Valerian is a small, hardy perennial plant in the Valerianaceae family that blooms in the summers. It has a tall bract of small, sweet smelling, pink and white flowers and compound pinnate leaves, in which the leaflets are oppositely arranged and bear serrate margins. Valerian grows best in moist, well drained soil high in nitrogen. Spring and fall are the best times to harvest the roots of the plant, so bulk up its mulch during this time to help it retain moisture. Clean the roots after harvesting and dry in the shade. It’s easier to grow by dividing the roots than it is from seed.
Valerian works as a sedative, anti-spasmodic, hypotensive, and carminative. It is often used as a remedy for stress, tension, anxiety, mild cramping and is taken as an infusion or a tincture. It has also been noted to help with pain and migrane headaches. It has a calming action on the female reproductive system, making it useful for cramps and pms. It also soothes intestinal cramping and colic. Usually, roots are prepared as a decoction, which involves boiling the herbs for about 20 minutes at the lowest boil. However, due to the delicate chemical constituents of valerian root, an infusion is recommended for this root. It is also effective at stopping fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract, relieving flatulence. Although it is typically a calming, sedative herb, a small percentage of people experience the opposite effects when using valerian root, with sensations similar to drinking a cup of coffee.
Ancient Greek and Roman physicians noted that valerian had a strong, sickly sweet, disagreeable odor, and the name Valerian is derived from the latin word valere, which is “to be strong”. They used valerian as a diuretic, pain reliever, poison antidote, and decongestant. Early European herbalists considered it a panacea, giving it it’s other common name Heal-All, and used it as a tranquilizer, menstrual disorders, sores, epilepsy cure, and a sleep aid. Some even claimed it cured the plague. Native Americans used an american variety of valerian to treat wounds, which caught the attention of early American colonists, who used it heavily as a nervine and wound treatment during the multiple wars of 18th and 19th century America. Early American eclectic physicians used it to calm epilepsy and mild spasms, as well as hypochondria. They noted that large doses “caused restlessness, agitation, nausea, and visual illusions”.
An 10-15 minute infusion of 1-2 teaspoons of the dried root per cup of water, taken as needed. As a tincture, 2-4ml three times daily. For relieving tension or insomnia, it combines well with skullcap, passionflower, and hops. For cramps, combine with crampbark.
(s) 1, 2, 4, 8, 10