Valerenic acid: Anxiolytic Phytochemical?

Valerenic acid is a phytochemical found in the root of the valerian plant (Valeriana officianalis). Valerian is a popular and traditional treatment for anxiety, and valerenic acid may be the phytochemical (or one of them) responsible for this. Experiments using animal models (rodents) have shown that administration of valerian root is able to reduce the anxious behaviour of animals exhibited after exposure to stress. However, evidence also shows that isolated valerenic acid has a similar effect. Therefore it may be that valerenic acid is the active component of valerian root that gives it its potentially anxiolytic effects. Valerenic acid is known to interact with the GABA system in a similar manner to benzodiazepine drugs, and it is known that benzodiazepines also have anxiolytic effects. Many people cannot bear the taste or smell of valerian root as it has a very distinctive and pungent smell. Taking isolated valerenic acid may therefore be a viable alternative for these individuals.  

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Murphy, K., Kubin, Z. J., Shepherd, J. N. and Ettinger, R. 2010. Valeriana officinalis root extracts have potent anxiolytic effects in laboratory rats. Phytomedicine. 17(8-9): 674-678

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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