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herbal relaxants

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Fred S.

New Member
Sep 22, 2001
Hi there,

Have any of you been experimenting with herbal relaxants like valerian? I guess if it helps people to be more relaxed for exams etc. it should probably be helpfull for relaxing during competitions in static / dynamic.

you mean the ***** you smoke !
I was used tospearfish with my schoolmates after a good j...t when I was 15 , it was good for apnea but too dangerous. never do it for apnea !
NO, that was not what I meant. My message was serious and not about illegal substances.
And it was about competitive freediving and not about killing fish :naughty

Fred S.


As I recall the active substance in valerian root is a benzodiazapine similar to these found in valium, and serax, which show up pretty fast in a tox-screen. I doubt that even if they were legal, which I'll bet they are not, the cognitive side-effects would not support strong concentration and would inhibit gamma activity, which is associated with high performance behaviors.

My 2Cs,

you should ask the nearest koffee shop ,maybe they have something for you, be careful not to see pink whales !
I don't use drugs or alcohol, but it seemed to me when I was in Amsterdam that MJ was legal....am I right, or were those tomato leaves on all the cafes? ;)
Erik Y.

No, Marihuana is not legal in Amsterdam. It is tolerated for individual use up to a certain amount. But this is getting off topic now. The question was never about using Marihuana for Static competitions.

It was about the range of herbal relaxants you can find in the shops, next to the vitamin supplements.

I guess that quite a lot of competitive freedivers use these kind of products, but they don't want to reveil this here on this forum.................... :hungover

Quite many food supplements contain anabolic steroids (or some pre-stages), but it does not make them accepted either, so why even bother discussing this? In competitions (e.g. in Ibiza) medallists and a random drawing of others are tested for doping, and relaxants are on the list of tested substances.

And even if they weren't, ain't cheating always bad?

I just checked the IOC list....
It's not on the list...

Do you guys think it's cheating using valerian to keep calm ??

Re: relaxants

Originally posted by Fred S.
I just checked the IOC list....
It's not on the list...

Do you guys think it's cheating using valerian to keep calm ??


Fred, you bring up an interesting point that is the souce of much contention between "natural" bodybuilders and "juice-pig-steroid-monkey" bodybuilders (no offence meant to any juice-pig-steroid-monkeys). The steroid crowd points out that some of the natural guys are taking substances that are bordering on un-natural, like creatine, for example, and say that they should not be competing in natural contests. Is it natural to be able to load tons of extra creatine into your muscles? It would take dozens of beef steaks a day to equal the amount of creatine that is accessible in a powder or liquid form these days. Creatine is only one example.
A big question, indeed. I believe that if you're taking something that exists in nature in that form, then it's ok. Processing and concentrating start to bring the "un-natural" aspect into play, and there will probably always be dissention on where the line should be drawn.
Erik Y.
Professionally speaking

OK folks, I'm far from an expert freediver or spearfisherman (never had a gun in my hand underwater), but I make my living as a research & consulting pharmacologist and toxicologist, and one of my areas of focus is dietary supplements. So, I feel compelled to weigh in here.

Do some homework before you take any dietary supplement. If you don't have the expertise to evaluate the phamacological and toxicological data, find someone who does to assist you. Don't listen to the local guru at the health food store; not because he/she is necessarily wrong, but you don't know the quality of the information you are getting.

I've copied below some text from a previous thread posted by Andrsn entitled "I'm sick, clinic's next weekend":

Two extremely reliable resources that are written for the practitioner (as opposed to research scientists) are listed below. I would recommend both for your shelf if you are inclined to use such products.

Both books are available in paperback and are authored by the late Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD, Dean Emeritus of the Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences. He was regarded worldwide as the foremost authority in the field; over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals; countless awards from professional scientific societies and many honorary degrees from top universities in U.S. and Europe, etc., and a genuinely nice man.

"Tyler's Herbs of Choice; The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals" by James E. Robbers, PhD and Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD. Haworth Press, New York. 1999.

"Tyler's Honest Herbal; A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies" by Stephen Foster and Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD. Haworth Press, New York. 2000.

For what it's worth, my pre-dive routine consists of limiting or excluding caffeinated beverages, eating light, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking NO supplements, drugs, herbs, tinctures, teas, extracts, etc.
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My opinion is when you practice sport at a high (highest) level you almost can't get your maximum without supplements. In todays normal food there isn't enough vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc that you need for performing at your best!

I have a powerlifting/bodybuilding background (I know; not the best background for freediving...) and after a certain point it's just not enough to train perfect, to eat perfect, to rest perfect.
When you got these 3 parts right (eat, train, rest) and you reach a limit or you feel you need something extra then go for supplements.

There are some basic supplements that are accepted as really good working:
- A good multi vitamin mineral combination
- Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
- Anti-oxidants
- Whey protein (especially with bodybuilding :D )
- Creatine
- Amino acids (L-glutamine is 50% of the required amino acids you need)
Of course use only good brands like eas, ultimate nutrition, etc... otherwise you probably end up with crap.

