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Valeriana. U. S. (Br.) Valerian.

Botanical name:

Valer.

Related entry: Indian Valerian

"The dried rhizome and roots of Valeriana officinalis Linné (Fam. Valerianaceae)." U. S. "Valerian Rhizome is the dried rhizome and roots of Valeriana officinalis, Linn. Collected in the autumn." Br.

Valerianae Rhizoma, Br.; Valerian Root; Radix Valerianae Minoris, R. Valerianae Sylvestris, R. Valerianae Montanae; Common, Garden, Cat's or Great Wild Valerian, All-heal, Summer Heliotrope, Herb Bennet, Vandal Root; Valeriane officinale, Fr. Cod.; Racine de Valeriane, Valeriane, Fr.; Radix Valerianae, P. G.; Baldrian, Wilde Baldrianwurzel, Baldrianwurzel, G.; Valeriana, It.; Valeriana (Rizoma de), Sp.

Official or great wild valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a large, handsome, herbaceous plant, with a perennial rhizome, and an erect, round, channelled stem, from two to four feet high, furnished with opposite pinnate leaves, and terminating in flowering branches. The leaves of the stems are attached by abort, broad sheaths; the radical leaves are larger and long petiolate. In the former the leaflets are lanceolate and partially dentate, in the latter elliptical and deeply serrate. The flowers are small, white or rose-colored, agreeably odorous, and disposed in terminal corymbs interspersed with pear-shaped bracts. The number of the stamens is three. The fruit is a capsule containing one oblong-ovate, compressed seed. The plant is a native of Europe, where it grows either in damp woods and meadows or on dry elevated grounds. As found in these different situations, it presents characters so distinct as to have induced some botanists to make two varieties. Dufresne makes four, of which three prefer marshy situations. The variety which affects a dry soil (sylvestris L. Ph.) is not more than two feet high, and is distinguished by its narrow leaves.

The valerian plant is cultivated to some extent in New England and New York, and in Europe, in England and Holland. In this country it will grow in light, well-prepared, and well-drained soil, and is propagated by dividing the roots in the fall and setting these portions acids mentioned, forming corresponding esters with them: (4) at from 285° to 290° C. (545°-554° F.), a greenish, syrupy oil, which when rectified is colorless, and seems to have the composition of a borneol oxide, (C10H17)2O. Schimmel & Co. (Schim. Rep., April, 1897) summarize the most recent researches upon valerian oil from different sources. In the oil from Dutch and Thuringian roots, the amount varying from 0.5 to 1 per cent., they find pinene, camphene, borneol, bornyl formate, bornyl acetate, and bornyl isovalerate, together with a sesquiterpene and an alcohol, C10H20O2. In the oil from Japanese roots (amounting to from 6 to 6.5 per cent.) (Kesso oil), they find pinene, camphene, dipentene, terpineol, borneol, bornyl acetate, bornyl isovalerate, and kessyl acetate. Trommsdorff ascertained the existence in the oil of valeric acid.

This acid is a colorless volatile liquid, of an oleaginous consistence, having an odor analogous to that of valerian, and a very strong, sour, disagreeable taste. It is soluble in thirty parts of water, and in all proportions in ether and alcohol. It combines with salifiable bases, forming soluble salts, which retain, in a diminished degree, the odor of the acid. (J. P. C., xx, 316.) The acid does not pre-exist in the oil, but is produced by the decomposition of its borneol ester. Valeric acid is obtained by distilling the impure oil with magnesium carbonate, decomposing by sulphuric acid the magnesium valerate which remains, and again distilling. The following process by T. and H. Smith, of Edinburgh, avoids the inconvenience of distilling so bulky a root as valerian, while it answers the same purpose as that of Rabourdin. Boil the root for three or four hours with rather more than its bulk of water in which an ounce of sodium carbonate is dissolved for every pound of the root, replacing the water as it evaporates. Express strongly, and boil the residuum twice with the same quantity of water, expressing each time as before. Mix the liquids, add two fluidrachms of strong sulphuric acid for every pound of the root, and distil until three-fourths of the liquid have passed over. Neutralize this with sodium carbonate, concentrate the liquid, decompose the sodium valerate contained in it by sulphuric acid, and collect the valeric acid set free, by a separator, funnel, or by distillation. (A. J. P., xvii, 253.) Lefort obtains the acid by the rapid oxidation of the volatile oil. He distilled 100 parts of the root with 500 of water, 10 of sulphuric acid, and 6 of potassium dichromate, and in this way procured a larger proportion of acid than by any other process. (J. P. C., 3e ser., x, 194.)

Uses.—Valerian is used as a sedative to the higher nerve centers in conditions of nervous unrest, hysteria, hypochondriasis, neuralgic pains, and the like. The virtues of the plant seem to depend chiefly on the esters of valeryl which are contained in the volatile oil. According to Chevalier (Nouv. Rem., 1912, xxix, p. 169), the volatile oil of valerian is a depressant to the whole central nervous system, including both the motor and psychical centers of the brain and the motor cells of the spinal cord. The esters contained in this drug are unstable bodies and in the process of drying largely oxidized with the formation of valeric acid. As the latter is practically without physiological action much of the virtue of the plant is lost during the drying process. Probably for this reason preparations of this drug are very uncertain in their activity and valerian has largely fallen into disrepute. Chevalier has introduced the .juice of the fresh root which he asserts is a valuable remedy not only for the conditions mentioned above, but even as a narcotic in insomnia and an anticonvulsant in epilepsy. The dose of this juice, which has been introduced under the name of energetene of valerian, is one to three coffeespoonsful. It appears also to have some slight influence upon the circulation, slowing the heart and increasing its force, and causing a rise in blood pressure, and has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations.

Dose, twenty to forty grains (1.3-2.6 Gm.). The dose of the oil of valerian, which is occasionally employed, is four to five minims (0.25-0.3 mil).

Off. Prep.—Tinctura Valerianae, U. S.; Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, U. S., Br.; Fluidextractum Valerianae, N. F.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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