Preparations: Infusion of Valerian - Compound Pills of Valerian - Fluid Extract of Valerian - Tincture of Valerian - Ammoniated Tincture of Valerian
Related entries: Polemonium.—American Greek Valerian - Oleum Valerianae.—Oil of Valerian - Acidum Valerianicum.—Valerianic Acid

"The rhizome and roots of Valeriana officinalis, Linné"—(U. S. P.).
Nat. Ord.—Valerianeae.
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: Valerian, Great wild valerian, Valerian root; Valerianae rhizoma (Br.), Radix valerianae minoris.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 146.

Botanical Source.—The official valerian, sometimes known as Great wild valerian, is a large herb, with a perennial, tuberous, somewhat creeping, fetid root, most aromatic when growing in dry pastures, with numerous long, dark-brown rootlets, and a smooth, hollow, furrowed stem about 4 feet in height. The leaves are all pinnate and opposite; leaflets in from 7 to 10 pairs, lanceolate, coarsely serrated, those of the radical leaves broadest, approaching to ovate, and borne on long foot-stalks. The flowers are flesh-colored, small, fragrant, in terminal cymose, contracted panicles; bracts, ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, herbaceous, membranous at the edge, appressed, and rather longer than the ovary; calyx superior, rolled inward in the form of a rounded, thickened rim, ultimately becoming a sort of pappus to the seed; corolla funnel-shaped and smooth; tube gibbous at the base on that side of the flower turned away from the axis, and hairy internally; limb spreading, divided into 5, nearly equal, concave and linear, with rounded segments. Stamens 3, exserted, subulate, white from the middle of the corolla tube; anthers yellow and oblong; ovary inferior, narrow-oblong, compressed, 1-celled, with a single pendulous ovule; style filiform; stigma divided into 3 filiform lobes. The fruit is light-brown. linear-ovate. compressed with a slight elevated ridge on one side, terminated by the 12 filiform, plumose, recurved segments of the calyx-limb (L.—Wo.).

History and Description.—Valerian is a European plant growing in wet places, or even in dry pastures, flowering in June and July. The plant thrives best in a light, dry soil; that growing in low, wet situations is not so active, therapeutically. Botanists have given distinctive variety names to these two kinds, which differ in habit of growth. Valerian is also cultivated in this country, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire, and is fully equal, if not superior, to that of English growth. The valerian of American growth has almost entirely superseded the foreign in this country. The medicinal part of- the plant is the root, which should be gathered soon after the leaves have fallen, and carefully dried. The U. S. P. describes the drug to be a " rhizome from 2 to 4 Cm. (⅘ to 1 ⅗ inches) long, and 1 to 2 Cm. (⅖ to ⅘ inch) thick, upright, subglobular or obconical, truncate at both ends, brown or yellowish-brown, internally whitish or pale-brownish, with a narrow circle of white wood under the thin bark. Roots numerous, slender, brittle, brown, with a thick bark, and slender, ligneous cord. Odor peculiar, becoming stronger and unpleasant on keeping; taste, camphoraceous and somewhat bitter"—(U. S. P.). The odor of the dry root is fetid, characteristic, and highly attractive to cats, and, it is said, to rats also. The root imparts its properties readily to water, alcohol, and ammoniated alcohol.

Chemical Composition.—The active properties of valerian are largely due to its volatile oil (about 1 per cent), the characteristic constituent of which is iso-valerianic and (see Acidum Valerianicum), combined with borneol, in the freshly distilled oil (see Oleum Valerianae). Other constituents are malic acid, resin, sugar, starch, iron-greening tannin (about 1.5 per cent), etc. An alkaloid, chatinine, was isolated from valerian by Waliszewski (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 285). In Mexican valerian, R. McLaughlin (ibid, 1893, p. 329) found 3.33 per cent of volatile oil, 4.3 per cent of oleoresin, a crystalline, ether-soluble glucosid, wax, fat, etc.

