Valerian is a relaxing tea.
Active alkaloids are structurally similiar to benzodiazepines (xanax, valium etc.). However, don't expect a great valium-like high. Usually made into a tea, but there is a great smoking blend called "nitro" at Herbal-Smoke which contains valerian (probably as the main herb). Nitro is popular, and noticeably potent.
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 has an effect on cats similiar to that of catnip, particularly with the leaves. Cats will go crazy in order go get it. Rats are attracted to it as well.
The biochemical active components of valerian extract are:
- Alkaloids: actinidine, catinine, isovaleramide, valerianine and valerine;
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), neurotransmitter connected to the sedative plant effects;
- Valeric acid;
- Valepotriates, esters non-glicosidic, firstly acevaltrate, isovaltrate and valtrate.
- Volatile oil containing active sesquiterpenes (acetoxivalerenic acid, valerenic acid);
Valerian is used for insomnia and other disorders.
In the United States, Valerian is sold as a dietary supplement. Therapeutic use has increased as dietary supplements have gained in popularity, especially after a law was passed that allowed the distribution of many herbs as over-the-counter supplements, and therefore allowed them to bypass the regulatory requirements of the FDA.
Valerian is used against sleeping disorders, restlessness and anxiety, and as a muscle relaxant. Valerian seems only to work when taken over longer periods (several weeks), though many users find that it takes effect immediately. Some studies have demonstrated that valerian extracts interact with the GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. Valerian is also used traditionally to treat gastrointestinal pain and spastic colitis. Long term safety studies are missing. As valepotriates may be potential mutagens, valerian should only be used after consultation with a physician.
Valerian medication is sometimes recommended as first line when benefit-risk relation requires so. Valerian is often indicated as transition medication during discontinuation processes involving bromazepan, clonazepam and diazepam, among others.
Valerian has uses in herbal medicine as a sedative. The main current use of valerian is as a remedy for insomnia, with a recent meta-analysis providing some evidence of effectiveness. It has been recommended for epilepsy but that is not supported by research. Valerian root generally does not lose effectiveness over time.
While shown to be an effective remedy for the reduction of anxiety, it has also been reported to cause headaches and night terrors in some individuals. This may be due to the fact that some people lack a digestive conversion property necessary to effectively break down Valerian. In these individuals, Valerian can cause agitation. One study found that valerian tends to sedate the agitated person and stimulate the fatigued person, bringing about a balancing effect on the system.