Valerian is a perennial herb which grows upto 1 metre in height. Its rootstock is thicker than the stem, producing suckers or shoots rising from the ground. The stems are furrowed, hairy below and smooth above, whereas its lower leaves are long compared to the smaller upper leaves. The plant has small, white flowers in small clusters and small and smooth fruit. The rhizomes and roots of the plant constitute the drug.
According to some authorities, the name valerian is from the Latin word Val ere meaning to be in health, while others believe that it takes its name from an ancient physician, Valerius, who first employed the herb in medicine.
The herb contains valerianic, formic and acetic acids, in addition to an essential oil, resin, starch, a glucoside and two alkaloids chatrine and valerianine.
The leaves should be collected in autumn and dried slowly. The antispasmodic and stimulant properties of this plant are well known in indigenous medicine and have been described in the books of Ayurvedic medicine.
Valerian is a traditional remedy for functional disturbances of the nervous system. It was perhaps the earliest treatment or' neurosis, accompanied by physical diseases with mental symptoms or social maladjustment, especially in interpersonal relationships.
The herb is particularly useful in treating cases of hysteria, restless and irritable conditions. The drug exercises deppressant action on the overall central nervous system. It has gained importance in recent years owing to its beneficial effects in epilepsy. It is also considered useful in chorea, a condition marked by incessant involuntary jerks.
The herb is useful in treating insomnia. It reduces excitement, irritation and pain. The fresh juice of the plant can be used as a narcotic to induce sleep.
Methods for Uses and Dosages: The juice of the fresh rhizomes and roots is considered more effective in the treatment of nervous disorders as its medicinal properties get reduced on drying. An infusion of valerian is prepared by infusing 30 grams of the herb in half a litre of boiling water. The latter should be taken in small quantities three or four times daily.