Valeriana: dosing.

Date: Mon, 16 Jan 1995 18:46:42 -0800
Sender: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
Subject: Re: Why Valerian root can WAKE YOU UP! A lesson in energetics...

Hi again folks!

On 1/15/95, Don Dancing Feather wrote:
>Recently someone asked me about sleep aids and said that valerian didnt work. Let me quote Michael Tierra's book Planetary Herbology, on Valerian, page 353:

>"Valerian is calming and sedating. It relieves pain, cramps, and spasms, and is a brain stimulant. This herb can have opposite effects on individuals who have a heated condition, since it is heating as well as sedative.

Yes. I would also like to add:
Often, because the "root" of Valerian officinalis is the part used therapeutically (actually, the rhizome, stolons, and roots), the user will mistakenly prepare a decoction instead of a tincture or infusion (for internal use). Because Valerian is rich in volatile oil (.5-1.0%), simmering, especially lidless, causes much of its therapeutic quality to disperse into the universe, leaving only a delicious, but weak preparation. While decoction is appropriate for most roots and rhizomes, Valerian is an exception. As my herb teacher would say, "If you can smell the Valerian all over the house, you've blown it!" (Unless, of course, you are an aromatherapist) Make sure to keep those oils in the preparation by infusing or tincturing.

While constituent analysis can be misleading, the sedative action of Valerian has been found to be partly due to some eposy-iridoid esters called valepotriates. These valepotriates (a series) have been isolated and their actions have been found to vary, and in some cases, to produce the opposite effects of others in the same sample. Because one fraction might have a suppressant effect and another might have a stimulant effect, in combination they have an amphoteric, or equalizing effect (which, in itself may relax and calm).

>This is a clear example of the necessity of prescribing herbs energetically rather than purely symptomatically.

Yes, herbal effects can vary person to person. It is my understanding that about ten percent of people have "paradoxical reactions", in otherwords, opposite effects. So some people can get hyped on Valerian (or have no noticeable effect), while most find it quite relaxing.

Also, be sure to take enough! The following is from Hoffmann's *Therapeutic Herbalism*:

To be effective, it (Valerian) has to be used in suffeciently high dosage. The tincture is the most widely used preparation and is useful, provided that the single dose is not counted in drops, but that 2.5-5 ml (½ to 1 teaspoonful) is given, and indeed sometimes 10 ml at one time. It is almost pointless to give ten or twenty drops of valerian tincture. Overdosage is highly unlikely, even with very much larger doses. For situations of extreme stress where a sedative or muscle relaxant effect is needed quickly, the single dose of one teaspoonful may be repeated two or three times at short intervals. (Yeah, I know I'm going to get flamed about the toxicity issue, but always remember that presence of alkaloids does not translate directly into death and cytotoxic activity in vitro does not always play out in vivo).

>Need help sleeping? Try hops, passionflower, wood betony, skullcap, lady's slipper, California poppy, chinese Zizyphus seed (a favorite of mine!!! good for the heart/palpitations) ...hops? Try a good natural beer...

Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) has become a real favorite of mine (in addition to those good microbrews!) I have found that my dreaming is enhanced in quite a vivid way if I take 2 to 3 ml of tincture before retiring.



Oops, sorry. I forgot to add:

>Need help sleeping? Try hops, passionflower, wood betony, skullcap, lady's slipper, California poppy, chinese Zizyphus seed ( a favorite of mine!!! good for the heart/palpitations)...hops? Try a good natural beer...

It is my understanding that Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium pubescens) is a protected plant in the United Kingdom and has been classified as endangered in the U.S. Because alternatives abound, please choose wisely.

Happy Full Moon,

From: Gerrit Saaltink <gerrit.SCO.EDUC.UVA.NL>
Subject: Why Valerian root can WAKE YOU UP! A lesson in energeti

Interesting discussion about Valerian. Here another view. My herbteacher Cor Schreurs, who was a very spiritual man (now he's in heaven) had the experience that Valerian can have an explosive effect on certain people, not the thing you expect from a sedativum. His view was that this people are often in a mental state of change, on a spiritual level they are leaving old ways of thinking/believing behind and go into a new phase of thinking/believing (spiritual growth). His advise was: drop the dose, sometimes even a daily dose of 3x3 or even 3x1 drops has its effect. Or change your medication to Melissa Officinalis, a sedativum wich also strengthens the ego (same as Valerian).

