A volatile oil distilled from Valerian.

Characters. - A greenish or yellowish, thin liquid, becoming darker and thicker by age and exposure to air, having the characteristic odour of valerian, an aromatic, somewhat camphoraceous taste, and a slightly acid reaction; sp. gr. about 0.950. It is readily soluble in alcohol.

Action and Uses. - The activity of valerian is chiefly due to the volatile oil it contains, and not to the valerianic acid. The oil in large doses paralyses both the brain and spinal cord, and lessens the convulsions due to strychnine-poisoning, lowers the blood-pressure and slows the pulse. It is employed as an antispasmodic and stimulant in cases of hysteria, and is most useful in those occurring in delicate and young women.

Valerianate of zinc has been supposed to combine the nervine tonic action of zinc with the antispasmodic effect of valerian, but it is much better to use valerian itself or its oil along with a salt of zinc, as the acid has no important physiological action. It is used in chorea, especially when occurring in hysterical persons, and should not be discontinued until symptoms of nausea begin to make their appearance. It is also employed in epilepsy and neuralgia.

Valerianate of iron and valerianate of ammonium have also been used in medicine, and may be given in the same doses as the corresponding salt of zinc. For the action of valerianate of quinine, vide p. 943.