essential oil at the 25 and 50 g/kg doses effectively inhibits induced arrhythmia with chloroform. Other ingredients of valerian also showed the anti-arrhythmia activities in different levels.
6. Regulating Blood Cholesterol Levels
A study for considering the effect of valerian oil on blood lipid metabolism in rabbits with high blood fat (hyperlipidemia) was done and its results were published in Journal of Nanjing Military Medical College. Rabbits were exposed to diet with 1.5% of cholesterol content for 45 days. The results have shown that consumption of valerian oil significantly reduced total serum cholesterol level, triglyceride and LDL in comparison to control group. Based on these findings, valerian oil plays a significant role to modify lipid profile. Also based on other study valerian can reduce levels of total cholesterol serum level, LDL, urine albumin and creatinine.
7. Relieving Muscle Spasms
According to studies valerian makes muscle relaxed. It was found in the research that valerenic acid, valetrate and valeranal had a spasmolytic (anti-spasm) property on the guinea pig`s ileum (long intestine) through the direct effect on smooth muscle. The function of these ingredients of valerian was similar to function of papaverine (spasm remedy). In other research conducted in 2011 the effect of valerian on severity of dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) was evaluated and its results were published in International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. In a random double blind experiment, 100 students randomly received valerian (49 students) and placebo (51 students). After the intervention period the severity of pain was significantly reduced in both groups and statistically there was a higher reduction in consumer group of valerian. Due to the antispasmodic effects of valerian, this plant seems to be an effective treatment for dysmenorrhea.
Valerian root contains bicyclic monoterpenes (valepotriates include valtrate, acevaltrate, dihydrovaltrate and isovaltrate), volatile oils (valeranone, valerenal, and valerenic acids), sesquiterpenes, lignans, alkaloids (such as valerine and valerianine), flavonoids (acacetin, apigenin, diosmetin, quercetin, kaempferol, linarin and luteolin) and free amino acids (such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tyrosine, arginine, and glutamine).Valerian’s characteristic odor is generated by isovaleric acid. Valerenic acids and valepotriates are often considered as active ingredients in valerian medicinal and commercial products.
Valerian is recommended to treat insomnia. This plant in Greece, the Ayurvedic School (the basis of treatment in this school is the balance of the natural elements of the body and the balance of human psyche), traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy (one of the most common treatments for complementary medicine) for relaxation, strengthening the heart and treatment for epilepsy and hysteria was used. Its tincture has been used for centuries in Europe because of its tranquilizing properties. It is still widely used as a hypnotic in France, Germany and Switzerland. In Greece medicine the root of valerian is recommended to treat many disorders such as palpitations, digestion problems, epilepsy and urinary tract infections.