Yesterday I had another episode were I got pushed too far emotionally during a conversation; with each passing moment I felt less and less comfortable not to mention less secure about my ability to function socially and emotionally until something just snapped inside of me. The end result was a number of bloody scratches along my neck, a nasty bump on my head and a clear conviction to banish everything related to negative emotions and above all sexuality and related from my life.
Of course, I have tried many times before to just ignore those aspects of human life which are the most traumatizing to me, but without success. This morning I woke up still feeling the same about those aspects, but also kind of upset. Then, somehow it occurred to me that I could try those valerian-based sleeping pills I kept unused in a drawer since they don't really help me sleep. So I took one pill, for 250 mg of valerian-extract.
The effect of valerian-extract on me is quite impressive. Any kind of emotional surge almost immediately 'fizzles' until it's gone. Getting angry, upset or even involved with emotional conflicts is just downright impossible. I have tried all day, but I just don't care about those things. Life immediately is a lot more bearable since now I can just take my distance from things which bother me, even those in my direct environment. The only negative thing about today's valerian experiment is that it does affect my memory in a noticeable manner, though the dose I took (two times 250 mg during the day) could be adjusted to compensate for that.
The best part about this solution I think is that valerian is a very commonly used herb for sedative purposes and side-effects are basically non-existent. There's no addiction (except in some male subjects, apparently), no loss of effectiveness over time and basically no significant risks. It has also been used for thousands of years and thus its long-term effects have been relatively well-studied. It works by affecting GABA receptors, the stimulation of which causes an inhibitory response in the central nervous system (CNS).
Basic information on valerian can be found at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_%28herb%29 (1)
A more detailed analysis can be found here: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0415/p1755.html (2)
And finally some information on GABA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GABA#Neurotransmitter (3)
The effect of valerian on memory is well-known, and like other GABA-affecting substances it can inhibit the formation of new memories, which is known as anterograde amnesia. Most typical is that semantic (factual) memory is barely affected, whereas temporal memory is most dramatically affected. Even during today's experiment I can point to distinct episodes during the day where I seem to have lost some memories. Nothing major, but enough to notice it. It feels different from the usual 'I can't remember it' kind of thing everyone is familiar with.
Anterograde amnesia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anterograde_amnesia (4)
During my research I also found out why valerian didn't help me sleep better, as described in (2). People who are generally regular sleepers do not seem to receive any benefit from taking this substance, and it seems likely that the cause for their sleeping issues lies elsewhere, not in a lack of GABA neurotransmitter activity.
A question many people seem to ask is whether caffeine, like in the energy drinks I take, has a negative effect on a GABA-based sedative like valerian. The basic answer is that it has no effect because they affect different receptors. Caffeine also isn't a stimulant; all it does is block certain receptors which are sensitive to neurotransmitters the brain produces while it's awake. In short this way not enough of those receptors can be activated to give the 'I am tired' signal to the brain, and thus you won't start feeling tired. The brain adapts really quickly to this pollution, however, and thus drinking more than 4 cups of coffee or energy drinks a week makes it quite ineffective.
The idea behind a stimulant is that it allows you to perform above your normal capacity, caffeine merely allows one to perform like one just woke up. Except if you're a regular drinker of coffee or energy drinks, of course. In that case you are merely taking care of the withdrawal effects of caffeine since it is relatively addictive. As any junkie can tell you, there's nothing worse than being without your next shot :)