This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Something must necessarily be said (though it is not easy to say anything very satisfactory) concerning the action of valerianic acid and the valerianates.
Of Valerianic Acid, C6H10O2 Reissner1 is the only author who has made any careful physiological study. As regards its chemical effects he states that it is capable of coagulating blood-serum and milk. Applied to the skin, it acts only very slowly and mildly as an irritant: applied to the tongue, or taken into the alimentary canal, it will kill (in large enough doses) pretty quickly; the symptoms and post-mortem appearances are those of irritant poisoning, but it is remarkable that there is no diarrhoea. The heart beats fast but weakly; the respirations are at first quickened, and subsequently become slow and labored; the lower extremities are weakened, and then actually paralytic; and there are sometimes convulsions before death. The acid undergoes some change in the blood, for it is not eliminated as such in the urine. The acid itself is not used in medicine, but several of the valerianates have been much in vogue from time to time.
Valerianate of Zinc has been much lauded in various spasmodic diseases, especially in epilepsy, chorea, and the convulsions of children, as also in the convulsive forms of hysteria, in neuralgia, etc. It must be allowed by any unprejudiced person who reads over the evidence adduced by Neligan, Tilt, and others, that it is very doubtful whether we have here anything more than examples of the great, though, unfortunately, very irregular and uncertain power of zinc over the nervous system. I consider the efficacy of valerianate of zinc, as such, entirely unproved; and, in reference to its supposed effects in neuralgia, may say that it has proved quite untrustworthy, so as to compel me to the belief that it can only be effective through the agency of the imagination.
In Chorea I have seen no reason to think that valerianate of zinc ever really cures, for the severe cases do not even temporarily yield to it.
In Epilepsy it would be folly to waste time in trying this remedy when we have the bromide of potassium in our hands. Dose, one-half grain to four grains or more.
Valerianate of Soda is even less entitled to credit as a positive remedy than the zinc salt. Dose, one-half grain to two grains or more.
Valerianate of Quinine has attracted a good deal of attention of late years; but there is really no valid evidence in its favor; indeed Gub-ler has gone so far as to say that the action of valerianic acid is positively antagonistic to that of quinine, and that the only reason why the compound is not perfectly inactive is that it becomes decomposed in the body, and the stimulant effects of the acid passing off rapidly, the quinine is enabled to assert its unchecked influence on the organism. Dose, one to five grains.
Valerianate of Atropine has been very highly recommended; but there is nothing in the accounts by Michea and others of its effects in epilepsy which may not be perfectly well explained by the influence of atropine alone.
1 "De Acido Valerianico ejusque affectu," etc., Berlin, 1855.
Valerianate of Iron and Valerianate of Ammonia are also used in medicine. Dose, one to two grains or more.
In short, it may be said with confidence that in the action of the valerianates we trace very little, if anything, of the powers which valerian itself, and the ethereal oil of valerian, undoubtedly possess; and it is quite uncertain whether the acid has any real influence on the nervous system.