Properties of valerian
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis L., is a medicinal plant from the Caprifoliaceae family, known in Europe and used since ancient times for its relaxing properties. Its name comes from the Latin "valere ” which means " to be well ”. Valerian was particularly recommended by Hippocrates to fight against nervousness and sleep disorders and to soothe the body. Pline l’Ancien recommended valerian as a medicinal treatment for nervous contractions and spasms. The Romans used it against palpitations and arrhythmia, then valerian was used to treat epilepsy.
Nowadays valerian is used in herbal medicine and the use of its roots is unsurpassed to promote sleep and fight against stress and insomnia . Indeed, the effectiveness of valerian for sleep problems related to nervousness and anxiety is scientifically recognised by the highest health authorities such as the EMA (European Medicines Agency) and the WHO (World Health Organization). The species Valeriana officinalis L. is thus widely cultivated in the face of the longlasting craze for its anti-stress properties, in Europe but also in the United States and Russia.
At the origin of these soothing properties is valerenic acid, the active ingredients which are notably responsible for reducing anxiety. This acid contained in the root of valerian has a calming effect and relieves nervous agitation. It is also credited with the spasmolytic, muscle relaxant and depressant effects of the plant. Relaxing for the muscles and sedative, valerian also contains hypnotic flavonoids that allow the plant to act on the body like a sleeping pill. By reducing anxiety, valerian contributes to the recovery of quality sleep while promoting serene drowsiness.
It is generally the underground parts of the plant that are used, the roots. They are constituted with varenal and glutamine. However, valerian is found in several forms on the natural ingredients market: mother tincture, fluid extract, dry extract and herbal teas from dried roots.
The active ingredients that go into the rich composition of valerian are sesquiterpene ketones , non-volatile sesquiterpenes, alkaloids and iridoids. Valeriana officinalis L. also contains GABA, essential oil greater than 0.5% (containing monoterpenes) as well as lignans and valepotriates. Thanks to its bioactive components, valerian is a source of benefits and is still very successful in restoring quality sleep. Its health benefits remain major in our contemporary societies where sleep crystallises problems due to stress and anxiety, and which have worsened with the onset of COVID-19.
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