If you suffer from muscle pain and tension, valerian root is a medicinal plant that may be of benefit. A traditional remedy for insomnia and muscle cramps, valerian root has become popular around the world for a wide range of nervous system and muscular problems. Check with your doctor and a registered medical herbalist before you use valerian products.
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Valerian root is a traditional medicinal plant used for treating conditions of the nervous system, such as insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, stress and muscle cramps. Valerian root contains a wide range of different plant compounds, including essential oils, alkaloids, iridoids, resins, phenols, flavonoids, sterols, sugars and tannins. While European valerian, also known as Valeriana officinalis, is the most widely used, the Mexican and Indian varieties may contain higher amounts of the active plant chemicals called valepotriates that are thought to be responsible for its medicinal and pharmacological properties.
When you use valerian root internally for muscle pains, the plant may work directly on the nervous system as a natural pain reliever or analgesic. In a study published in "The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology" in 2010, researchers from Kumaun University investigated the pain-relieving properties of valerian root. Using the Indian variety of valerian, Valeriana wallichii, researchers found that both the whole extract and the isolated essential oil of the plant had significant analgesic effects on rats. In addition, the essential oil of valerian root increased the effectiveness of aspirin.
In a study published in "The Journal of Ethnopharmacology" in 2005, researchers from the Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan tested the antispasmodic effects of valerian root in animals. Valerian root extract significantly reduced the tension and spasming of digestive muscles in rabbits and guinea pigs, and also demonstrated a strong hypotensive action on blood pressure levels. Researchers concluded that antispasmodic action of valerian extract likely works via potassium channels on the cells, and would benefit conditions that affect both digestive and cardiovascular muscles.
Extracts of valerian root may help to reduce your muscle pain and muscle tension through inducing relaxation, reducing anxiety and possibly sedating the nervous system. According to Kerry Bones and Simon Mills, authors of "Principles and Practices of Phytotherapy," valerian root is a source of plant chemicals called valepotriates, lignans and valerenic acid, which may affect GABA and melatonin levels in the body, while stimulating opiate and serotonin receptors in the nervous system. If muscle pain is associated with high levels of stress or tension, valerian root may be specific to supporting healthy stress levels.
Safety and Toxicity
Valerian root is considered safe and well tolerated by the majority of the population. Evidence of safety in pregnancy and lactation is still lacking, so valerian should be used with caution by women during these times. Always check with your physician before you combine valerian with prescribed medications, especially if you take anti-depressants, anxiolytics or CNS depressants. Valerian root does not affect the ability to drive or operate machinery.