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Home Medicinal Plants Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Medicinal Plants
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Black Elder
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Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian is one of the best known herbs for promoting a good night's sleep and easing nervous tension. Its sedative effects were first recognized in the seventeenth century, and since then it has enjoyed a long history of safe and effective use. Its latin name, valeriana, means "well-being". In popular lore, it is known as cat's weed or moonroot.

Plant Facts : Valerian belongs to the umbelliferous family of plants. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this graceful perennial emits a spicy aroma and tastes slightly bitter. Remedies are often made from its cylindrical rootstocks, which spread via underground runners.

Parts Used : The rootstock (rhizome) of the healing plant is used in natural medicine; it is used fresh or dried, which is done at temperatures above 104 deg F.

Components : The root of the valerian plant contains various active medicinal agents; approximately 5 percent valepotriate (the calming substance), 1.5% essential oil from Borneo camphor, formic and acetic acids, mucilage and tannins.

Indications : A popular natural tranquilizer, valerian is an excellent remedy for all forms of nervousness. It helps to alleviate anxiety; it promotes sound sleep; and its calming effects benefit those suffering from exhaustion or mental burnout as well. The herb also appears to have anti convulsive properties. However, some people cannot digest valerian properly and may get headaches or feel nervous when using iy. In these instances, another herb should be used.

Extra Tip : To use valerian in a medicinal preparation, first crush the dried root in a mortar; it will have an unpleasant smell. A scant teaspoon of the powder is sufficient to make a cup of tea.

Methods of Administration

Valerian Tea : Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of dried valerian. Allow to steep for 5 min. Add linden leaves or hops to enhance the calming effect.

Tablets : Valerian comes in tablets and capsules. Take 1-2 capsules or tablets (200 mg. each) up to 3 times a day.

Drops : Take 30 drops, or upto 2 tsp. of liquid valerian in a glass of lukewarm water. Repeat upto 3 times daily.

Valerian bath sachets : Place 3 ½ oz. of dried valerian root pieces in a small cotton bag. Let the bag soak in the bathtub. This herb bath is ideal for calming nervous or agitated children.

Valerian Soak : Soak 3 ½ oz. of dried valerian root pieces in 1 qt. of water for 10-12 hr. Decant the liquid and use it in your bath. For an even quicker solution, try one of the ready made bath products that contain valerian and other herbs.