Open Access Open Badges Research article

The anxiolytic effects of a Valerian extract is based on Valerenic acid

Axel Becker1, Falko Felgentreff1, Helmut Schröder1, Beat Meier2 and Axel Brattström3*

Author Affiliations

1 Inst. Pharmacology and Toxicology, Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany

2 Inst. Biotechnology, Zürich University of Applied Sciences, Wädenswil, Switzerland

3 Alexander Puschkin Str. 50, 39108 Magdeburg, Germany

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:267  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-267

Published: 28 July 2014



Valerian is commonly used for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. Valerian extracts allosterically modulate GABA-A receptors and induced an anxiolytic activity. This activity is closely related to valerenic acid. In the present experiments it was investigated whether acetoxy valerenic acid may interfere with the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid.


Situational anxiety was measured using male CD-1 mice in the elevated plus maze test after oral administration of the test substances. In addition the body core temperature was measured. For the 3H-GABA binding assay dissected tissue from frontal cortex of male RjHan:WI rats were used. Statistical evaluation was performed by means of the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallies H-test, followed by the two-tailed Mann–Whitney U-test.


Adding of acetoxy valerenic acid abolished the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid. There was no effect on body core temperature. Moreover, the valerian extract did not show any affinity to benzodiazepine binding sites.


The determining compound for the observed anxiolytic effect of the valerian extract is its content of valerenic acid.

Valerian extract; Valerenic acid; Elevated plus maze; Anxiety; Binding