Valerian Root, All About
True Wild Valerian Root, Valeriana officinalis
The name "Valerian" is derived from the Latin valere, which means "to be strong" and refers to both the health benefits of the plant as well as its distinct odor. The plant was known as "All-Heal" during the Middle Ages in Britain. Historically, it has been taken for its soothing, beneficial effects. It was also used as a condiment during medieval times, and as a perfume during the 16th century. It is claimed that valium was named after this herb. Valerian root is still used in today's world, throughout Europe and the United States.
The strong smell of Valerian apparently attracts cats and rats. Legend
states that the Pied Piper carried Valerian to induce the rats to follow
him. People have used it in the past to attract the rodents away from
their dwellings. It has also been reported that once a cat smells the
plant, it will happily destroy the plant.
True wild Valerian root is found in high pastures and dry heathland. It
flowers in late spring. The principle part used is the rhizome which is
typically harvested in September.
Valerian is also known by the folk names: All-Heal, Amantilla, Bloody
Butcher, Capon's Trailer, Cat's Valerian, English Valerian, Fragrant
Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, Phu, Red Valerian, St. George's Herb, Sets
Wale, Set Well, Vandal Root.
Valerian has the magickal powers of love, sleep, purification and
protection. It is of the feminine gender, the element water, and is
governed by the astrological planet Venus.
The main magickal uses of Valerian are based on sympathetic magick (the
maxim that like produces like) with respect to the medicinal uses. It is
used to help induce sleep as an ingredient in a sachet placed in the
pillow. Placed in their vicinity, it can have a calming effect on
quarreling couples. It is also used in protective sachets, especially
when placed about the home to protect against lightning. It has uses in
love magick, and when powered, can be a substitute for "graveyard dust."
Valerian affects the blood plasma, bone marrow, muscle tissue and
nerves; impacting the nervous, digestive and respiratory systems.
Valerian is excellent for use primarily against nervous disorders and
to aid in sleep. Indicated uses include: headaches, tremblings,
palpitations, insomnia, hysteria, delirium, neuralgia, convulsions,
epilepsy, vertigo, nervous cough, dysmenorrhea, chronic skin diseases,
flatulence, colic, muscle spasms, and menstrual cramps. It has a
grounding, calming and relaxing influence on the body.
Valerian is usually dried and powdered and given as a tincture or by
infusion. To prepare a decoction, add 250mg to 1g of powder to water at a
For insomnia, add half a teaspoon full to 1 cup of boiling water. After
cooling, drink by the mouthful throughout the day. Do not drink more than
1 cup per day (to minimize any danger of overreaction). Valerian can be
used in conjunction with Skullcap and Lady's Slipper. If these herbs are
added, the amount of Valerian in the infusions should be decreased
For high blood pressure due to stress, combine equal parts with
Scullcap and Lime Blossoms. For nervous conditions, combine with Scullcap
and Mistletoe. The dose of the mixtures when infused is from one
teaspoonful to 2 fl oz (56 ml).
While Valerian generally does not have side effects, large doses can
produce paralysis and dull the mind; recommended doses should not be
This article is presented for educational purposes and is not a
recommendation of any kind for the use of this herb. Your doctor should be
consulted before you begin to take any type of herb. Just because herbs
are not classified as "drugs" does not mean that they are necessarily safe or that they might not interact with medication you may be taking.
Sleep Hypnotic Activity: Balderer and Borbely performed a small study
with 10 young healthy test subjects, where they took one of a 450mg,
900mg, or a placebo capsule. They reported on feelings of sleep onset and
nighttime awakenings. In a dose dependent response, subjects decreased
sleep latency and nighttime awakenings. Although this response was not
reproduced in the laboratory, there was a minimal trend consistent
with the outpatient study.
Shulz et al studied the effect of valerian root on pilots in a placebo
controlled trial. This failed to show any reduction in sleep latency, but
subjects were dosed with 450mg three times daily as opposed to each night
as in the previous study.
To date, there seems to be a lack of clinical evidence that Valerian is
effective as purported. However, there have been few studies with few
subjects; these should be considered far from conclusive.
Balderer, G. & Borbely, A.A. (1985). Effect of
Valerian on human sleep. Psychopharmacology, 87, 406-409.
Schultz, H. et. Al. (1994). The effect of Valerian extract on sleep
polysomnography in poor sleepers: a pilot study.Pharmacopsychiatry,
Wagner, J. (1998). Beyond benzodiazepines: alternative pharmacologic
agent for the treatment of insomnia. Annals of Pharmacology,
Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs, Cunningham (Llewellyn, 1999).
Culpepper's Color Herbal (Sterling, 1983).
The Yoga of Herbs, Frawley and Lad (Lotus Press, 1986).
Natural Healing, Bricklin (Rodale, 1983).
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Suggested Web Resources
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