Admixtures and Adulterations.—M. O. Reveil has detected the roots of Scabiosa succisa, Linné, and S. arvensis, Linné, to the extent of 22 per cent in some valerian. These roots are inodorous, but soon acquire the odor of valerian by contact (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1855, p. 21). The roots of Valeriana Phu, Linné, and Valeriana dioica, Linné, are occasionally intermixed with true valerian root. They are weaker in odor and taste. Several Ranunculaceae have been added in Germany with fraudulent intent (Ebermayer). R. Bentley (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1877, p. 201) calls detailed attention to the dangerous admixture of Veratrum album;Charbonnier (1887) detected Cynanchum Vincetoxicum;and Bernbeck (1880) Sium latifolium, as admixtures.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Valerian excites the cerebro-spinal system. Large doses cause headache, mental excitement, visual illusions, giddiness, restlessness, agitation, and even spasmodic movements, and frequently nausea. In medicinal doses it acts as a stimulant-tonic, antispasmodic and calmative, and has been used in chorea, hysteria, and in the low forms of fever, where a nervous stimulant is required. Although sometimes very effectual in curing, it as frequently fails in producing more than temporary benefit. These failures are probably due to the fact that the medicine is often administered without due regard to the indications, and especially the condition of the nerve centers. The cases requiring it are those evidencing enfeebled cerebral circulation; there is despondency and marked mental depression, often amounting to hypochondria. In properly selected cases it relieves irritability and pain, and favors rest and sleep. In such cases it is frequently useful in hemicrania and other forms of nervous headache. Its chief value is in chorea, with enfeebled cerebral circulation. Rx Valerian, macrotys, aa ℥ij; dilute alcohol, Oj; macerate for 2 weeks. Dose, 1 teaspoonful, 3 times a day (Locke). Valerian is adapted to the milder spasmodic affections. Prof. Webster states that "it is better calculated to steady that hyperaesthetic state which carries a patient to the very verge of convulsive action than to relax it when it has once taken place"—(Dynam. Therap., 214). Valerian is one of many agents which have been used for the relief of epilepsy. The extract of valerian is worthless, but the fluid extract has been found to possess all the medicinal virtues of the root. The powder is apt to irritate the stomach and bowels, its dose is from ½ drachm to 2 drachms, every 3 or 4 hours; the infusion, which is a preferable form, may be given in doses of 1 or 2 fluid ounces; the fluid extract, in doses of from 20 to 60 drops in a little water; the tincture, in doses of 1 or 2 fluid drachms; and the volatile oil, from 2 to 6 drops; ammoniated tincture, 1 to 2 fluid drachms; specific valerian, 2 to 30 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—A cerebral stimulant. Hysteria, chorea, hemicrania, all with mental depression and despondency; cerebral anemia; mild spasmodic movements.

Related Species and Drugs.Valeriana Phu, Linné. West Asia and South Europe yields the root above-mentioned as an adulterant. It is known as Radix valerianae majoris. Its odor and taste resemble those of valerian, but are not nearly so strong.

Valeriana celtica, Linné.—Europe. This Alpine plant yields the rhizome known as Nardus spica celtica, which has a valerian taste and powerful odor.

Valeriana toluccana, De Candolle; Valeriana Mexicana, De Candolle.—Mexico. Used like valerian; yields large amounts of valerianic acid.

Nardostachys Jatamansi, De Candolle (Valeriana Jatamansi, Roxburgh).—Mountains of north India. Yields true spikenard (Nardus Indica, or Spica Narda), Jatamansi. Its taste is bitter and spicy, and its odor strong and resembling Virginia snakeroot. It has long been used by the Hindus as a medicine and perfume. In 45-grain doses it is employed in colds and coughs as an expectorant, and there is a popular belief in India that it promotes "the growth and blackness of the hair" (Dymock). It is chiefly used in making washes and ointments for the hair. Sir W. O. Shaughnessy states that "it is a perfect representative for valerian" (Dymock, Mat. Med. of West. India). It yields a brownish volatile oil.

Valeriana Hardwickii, Wallach.—Himalayas. This drug is the Taggar of India, and its medicinal properties are similar to those of jatamansi. Contains 1 per cent of volatile oil, with valerianic acid, and 3.13 per cent of tannin (J. Lindenberg, Pharm. Zschr. f. Russland, 1886, p. 523).

Patrinia scabiosaefolia, Link.—Japan. Kesso, or Japanese valerian, at first sight very much resembles valerian, and as to taste and odor is almost identical (Pharmacographia). It lacks the upright rhizome of the true drug. It was introduced in 1879 into English markets.

AMYL VALERIANATE.—One part of this ester, dissolved in a mixture of 19 parts of alcohol and 2 per cent of a spirit of amyl acetate (1 in 20) has been praised by Dr. Wade, of Birmingham, in cases to which valerian is applicable. The dose of the above mixture ranges from 6 to 8 drops.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.