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Why Valerian Calms Us Down
© Dr. Willmar Schwabe Arzneimittel,
The substance, which belongs to the group of lignans, latches on to specific receptors in the brain which control the body's sleeping and waking rhythms. Caffeine affects the same type of receptor, but has the opposite effect. The researchers are now trying to copy a simplified version of the substance chemically, thereby making it even more effective.
When pharmaceutist Professor Müller came across a publication which described the way valerian extract can attach itself to type A1 adenosine receptors, it made her sit up. The scientists repeated the experiments and were able to confirm that aqueous alcoholic full extracts from the valerian root attached themselves to the A1 receptor in rat brains and activate it. Experiments with genetically produced human receptors showed similar results.
A research team in Marburg had demonstrated that valerian contains different lignans. Together with her assistant Dr. Britta Schumacher, Professor Müller unravelled more of the lignan fractions. She explains: 'In doing so, we discovered a previously unknown compound which can attach itself to the A1 receptor and bring about a similar reaction to adenosine.'
Adenosine itself is not suitable as a sedative, since it is decomposed in seconds. Stable adenosine derivatives are also problematical: as there are also A1 receptors in the myocardium, albeit far fewer than in the brain, they may lead to myocardial paralysis. 'Our lignan, in contrast, is a partial agonist. It only kicks in when there is a high density of receptors in the brain,' the professor explains.
MEDICA.de, Source: University of Bonn