Last week I was looking for a new source of valerian root extract, as the brand I am currently taking decided to change the contents, adding melatonin to the 250 mg version (Valdispert Nacht ('night')), which does make sense if you take them to sleep easier, but doesn't if you intend to use them during the day. One alternative I found is made by A Vogel, and contains primarily passion flower (P. incarnata)(1) which after some research turned out to function as an anti-depressant (2) thanks to the beta-carboline harmala alkaloids (3) it contains. The P. incarnata alkaloids in particular function as MonoAmine Oxide Inhibitors (MAOI)(4), the synthetic versions of which were common as anti-depressants until SSRI anti-depressants succeeded them.
The MAOI in P. incarnata happens to be both selective (doesn't target both MAO-A and MAO-B recepters) and reversible (doesn't deactivate MAO but merely inhibits it in a temporary fashion). This makes it quite mild and also largely prevents the so-called 'cheese syndrome' (5) which is associated with the use of MAOI and consumption of tyramine simultaneously, leading to hypertensive crisis, which can be fatal.
Returning to the effects of MAOI, Wikipedia's article (4) lists the following under 'Mode of action':
"MAOIs act by inhibiting the activity of monoamine oxidase, thus preventing the breakdown of monoamine neurotransmitters and thereby increasing their availability. There are two isoforms of monoamine oxidase, MAO-A and MAO-B. MAO-A preferentially deaminates serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine. MAO-B preferentially deaminates phenylethylamine and trace amines. Dopamine is equally deaminated by both types."
Looking at the types of neurotransmitters affected, we can see that a few of them aren't very useful if you want to feel relaxed, especially norepinephrine (6) which is a well-known stress hormone, together with epinephrine which is more commonly known as adrenaline (7).
The selectivity of MAOIs like the one in P. incarnata clearly doesn't extend to the exact types of neurotransmitters it affects, otherwise it would focus on increasing the availability of for example serotonin (8) instead, which is a substance which contributes to a feeling of well-being. It also makes it a very poor choice to combine with a GABA (9) receptor inhibiting substance like the one present in valerian root, as the relaxing effects of increased presence of GABA are counter-acted by the presence of norepinephrine and epinephrine.
It also shows clearly why both SSRI and MAOI-based anti-depressants are a very poor choice of medication in the case of stress, like mine, as it will actually amplify the fight or flight mechanism, not reduce its effect.
So, to get back to last week, I tried those pills with P. incarnata extract until yesterday and while the first day was fine, after that I began to feel very restless, I began to experience a dull, nauseating headache and found myself unable to nap, or sleep without the use of sleeping pills. I also was extremely agitated, having to resist countless impulsive thoughts and desires. Let's just say that a person in my situation, with this type of medication would be very easily provoked into physical violence, vandalism and many other types of unsavory, impulsive acts.
Yesterday morning I took the last of these pills and last night I took a pure valerian root pill again. I did take a sleeping pill last night, as I was still feeling extremely agitated, making for the fourth in a row which is basically inviting addiction, not to mention a very expensive hobby. This morning I am feeling a lot better, especially after I managed to actually nap for an hour after taking another valerian pill. A few hours ago I went to my GP, had a nice talk with her about this issue and the stresses surrounding my current living situation, and also managed to obtain some Valdispert Nacht without the melatonin, probably an old batch.
Which leads me to my original question I started with last week: where to obtain valerian root extract in 250 mg/pill dosage or similar without any melatonin, passion flower or other unwanted substances added? Maybe I should just look online...