Herbs with opposite, exstipulate leaves. Flowers in panicled or head-like cymes. Many of the species possess antispasmodic properties, due to the presence of a volatile oil, from which is developed valerianic acid.
BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—Root perennial, tuberous. Leaves pinnate or pinnately cut. Corolla roseate, funnel-form, 5-lobed; stamens 3. Fruit a feathery akene.
SOURCE.—Europe, especially in Holland, Belgium, England, and Germany as well as Japan. The Japanese root is said to be richer in volatile oil than the Belgian. The fresh rhizomes and roots are preferred for distilling the oil, as there is a loss of nearly So per cent. of the oil in drying the rhizome and root for medicinal use.
DESCRIPTION OF DRUG.—Obconical, from 6 to 75 mm. (1/4 to 3 in.) in length, with stem-remnants above, and beset with numerous rootlets; those rhizomes grown in dry localities are smaller, nearly globular, with lighter colored, thinner, and less shriveled rootlets, and contain a greater proportion of volatile oil than those grown in moist ground; the latter are generally sliced longitudinally. Externally brown, internally pale brownish; odor strong, disagreeable, increasing with age, taste camphoraceous and bitter. A cross-section shows a rather thin bark, and a wood-circle, narrow, white, inclosing a large pith. Nucleus sheath mostly indistinct; branches have a similar structure but a thicker bark. The rootlets have a thick bark and a slender, woody column, distinctly radiate, and contain a small pith inclosed in a nucleus sheath.
Powder.—Characteristic elements: See Part iv, Chap. 1, B.
CONSTITUENTS.—Besides the common vegetable principles, it contains a terpene, isovaleric acid, C5H10O2 (distilling at 300°C.), and a volatile oil of complex constitution, consisting mainly of an alcohol, borneol; its ether, and its formic, acetic, and valerianic acid esters, which are gradually decomposed on exposure, liberating the acids. This oil (Oleum Valerianae, U.S.P. VI) is of a pale greenish color, becoming yellow and viscid on exposure, and has the peculiar odor of the root. Ash, not exceeding 20 per cent.
ACTION AND USES.—Gentle nerve stimulant and antispasmodic, employed in hysterical disorders. Dose: 15 to 60 gr. (1 to 4 Gm.).
- OFFICIAL PREPARATIONS.
- Tinctura Valerianae (20 per cent.) Dose: 1 to 2 fl. dr. (4 to 8 mils).
- Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata (20 per cent.) 30 to 60 drops (2 to 4 mils).