Brian J Isetts

Summary

Valerian is a unique herb with a long history of use through western Europe as a sedative and hypnotic. A variety of pharmacologically active components are likely responsible for its clinical effects including volatile oils, monoterpenes, valepotriates, and sesquiterpenes. Valerenic acid, a sesquiterpene component of valerian, is postulated to produce sedation through inhibition of the breakdown of gamma-amino butyric acid. The herb is well tolerated, and side effects have been mild and self-limiting in most cases. Isolated reports of liver damage have occurred with valerian being a concomitantly consumed agent, yet anecdotal cases of attempted intentional self-poisoning with the herb have not resulted in fatality and long-term follow-up for subsequent hepatotoxicity in a number of these patients has not revealed liver abnormalities. The herb's postitive safety profile and demonstrated effectiveness in treating insomnia contributes to its popularity.

Key Words: Valerenic acid; valepotriates monoterpenes; sesquiterpenes; anxiolytic; hypnotic.

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