Healing Weeds - Getting a closer contact with the healing world of herbs and wild plants.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Valeriana officinalis

NL: Valeriaan / F: Valériane

Valerian is one of the most widely recognized medicinal herb of our times. Its sedating powers have been documented since around 460 B.C. As a powerful and versatile nervine, valerian has been used to relieve anxiety, stress, irritability, hysteria, panic attacks, delusions, attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity and the wide range of symptoms that are related to tension and nervousness. It has also great antispasmodic effects, being employed to relieve (nervousness-induced) migraines, muscle pain, uterine cramps, intestinal colic and even rheumatic pain, sciatica, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. 

Due to its stress-reducing properties, it seems to have a positive effect on heart problems and it helps to stabilize blood pressure. 

Valerian is also used to aid in digestive ailments, relieving gas, diarrhea, cramps and it may even help to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Native Americans used chewed valerian, applying it directly in the ears, to relieve earache. 

It does not induce sleeping as quick as regular sleeping drugs, instead, it provides a general relaxing feeling, relieves anxiety and tension, improving sleep quality. As opposed to the grogginess that comes from taking regular sleep-inducing medicines, valerian improves alertness and it can act as a stimulant in case of fatigue. 

In fact, due to its wide range of applications as nervine, valerian can be added to many herbal formulas, helping to improve and balance the effect of other herbs.

The entire plant can be used for its sedative properties, even though the root is the strongest part. Leaves and flowers are also edible. 

The root is ready to be harvested after the plant is 2 years old, during autumn, when the plant loses its leaves. The fresh root is said to be 3 times as effective as its dried counterpart. Drying the root for further use should be done in lower temperature, preferably in a solar dryer.

It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems, nor for pregnant and breast feeding women. Besides, due to a long list of drug-interaction valerian should not be used with alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates or with antihistamine drugs. 

An intensive treatment with valerian should not take longer than 3 months, so that the body does not “get used to it”. A pause of at least 6 weeks should follow before restarting it.

We humans are not alone in our love for valerian. Cats and rats are also attracted by valerian and some cats are fond of digging holes to uncover its roots. I had to protect my little valerian plants with a circle of sticks, so as to avoid cat digging.

Valerian is also a great companion plant to have in the garden. As animals get attracted to its scent, it keeps them from going to other garden plants. It seems that the soil where valerian grows tends to contain increased amount of earthworms and phosphorus. Valerian improves mineral content of the soil. The flowers can be harvested, pressed into a paste to be used in compost, helping to heat it up during winter time.

Its good smelling roots

More on Valerian:

A video with a few practical tips on using valerian:

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