by Bradley Gillespie, PharmD
The valerian plant, naturally found in Europe and northern Asia, typically grows wild in damp conditions. This perennial plant can reach a height of 4 feet and displays fragrant pink, lavender or white flower heads, which bloom in summer. Valerian flower extracts have used in perfumes, but the root is the most medicinally important component of the plant.
Valerian root has been used medicinally for nearly 2,000 years, as a natural relaxant. Components of the root appear to increase the production of aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter known that calms the central nervous system relaxing muscles, relieving insomnia, increasing the quality of sleep and reducing the time required to relax and fall asleep.
A study conducted by Norma G. Cuellar and Sarah Radcliffe, assistant professors at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing demonstrated that when patients with Restless Legs (RLS) took daily doses of valerian root for 8 weeks, they benefited from the relief of RLS symptoms as well as by lowering their level of daytime fatigue.
These researchers concluded that valerian root may be an important treatment component for the management of the symptoms of RLS, providing an improved quality of life.
Clinical experience has shown that valerian root has few, if any, side effects to be concerned with. The favorable safety profile of valerian root, coupled with its proven effectiveness in the treatment of the symptoms of RLS, makes it an ideal addition to the Calm Legs recipe.
Restless Legs sufferer Bradley Gillespie, PharmD, is trained as a clinical pharmacist and has practiced in an industrial setting for the past 20-plus years. Currently, he supports efforts at the National Institutes of Health to develop therapeutics for rare and neglected diseases. He remains a registered pharmacist and operates a medical writing business.