I do not get this idea that anything from the Earth or anything 'Natural' is better than a synthesized chemical. That is a completely ridiculous statement. Strychnine, a potent poison is found in many plants. In fact, a huge number plants are not safe to eat (as the primary part of ones diet). By that I mean if one were to go out into a park and live off of whatever plants are there, it is likely that very few are safe to eat as your primary source of food because they contain poisons that build up and will harm you (or possibly are toxic enough to make you ill with one time eating them), or they may have other defense measures.
Secondly a compound that is found in nature can be synthesized in the lab and it will be EXACTLY the same. There is no difference between the chemicals. The compound can also be isolated from the plants it is contained in and purified, thus allowing exact dosing, which is far safer than eating plant matter and trying to guestimate a dose (something that is impossible due to the fact that concentrations of chemicals vary from one plant to the next in the same species, even when grown in the same conditions). Take, for example, vanillin, the compound that is responsible for the smell that you and I know as vanilla and most of the taste. It occurs naturally in the beans of certain orchids, and it can be purified from those to produce vanillin. It also can be synthesized from various sources to make the same compound. These two compounds are EXACTLY the same, in every way, except for in the way they were produced. Either of these can be used for the same purpose in chemistry, assuming it is practical to isolate the vanillin completely from orchids (another reason why synthetics are in fact superior to natural products: they are totally pure->99%-, or they can easily be made that way). I could go on and on with various examples: Morphine can be made in the lab or taken from the Poppy plant. Codeine can then be synthesized from either of those kinds of pure morphine , or it too can be extracted from the poppy, though it is in smaller amounts than morphine in the plant. All of these types of Codeine will be identical, despite their source: synthesized from synthetic morphine=synthesized from natural morphine=extracted from the poppy.
The idea that natural products are somehow 'superior' or 'healthier' than synthetic ones is, I quite strongly believe, a product of uninformed health-food types who are taught this by companies that sell 'herbal remedies' or 'organic ___' and make an enormous profit off of this misinformation. I will sum it up just to be clear, THERE IS NOTHING INTRINSICALLY BAD about
SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS OR DRUGS, NOR IS THERE ANYTHING INTRINSICALLY GOOD about
NATURAL CHEMICALS AND DRUGS, both can be extremely harmful, extremely helpful, a mixture (as is the case most often), or neutral.
As for Valerian root, I will admit I do not know a whole wealth of information about
it, though I do know a decent amount. It is not the same kind of drug as Valium exactly (though they work in similar ways), only in so far as there is some GABAA activity shown by valerian in some studies and Benzos also act on the GABAA receptors. However most believe that valerian's action is due to the fact that it has high concentrations of the actual amino acid GABA, which binds to the GABAA receptors and causes its effects. The body also releases GABA at times, Valerian simply increases the concentration to cause its effect. Benzos on the other hand actually bind to the receptor themselves, 'change the shape of the receptor' to allow GABA to have a higher affinity for the receptor and thus bind more strongly and cause stronger effects than normal. Alcohol also works on these receptors, as do barbituates.
Yes, valerian can be dangerous, as it acts centrally on the GABA recptors which can cause profound intoxication and even death if they are too satuarated. They also potentiate the effect of other CNS depressants (which Valerian is one also), so if one is on opioids, or benzos, or drinking, or whatever, I dont think it would be advisable to take Valerian root and it is possible that if you ingested too much it could cause some problems w/ the other meds. It also really impossible to tell if it is a safe dose or not (if you are on other meds esp.) BECAUSE it is an 'nutritional supplement', and as such in the US it is not regulated by the FDA. And like I said earlier, because it is a 'natural product' it is really impossible to predict the dosage in each pill because every plant varies in strength, not to mention the fact that because it is not FDA regulated each pill could vary even in the weight of the plant matter inside. This is why I feel 'herbal' drugs are inferior to synthetics, because they cannot be adequately standardized.
I hope that this post helps clear up some off this stuff about
Valerian (plus Gramps' post had a lot of great info on it), and also that my stuff on natural vs. synthetic does not cause too much of a ruckus. Though I would be happy to try and answer any questions or doubts someone might have on my idea to the best of my ability, and if I cannot I will simply tell you that (though I doubt that will happen;) ).
Hope everyone has a pain-free weekend,
PS Quahog- Cocaine actually is in Coca leaves and is natural, it simply has to be isolated to have the strong effect that you see from the street drug cocaine. Coca leaves also contain a bunch of other alkaloids apparently that are not as powerful (or at least not as euphoric) and probably have some bad effects too if taking in high doses, so getting a large portion of pure cocaine powder eliminates having to take the high doses of the other, less attractive alkaloids, for someone to get high; it also allows for other methods of administration (smoking, snorting, shooting up, etc.), that is something that is useful for its medical applications also , especially when they first isolated it. Also it allows one to know the exact amount of the drug being used in a medical setting. That is why I think that they isolate cocaine (but I am 100% positive that it is found in the Coca leaf).
Post Edited (Circa1988) : 2/16/2008 4:23:41 AM (GMT-7)