Common Name   :Valerian

Plant Parts Used  :Valerian

Description         :

The roots tend to merge into a short, conical root-stock or erect rhizome, the development of which often proceeds for several years before a flowering stem is sent up, but slender horizontal branches which terminate in buds are given off earlier, and from these buds proceed aerial shoots or stolons, which produce fresh plants where they take root. Only one stem arises from the root, which attains a height of 3 or 4 feet. It is round, but grooved and hollow, more or less hairy, especially near the base. It terminates in two or more pairs of flowering stems, each pair being placed at right angles to those above and below it. The lower flowering stems lengthen so as to place their flowers nearly or often quite on a level with the flowers borne by the upper branches, forminga broad and flattened cluster at the summit, called a cyme. The leaves are arranged in pairs and are united at their bases. Each leaf if made up of a series of lance-shaped segments, more or less opposite to one another on each side of the leaf (pinnate). The leaflets vary very much in number, from six to ten pairs as a rule, and vary also in breadth, being broad when few in number and narrower when more numberous; they are usually 2 to 3 inches long. The margins are indented by a few coarsely-cut teeth. The upper surfaces is strongly viened, the under surface is paler and frequently more or less covered with short, soft hairs. The leaves on the stem are attached by short, broad sheaths, the radical leaves are larger and long-stemmed and the margins more toothed. The flowers are in bloom from June to September. They are small, tinged with pink and flesh colour, with a somewhat peculiar, but not exactly unpleasant smell. The corolla is tubular, and from the midst of its lobes rise the stamens, only three in number, though there are five lobes to the corolla. The limb of the calyx is remarkable for being at first inrolled and afterwards expanding in the form of a feathery pappus, which aids the dissemination of the fruit. The fruit is a capsule containing one among expressed seed. Apart from the flowers, the whole plant has a foetid smell, much actuated when brused. Although more often growing is damp situation, Valerian is also met new on dry, elevated ground. It is found throughout Britain, but in the northern countries more often found on higher and dryer ground - dry healths and hilly pastures - than in the south, and then is usually smaller, are more than 2 feet high, with narrow less and hairy, and is often named sylvesis. The medicinal qualities of this form are considered to be especially strong.
Characteristics and Constituents

The chief constituent of Valerian is a yellowish-green to brownish-yellow oil, which is present in the dried root to the extent of 0.5 to 2 per cen, though an average yield rarely exceeds 0.8 per cent. This variation in quantity is partly explained by the influence of locality, a dry, stony soil, yielding a root richer in oil than one that is moist and fertile. Lindley's Treasury of Botany states: 'What is known to chemists as volatile oil of Valerian seems not to exist naturally in the plant, but to be developed by the agency of water.' The oil is contained in the sub-epidermal ayer of cells in the root, not in isolated cells or glands. It is of complex composition, containing valerianic, formic and acetic acids,the alcohol known as borneol, and pinene. The valerianic acid present in the oil is not the normal acid, but isovalerianic acd, an oily liquid to which the characteristically unpleasant odour of Valerian is due. It is gradually liberated during the process of drying, being yielded by the decomposition of the chief constituent, bornyl-isovalerianate, by the ferment present. it is strongly acid, burning to the palate and with the odour of the plant. The oil is soluble in 30 parts of water and readily in alcohol and ether. It is found in nature in the oil of several plants, also in small proportion in train oil and the oil of Cetacea (whales, porpoises, etc.), which ower their smell to it. It is also one of the products of oxidation of animal matters and of fat oils, and is secreted in certain portions of animal bodies. Its salts are soluble and have a sweetish taste and fatty aspect. The root also contains two alkaloids - Chatarine and Valerianine - which are still under investigation and concerning which little is known, except that they form crystalline salts. There are also a glucoside, alkaloid and resin all ophysiologically active, discovered in the fresh rhizome by Chevalier as recently as 1907. He claims that the fresh root is of greater medicinal value than the dry on this account. It falls under the category of generally regarded as safe product (GRAS)

Actions and Uses :

Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic. It has a remarkable influence on the cerebro-spinal system, and is used as a sedative to the higher nerve centres in conditions of nervous unrest, St. Vitus's dance, hypochrondriasis, neuralgic pains and the like. The drug allays pain and promote ssleep. it is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrain, as it possesses none of the after-effects produced by narcotics. During the recent War, when air-raids were serious strain on the overwrought nerves of civilian men and women, Valerian, prescribed with other simple ingredients, taken in a single dose, or repeated according to the need, proved wonderfully efficacious, preventing or minimizing serious results. Though in ordinary doses, it exerts an influence quieting and soothing in its nature upon the brain and nervous system, large doses, too often repeated, have a tendency to produce pain in the head, heaviness and stupor. It is commonly administered as Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, and often in association with the alkali bromides, and is sometimes given in combination with quinine, the tonic powers of which it appreciably increases. Oil of Valerian is employed to a onsiderable extent on the Continent as a popular remedy for cholera, in the form of cholers drops, and also to a certain extent in soap perfumery. Ettmuller writes of its virtues in strengthening the eyesight, especially when this is weakened by want of energy in the optic nerve. The juice of the fresh root, under the name of Energetence of Valerian, has of late been recommended as more certain in its effects, and of value as a narcotic in insomnia, and as an anti-convulsant in epilepsy. Having alsos ome slight influence upon the circulation, slowing the heart and increasing its force, it has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations. Valerian was first brought to notice as a specific for epilepsy by Fabius Calumna in 1592, he having cured himself of the disease with it.

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