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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000720.txt from 1999/04

Subj: [kl] Beta blockers: BEWARE, please!)
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 14:19:58 -0400

With permission from Diane Karius, Ph.D, I decided to go ahead and forward a
message she sent me yesterday, since people have continued to respond to this
thread. Based on some research I did on incense ingredients, I had raised
the question of whether valerian root might cause some of the same problems
as beta blockers for people susceptible to mood disorders.

Dinae wrote,
>Lelia: i responded directly to you rather than the list - you can forward
to this to the list if there is enough interest. >

>Some of the symptoms listed in your reference (the 1955 Shenck/Bullock
reference) are probably related to the valeopotriates, although at high doses
I'm sure the sesquiterpenes can do that as well. As to what constitutes a
high dose, I don't know - the studies citing such things were done using the
pure derivatives, not what you actually get from the store. Since these
chemcials have relatively low affinities compared to the standard
pharmacological agents I'm used to referring to, I suspect that to overdose
on the readily available forms of valerian would take a huge number of pills,
but I could find no reports in the literature on this (which actually leads
me to believe that it would be very difficult - generally reports of that
nature are published as a warning to physicians that this can happen). >

> Valerian is one of the few herbal "remedies" listed as "promising" by
the scientific literature. "Promising" means that there is reasonable
evidence about both its safety and efficacy (but the ideal studies are only
now being conducted). >

Diane, thanks very much for the additional information. Someone else e-mailed
me to name a place where a lot of valerian grows wild, and made the clearly
facetious suggestion that it could be harvested for a profit. He was
kidding, but I hope people don't try home-brewing herbal stage-fright cures
for real. Even buying the "herbal supplement" valerian pills doesn't seem
like such a great idea right now, IMHO, because in the absence of government
standards for these supplements, we have no way of knowing where the
manufacturers get their ingredients or their information. We don't even know
how much of the drug is safe to take (for whom?) and how much is an overdose.
Anyway, soil conditions, fertilizer, weather and other factors can cause the
level of active ingredient to vary tremendously in medicinal plants not grown
under controlled conditions. A lot of the old herb lore comes from such
disreputable sources that it's hard to take it seriously, but some of the
reports of homemade tincture of valerian in medieval "flying ointments" and
so forth seem just credible enough to make me think it's wiser to err on the
side of caution.

I tell my share of non-serious war stories about the bad old days at
Berserkley, but a lot of un- funny things happened, too. Berkeley made me
wary of trusting folklore about any drug, whether recreational or medicinal.
For instance, in the 1960s, conventional wisdom published in many
reputable-looking sources had it that cocaine was non-addictive. Oops. I
smoked marijuana at Berkeley, but otherwise I never experimented much beyond
banana peel silliness, and never tried hard drugs at all. However, under
slightly different circumstances, I easily might have ended up wrecked on
junkie drugs the way some of my friends did. The exaggerated scare-stories
about "reefer madness" led many kids of my generation to believe that all
government warnings about drugs were BS. I see a parallel today, in the
people who believe that government regulation of medicine is a sort of
conspiracy, just a way to line the pockets of politicians and a conservative,
selfish medical establishment. There's just enough truth behind the paranoia
to keep it cooking, but that "excessive" government regulation saved the USA
from a Thalidomide disaster, among other things. On the whole, I trust
science more than word-of-mouth. I'd love to cure my stage fright, but
before I mess around with valerian (or any other "promising" folk drug), I'd
rather wait for the results of those ongoing studies Diane mentions.

"Johnny's in the basement / Mixin' up the medicine / I'm on the pavement /
Thinkin' 'bout the government...."
--Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues," 1965

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