Valerian is an Old Germanic ritual and healing

plant. It was sacred to the goddess Hertha, who

rode upon the red deer. Wieland, the shamanic

smith of the Germanic mythological world, used

the root to heal diseases. For this reason, valerian

was also known as velandswurt, "Wieland's root"

(Weustenfeld 1995, 13*). In earlier times, valerian

was hung on houses as a protection against

witches and witchcraft, evil spirits, and devils. The

root was also used as a fumigant to keep away the

devil (cf. incense). In the early modern period,

valerian root was regarded as an aphrodisiac and

was used to treat the "sacred disease" (epilepsy)

(Knoller 1996, 12 f.). It was also known as theriac

root, for it was an important ingredient in the

panacea theriac (Weustenfeld 1995, 15*).

Valerian (along with the variety Valeriana

officinalis 1. var. sambucifolia Mikan.) is also called

cat weed and is renowned for the power it has to

attract cats (cf. Nepeta cataria). The sedative

effects that the root has upon the nervous system

are quite well known (Pahlow 1993,64*). Valerian

roots are sometimes characterized as a "legal high"

with psychoactive powers (Schultes and Hofmann

1980, 368*). In particular, a tea made of equal

parts of valerian root and kava-kava (Piper

methysticum) is said to produce "beautiful

dreams" (Schuldes 1995, 76*). When mixed with

hops (Humulus lupulus), valerian yields a potent

tea for inducing sleep (cf. also diazepam).

In South America, Valeriana longifolia H.B.K.

is regarded as a panacea and stimulant for elderly

people suffering from infirmity. There, various

Valeriana species are referred to as contrayerba (cf.

Trichocline spp.). Valeriana adscendens Turz. is

known as hornamo morado in Peru, where it is

used as an additive to San Pedro drinks (cf.

Trichocereus pachanoi). The North American

Blackfeet Indians smoke the roots of Valeriana

sitchensis Bong, known as tobacco root, either

alone or mixed with tobacco (see kinnikinnick)

(Johnston 1970, 320*). In India and Nepal, the

aromatic root of Valeriana jatamansi (DC.) Jones

[syn. Valeriana wallichii DC.], known as samya or

muskbala, is used as a fumigant or as an ingredient in incense for magical and religious rites (Shah

1982, 298*; Shah and Joshi 1971, 421*). The

aromatic root of jatamansi or masi, the closely

related species Nardostachys jatamansi (D. Don)

DC., is even more highly regarded; it is used both

as an incense and to treat epilepsy (Shah 1982,

297*). Whether these two incenses have psychoactive

properties, as is sometimes asserted, remains

an open question. The sesquiterpene ketone

valeranon, which is present in Valeriana officinalis,

Valeriana jatamansi, and Nardostachys jatamansi,

is presumably responsible for the sedative (tranquilizing)

effects (Horster et al. 1977).

The alkaloid actinidine has been found in the

genus (Schultes 1981,42*). Of interest for further

research into a possible psychoactivity beyond the

sedative effects is the finding that an aqueous

extract influences the central nervous system

neurotransmitter GABAGamma aminobutyric acid an amino acid that is found in the central nervous system; acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. ()'-aminobutyric acid;

see Amanita muscaria, ibotenic acid, muscimole)

(Santos et al. 1994).

Granicher, E, P. Christen, and 1. Kapetanidis. 1992.

Production of valepotoriates by hairy root

cultures of Valeriana officinalis var. sambucifolia.

Planta Medica 58 suppl. (1): A614.

Horster, Heinz, Gerhard Rucker, and Joachim

Tautges. 1977. Valeranon-Gehalt in den

unterirdischen Teilen von Nardostachys jatamansi

and Valeriana officinalis. Phytochemistry

16: 1070-71.

KnaUer, Rasso. 1996. Baldrian. Niederhausen/Ts.:

Falken Taschenbuch Verlag.

Santos, Maria S., Fernanda Ferreira, Antonio P.

Cunha, Arselio P. Carvalho, and Tice Macedo.

1994. An aqueous extract of Valeriana influences

the transport of GABAGamma aminobutyric acid an amino acid that is found in the central nervous system; acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. in synaptosomes. Planta

Medica 60:278-97.

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