This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics: An Introduction to the National Treatment of Disease", by John Mitchell Bruce. Also available from Amazon: The pharmacology and therapeutics of the materia medica.
Valerianae Radix - Valerian Root. - The dried root of Valeriana officinalis. From plants indigenous to and also cultivated in Britain. Collected in autumn, wild plants being preferred.
Characters. - A short yellowish-white rhizome, with numerous fibrous roots about two or three inches long; of a bitter taste, and a penetrating odour, agreeable in the recent root, becoming fetid by keeping; yielding volatile oil and valerianic acid when distilled with water.
Substances resembling Valerian: Serpentary, Arnica, Vera-trum Viride, known by odour.
Composition. - The active principles of valerian are a volatile oil and valerianic acid. The oil consists of a terpen valerene, C10Hl6, and an oxygenated oil, baldrian camphor, C12H10O. Valerianic acid, C5Hl0O2, occurs in a large number of other plants, and in cod-liver oil; and can be derived from fousel oil (amylic alcohol, or valeryl-aldehyd), C5H12O, by oxydation. It is a colourless oily fluid, with a powerful odour and acid burning taste; soluble in 30 parts of water, and freely in alcohol and ether.
Dose, in powder. - 10 to 30 gr.
A. Of Valerian Root:
Infusum Valerianae. 1 in 36. Dose, 1 to 2 fl.oz.
2. Tinctura Valerianae - 1 in 8 of Proof Spirit. Dose, 1 to 2 fl.dr.
Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata. 1 in 8 of Aromatic Spirit of Ammonia. Dose, 1/2 to 1 fl.dr.
B. Containing Valerianic Acid:
Sodae Valerianas. - Valerianate of Soda. NaC5H9O2.
Source. - Made by (1) distilling Amylic Alcohol with Sulphuric Acid and Bichromate of Potash; (2) saturating the distillate with Liquor Sodae, evaporating, liquefying, and
Cooling. (1) 3C5H12O + 8H1SO4 + 2K2Cr207 = 3C5Hl0O2 + 2(K2S04.Cr23S04) + 11H10. (2) C5Hl0O2+NaHO = NaC5H9O2 +H10.
Characters.-Dry white masses, not alkaline; soluble in spirit.
Impurities.-Sulphuric acid, and free soda, detected by-litmus.
Dose.-1 to 5 gr.
From Sodoe Valerianas is made Zinci Valerianas.-Valerianate of Zinc. Zn(C5H902)2.
Source.-Made by mixing solutions of Sulphate of Zinc and Valerianate of Soda, evaporating, and crystallising. ZnS04 + 2(NaC5H902) = Zn2(C5H902) + Na2S04.
Characters.-Pearly crystalline scales, with a feeble odour of valerianic acid, and a metallic taste. Scarcely soluble in water, soluble in spirit.
Impurities.-Sulphate and butyrate of zinc.
Bote.-1 to 3 gr.
Valerian acts essentially like other substances containing volatile oils, but its pungent taste and peculiarly disagreeable odour add to the effect of the drug upon the central nervous system. The stomach and intestines, heart, circulation, and brain are influenced as they are by cloves (see Caryophyllm), and the oil is excreted, like its allies, in the urine, breath, and sweat, as is also the valerianic acid.
Valerian is used as a powerful carminative, circulatory stimulant, and antispasmodic, in hysterical flatulence, fainting, palpitation, convulsions, and contractures. It is now but rarely given in other spasmodic affections, such as epilepsy, pertussis, and asthma. Valerianate of zinc was introduced to combine the alterative action of the metal on the nervous system with the antispasmodic influence of valerian root, and has been given in hysteria and epilepsy. Valerianic acid, however, does not appear to possess any of the action of the volatile oil just described.