For me personally I don't really 'believe' in herbals. There are only 5 sorts or so I think that works (valerian is one of them)

The problem is that there is a thin line between supplements and steroids or other drugs. Especially teenagers don't know the difference between this tablet or that tablet. But I really don't think using supplements is cheating. If you only could eat what isn't modified then there wouldn't be much left in the supermarkets...

Does anyone has experience with using creatine and freediving? After some research it appears to me that if you use it at a certain way it can really benefit freediving and the last bit of pushing during dynamics, constant or free. And the end of a dynamic attempt I always feel my legs filling with lactic acid. It seems that with creatine I get some extra ATP energy at the pushing momemt...

Supplements are no drugs! If you only use supplements and don't eat, train and sleep correct it's a waist of money. But if you use drugs you will perform better even if you eat, train and sleep very bad! That's a big difference.

My 2 cents.
Beg to differ


With all due respect; been there, done that. I swam collegiate NCAAs; I won the 1984 Mr. Midwest Bodybuilding Championship; and then I got a Ph.D. (12 years ago) so that I could understand what I'd been doing to myself for the past three decades. Besides recognizing that I'm an old man, recognize that I've learned a few things along the way.

I have books on my shelf specific to the subject of sport and excerise pharmacology, including a thick reference text on anabolic steroid use in sports. I have countless articles from the peer-reviewed literature in my files (all of which I have actually read) related to the use of drugs, including dietary supplements in sports and their effects on heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, etc.

Based on my experience and education, I simply do not agree with your perspective on taking 'supplements,' especially when it comes to enhancing freediving performance, although there was a time when I made the same statements you make, almost verbatim.

So 'believe' what you will, but understand that you are doing so as a matter of faith, not data, and don't be deluded that there is any science to support your beliefs.

Besides that, I think you are missing the fact that a large component of freediving is learning to harmonize your mind and body. It isn't like squeezing out a few more reps with 150 lb dumbells on the incline bench, or adding an inch to your biceps (which were goals I achieved time and again years ago). A different perspective is required for freediving. I would hate to see novice freedivers (of which I would still classify myself) taking a perceived short-cut to longer bottom times and deeper dives and incur risks they need not incur.
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In general I was not talking about supplements and freediving but supplements and sports at the highest level.

Maybe I understand your post wrong, but are you saying that herbals and supplements have no use in sports? Even that drugs have no use in sports? Why is it then that all the top athletes in the world (sprinters, ice-skating, cyclers) are using creatine? Even the simple use of a vitamin c tablet used by millions of people doesn't work? And even EPO will not increase freediving performance? Maybe I didn't understand what you were saying, but if so then I can't agree.

Of course I agree with "I think you are missing the fact that a large component of freediving is learning to harmonize your mind and body" but you need to have a healthy body with a healthy mind to perform at your best. And I really can't believe that from only doing yoga you will reach your maximum potential in freediving! You need to do physical training as well, and with hard physical training comes the need for good nutrition and rest, and at a certain point normal food just isn't enough.

But I would really be interested to know your opinion on creatine and valerian for enhancing freediving performances! I understand that you're a well educated men and I'm just a guy that read articles in medical books and sport magazines. I really would like to learn more about nutrition and supplements.
now this is getting interesting,

anyway, i will try and see both points of the argument.
here is my opinion on Jorg's post:
you state that a suplement isnt a drug and i see where you are comming from, being a competetive cyclist i know of people who use supplement and anabolic steroids, the users of anabolic steroids dont think they are drugs because they are simply injecting natural hormone in a larger quantity then the body is able to produce it, another words they are giving their body a boost of natural hormones, with anabolic steroids the benifit is that you can work out for longer ie your muscles dont get tired as fast, this however is of no use to freedivers since you dont need to look like arnold to freedive
erythropoietin (epo) is also manufactured by the body, mainly in the kidney, the main purpose of epo is to regulate the production of red blood cells, so one might argue that epo is okay to use because you are simply supplementing the naturely produced amounts of epo by injecting more into the blood stream
to the same effect is blood doping, done by removing some of ones blood(about 1 liter i think) storing it for some time, letting the body regenerate all of the cells lost and then re-injecting the red blood cells into the blood stream
what i find funny is that the sports organizations seem to think of this as using drugs, yet by your statement you say that supplements arent drugs, yet drugs are supplements, does this really make sense?? :naughty

then you go on to say that supplements are you need supplements to compete at the highest level, i cant say i agree with this, the only reason one should use supplements is to bring there level of vitamins or minerals to levels that are considered normal, like children who need more calcium, or astmatics (like myself) who use ventalin which has been shown to cut bone density in half if no supplements are taken, i hope to move up to expert this year in mtb racing and i know that i could take the easy way out and use supplements but then it wouldnt really be me winning the races, it would be the supplements, your point about the peak performance is one that many people seem to think of as true, however you can always push yourself to a higher level, the only thing supplements due is let you get past a plateau in your training more easily, is that really fair?

with your knowledge about drugs and supplements you are probably the best source of information around here, i agree that freediving is more then having a perfect body, it requires loads of mental preperation, practice and things like that, however, i do believe that taking drugs would enhance your freediving performance dramaticly, think if you could load double the amount of O2 into your bloodstream, while using epo this would be a redily available goal this would add minutes to bottom times of everyone that uses this method, it is wrong but it would still work,

drugs are a reality now days, we need to get use to having them around, there are people out there who will do anything to get a leading edge but where do we draw the line? who is to say what is and isnt a drug? why do we dont just let everyone use as many drugs as they want,

keep in mind im only a kid :D and dont flame me for my opinion
Read the words, not between the lines


I think you are extrapolating my statements to the extreme and then asking me if I mean to say something absurd. I was not speaking of fundamental principles that if taken to their full extreme, would produce ridiculous results. I have no interest in engaging in a philisophical debate on the place of drugs in sport on this forum.

Rather, I referred to empirical data. I know of no data that would substantiate your claim that "if you use drugs you will perform better even if you eat, train and sleep very bad!" Many urban legends are alive and well within sports about the performance-enhancing properties of various chemicals - both synthetic and natural products - that are not born out by the results of research. Unfortunately, it is the legend that is passed on, not the research (more on that later).

I'm not sure we are using the term "supplements" in the same way. I'm all for eating a nutritious diet and have no problem with people taking vitamin 'supplements' in moderation. Of course I agree with eating a diet complete in essential fatty acids, essential trace minerals, etc., and if your diet does not supply those, then 'supplementation' is fine, providing you know what you are taking and that the product is what it claims to be.

In the U.S., the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act labels a number of phytomedicinal agents (essentially, drugs that are derived directly from plant materials) as "dietary supplements," and that seemed to be what this thread was about. Your post then added a discussion of 'drugs', but you state that supplements are 'no drugs.' Make no mistake, anything that produces a pharmacological effect is a 'drug,' and if one can take enough of a food substance or herbal product to have a pharmacological effect, then he is using that substance as a drug. There's no conceptual difference, pharmacologically speaking.

Now, for the legends.
You mention EPO. EPO may enhance the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood through stimulating red blood cell production or hemoglobin formation. However, there is no scientific proof that an increased hematocrit enhances athletic performance in trained athletes, though it does help anemic patients. On the contrary, there is due concern for EPO use increasing hematocrit and thus blood viscosity with resultant thromosis or seizure. I don't know about you Jorg, but I just HATE thrombosis and seizures when I'm 20 meters underwater.

And where is the study on Valerian root enhancing your ability to relax while freediving? Valerian root (even if you are sure your product is really valerian - that's questionable with many products) can have paradoxical effects on some individuals, and can even have paradoxical effects in the same individual under different conditions; i.e., it can cause a rapid heart rate and rapid, shallow breathing. That's not such a big deal if you are using it to get to sleep at night - so you miss another night of sleep . . . but those are NOT variables I think one should play around with at 2 to 4 atmospheres (or more) of pressure and no readily available oxygen.

I responded because I feel it is necessary for someone who knows the data to recommend that freedivers NOT run out to begin experimenting with various 'supplements,' while freediving. In short, it is highly unlikely you will improve your performance and there is a significant chance that your performance will be diminished, or worse.

So, I've said my piece; let the reader beware. Then do whatever you want. I firmly believe in keeping the 'free' in freediving.
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Thanks for the info and the comments. It seems indeed that we got a little mixed up between drugs and supplements. With supplements I mean the natural stuff and not the IOC banned stuff. Point taken and up to the next thread...

I'll throw in my 2 cents since I tried valerian (for the first time) last Saturday when meeting cjborgert and jeff.richardson for some freediving at Blue Springs. My reaction to it was terrible - my heart rate increased rather than decreased and I tired very quickly. I was worthless as a freediver and it got worse as the day went on.

As cjborgert explained to me (and confirmed just today by my physician brother), these supplements are not regulated at all and so exactly what was in my off the rack valerian may not exactly be known. Anyway, it was not a pleasant experience. While I perhaps lacked sense in trying something that I was unsure of, I at least had the sense to recognize the negative effects it was having on my body and I greatly limited my freediving attempts (much to my dismay, as I had a great opportunity to freedive with two very good freedivers).

Anyway, for me at least, a lesson is learned and the valerian is in the garbage.


Aloha cjb

When I read your first post, there were a few questions. Your second post covered them. It took 50+ years and the internet but, now I'm learning that there are at least two sides to everything.

Interesting subject guys. Just thought I'd throw in the thought that personaly I dive to relax, and enjoy the water. The fact that someone may dive deeper or longer than me really doesn't matter. Only the quality of my own dive does. To even think of using (and subsequanty worrying about the effects off) any of the herbal relaxants etc would take away from the experience. That being said I have imense respect for those of you that strive to reach the best levels of performance, and on one level I probably envy you. But the simplicity and freedom of freediving is the draw for me. I'd really hate to lose a dive buddy due to experimenting with any substance. And lets face it, the only way to find out the effects of any substance on a person in the deep blue would be to experiment. Not worth it for me. Safe Diving.
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