Valerian is a perennial herb used for difficulty in falling asleep and/or relief of temporary mild nervous tension

What is Valerian?

Valerian preparations are commonly made from the species Valeriana officinalis, which is native to Europe and the temperate parts of Asia. It is traditionally used as a mild sedative, sleeping aid, spasmolytic and muscle relaxant.1 The plant grows to about 100 cm tall and has a short rhizome (underground stem). It has a distinctive odour that can be unpleasant.2

The history of Valeriana officinalis

Valerian has a history that dates as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, where it was used as a medicinal herb. After the sixteenth century, it was used for the treatment of various disorders, such trembling, headaches and heart palpitations.2

More recently, Valerian has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of sleep disorders, such as difficulty falling asleep, particularly during temporary stress situations.3

Valerian has become a common ingredient in mild sedative products and sleep aids for patients with insomnia.2

The specific standardised extract used by Flordis

Songha® Night contains a standardised Valeriana officinalis root dry extract prepared from the dried under-ground parts of Valeriana officinalis, including the part called rhizome surrounded by the roots. Pharmacologically important components of the drug are essential oils and sesquiterpenic acids expressed as valerenic acid.4

Specific standardised extracts of Valerian and Lemon balm are used in combination in Songha Night which improves sleep quality and promotes relaxation.

This particular extract combination as a whole is considered to have pharmacological activity.4

Several clinical studies have shown the beneficial therapeutic effect of a combination of both extracts Valerian and Lemon balm for quality of sleep and anxiety.3,4

How it works

Although Valerian’s mechanism of action in humans is not fully understood, animal studies have investigated the active chemical compounds of Valerian and its effect on the central nervous system as a source of sedation. The sedative effect has been found to impact signalling in nerve cells by regulation of molecules called neurotransmitters. These are known as gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA (a neurotransmitter that has an inhibitory effect on neuronal cells of the brain) and glutamate (a neurotransmitter that has an excitatory effect on neuronal cells enhancing  their activity).

Results from in vitro and in vivo studies have found valerian has an effect on GABA and glutamate receptors located in the space between neuronal cells in the brain, contributing to the overall reduction of glutamate levels, and increased availability of GABA in the brain.9-12

Key studies on Valerian

Although efficacy of Valerian in treating sleep disorders, such as insomnia needs to be investigated further, reviews and meta-analyses have demonstrated the clinical efficacy of Valerian to benefit quality of sleep:

  • A systematic review of placebo-controlled trials found patients taking Valerian treatment had an 80% greater chance of reporting improved quality of sleep compared to placebo (no treatment)5
  • A meta-analysis of 18 randomised, placebo-controlled trials found Valerian could be an effective treatment for subjective improvement of insomnia. Valerian was found to significantly improve sleep quality compared to placebo (no treatment)6
  • A review of the literature concluded Valerian was safe and physiologically more beneficial for improving sleep architecture in comparison to chemical hypnotics (except the non-benzodiazepines; zopicione, zolpidem and zaleplon)7
  • A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study found compared to placebo, Valerian had significantly reconstruction of short slow-wave sleep back to its proper physiological place in patients who had poor sleep quality8

A randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind parallel group multicentre study found the combination of Valerian with Lemon balm had the best improvement for sleep quality and was well tolerated in 98 healthy people compared to placebo (no treatment).3

References

1. Hadley S,Petry JJ. Valerian. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Apr 15;67(8):1755-8.  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional  3. Plushner SL. Valerian: Valeriana officinalis. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000 Feb 15;57(4):328, 333, 335.  4. Anwar Shahzad and Taiba Saeed. A Review on Phytochemistry, Pharmacological Properties and Biotechnological Studies in Valeriana officinalis L., An Important Medicinal Herb. Hippocratic Journal of Unani Medicine January - March 2015, Vol. 10 No. 1, Pages 53-71 5. Bent S et al Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis Am J Med 2006;119(12):1005-12.  6. Fernandez-San-Martin MI et al. Effectiveness of valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials Sleep Med 2010;11(6):505-11.  7. Wheatley D. Medicinal plants for insomnia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability J Psychopharmacol 2005;19(4):414-21.  8. Donath F. Quispe S. Diefenbach K et al. Critical evaluation of the effect of valerian extract on sleep structure and sleep quality Pharmacopsychiatry 2000;33:47-53.  9. Valle-Mojica LM del et al. Selective interactions of valeriana officinalis extracts and valerenic acid with [3H] glutamate binding to rat synaptic membranes Evidence Based Complement Altern Med 2011;403591:S11-0355.  10. Santos MS et al An aqueous extract of valerian influences the transport of GABA in synaptosomes Planta Medica 1994;60:278-9.  11. Ortiz JG Nieves-Natal J Chavez P Effects of valeriana officinalis extracts on [3H]flunitrazepam binding, synaptosomal [3H]GABA uptake and hippocampal [3H]GABA release Neurochem Res 1999;24(11):1373-8  12. Pannacci M. et al. Effects of valeriana officinalis and Melissa officinalis (the active ingredients of Songha night) alone or in combination on glutamate binding and GABA-T activity 2012 Poster presentation at International Conference on Advances in Plant Science November 14-18 Chiang Mai Thailand