Valerian – Valeriana Officinalis
The valerian plant has clusters of tiny pink or white flowers which bloom in July and August. The flowers are best enjoyed outdoors.
Flowers can be used as decorations, though some people do get a headache from the strong scent of the flowers.
The flowers are pretty and have nice scent, but this plant is actually more sought after for its roots.
Parts used: Valerian roots. The roots are used to make tea, tinctures, capsules, pills and so on. The roots can be used either fresh or dried.
The valerian roots are most often dug up and harvested from two year old plants in the fall.
The name supposedly comes from the Latin word “valere” which means “to be well”.
Valerian was as a medicinal herb in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 AD) gave the herb the name “phu” possibly referring to the smell of the roots.
Valerian Fights Anxiety
Valerian has a long history of an herb used to fight anxiety, shock and stress. During the First World War it was very common to treat soldiers who suffered from physiological strain with valerian tincture.
Using it for anxiety does have advantages that commercial drugs do not have. Valerian does not cause dependency. It is non-addictive. This obviously is an awesome benefit and a reason why it does not harm to try this method.
Another benefit of using valerian for anxiety is that it does not react with alcohol. You can still take a nightcap if that is what you enjoy and not worry about how alcohol and valerian will interact.
It is in those appalling smelling roots of the valerian that the substance “valepotriates” is found which has a soothing effect on the nervous system.
Valerian root tea or the tincture may be something anyone with jittery nerves might want to try.
For those who cannot endure the smell of the root and still would like to try if it works for them, there is always the option of capsules.
Valerian is probably better known for its qualities to help the body relax and get a good night’s sleep. Many people use valerian as tincture, tea or in capsules to fight insomnia.
It will most likely make you feel drowsy. Always use small amounts and never mix with other nerve or insomnia medication. Consult your physician if you have any concerns.
Valerian has a calming effect and may work well for insomnia related to overexcitement, anxiety and panic.
Cats are attracted to this plant. Valerian has similar effects on cats as catnip.
Some cats seem to go into a kind of delightful trance rolling around in it. Cat owners may want to surprise their pet with a gift containing valerian.
Folklore and Superstition
In Europe valerian was used to drive away witches. Any sorceress who tried to enter the home would quickly turn around if valerian was hanging by the door.
In Northern Europe valerian was found hanging outside the barn door. There was a superstition that valerian would protect the farm animals from evil encounters.
During the Middle Ages men were advised to offer the lady they were attracted to some valerian in red wine. That was supposed to make her notice him favorably.
A bridegroom should always carry a little valerian during the wedding ceremony. This would protect him from all the envious elves lurking about.
A married couple who were caught arguing was given the advice to drink valerian tea. Magically this drink would result in the couple making up.
A woman giving birth should always have some valerian under the sheets. This was a vulnerable time in the woman’s life and she was believed to be an easy target for all supernatural creatures. The valerian offered some protection in her time of need.