The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Valerian

Contents:

Common Names | Parts Usually Used | Plant(s) & Culture | Where Found | Medicinal Properties | Biochemical Information
Legends, Myths and Stories | Uses | Formulas or Dosages | How Sold | Warning | Resource Links | Bibliography

Scientific Names

Valerian

  • Valeriana officinalis L.
  • Valerianaceae
  • Valerian family

Common Names

  • All-heal
  • American English valerian (grown in the US)
  • Blessed herb
  • