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 WordsValerenic acid valepotriates monoterpenes sesquiterpenes anxiolytic hypnotic
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