From: Don Dancing Feather <dms.EFN.ORG>

Melissa is wonderful! I wholehearted recommend this, also known as Lemon Balm. It is a true emotional healer plant and can be used often. Valerian on the other hand I think is way overused.

From: Howie Brounstein <HOWIEB.DELPHI.COM>
Subject: Why Valerian root can WAKE YOU UP! A le

I thought that Valeriana requires an enzyme to process constituents into other chemicals that are sedatives. Without these enzymes, it acts as a stimulant. But I have been wrong before. This would make it an "allergic" like reaction. People who have a stimulant effect from Valerian often have odd reactions to other drugs and herbs, and should be cautious.

I have seen many examples of people who react to valerian this way over the years. The results are extreme...especially since the folks are already hyper, stressed, or cramping....that's why they're taking Valerian. Taking a stimulant in this state can cause some real crisis.

Howie without references
C&W Herbs

From: Paul Bergner <bergner.TELEPORT.COM>
Subject: Re: Why Valerian root can WAKE YOU UP!

The old medical textbooks, i.e. from the Eclectic medical profession from 100 years ago, does not list valerian as a sedative but as a cerebral stimulant. It's helpful for depression, anxiety, and/or insomnia in a person with a cold constitution or condition, but can be exciting to a person with a hot constitution. Pale face, slower pulse, chilly feeling, might indicate cold, while florid face, stronger pulse, etc might indicate heat. Hot constitutions may do better with hops or scullcap as sedative herbs. Many common over-the-counter herbal formulas in Germany cover their bases with a 50-50 mixture of valerian and hops.

Paul Bergner

From: Howie Brounstein <HOWIEB.DELPHI.COM>

Don and the rest,

> (small world, aint it, netters?) and she said something about how fresh it is with mind to the tranformation of valeric acid to isovaleric acid, which she said (I think) was possibly stimulating. Wow, she knows a lot!

Yes, I agree that valeric acid changes to isovaleric acid upon drying...this is why fresh valerian smells musty and almost pleasant to pleasantly earthy..

while the dried root smells notoriously putrid. MMoore calls this the "dirty sock factor" in Med Plants of the Moun West. This change certainly affects its actions in a variety of ways...but I disaggree with Faun about isovaleric acid being stimulating versus valeric. Case histories......I've watched four different people over the decade plus have strong stimulant effects... not just a short rush before the calm sets in....a rush that rivals pharmaceuticals. These reactions all occured with FRESH valarian root. I only use fresh. Now I have minimal experience with dried....but some. There are a few herbalists I've met over the years who prefer dried (to each their own)......and they've not experienced any exceptionally numerous speedy reaction.


>Yes, I agree that valeric acid changes to isovaleric acid upon drying...this

I must say that I find the smell of dried valerian root quite enchanting, and almost addictive. Perhaps I have a good source? Just went and stuck my nose in the jar, just to check! Yeah, I love it..


From: Howie Brounstein <HOWIEB.DELPHI.COM>

Hola Peg

> I must say that I find the smell of dried valerian root quite enchanting, and almost addictive.

Yeah, MMoore in MPMWest has a good term...morbidly fascinating

But in's subjective. But if you like dried, you'll be able to use the fresh for perfume, you will love it so much. Sigh, the days of fresh Valerian..sitting out in the sun listening to music with a walkman washing valerian for hours as the sun sets over the snow capped peaks of the CAscades....or was it hunched over the edge of a rushing river splitting up the clumps and munching on cheese...ah but it can make you so drowsy.

Perhaps it's just the middle of winter.

Or perhaps, you are part feline. Cats love the smell also, and care must be taken when growing and processing the roots around them. They'll roll on the plant......

They say the pied piper of hamlin, tricky guy, carried it secretly on his person, and thus attracted animals..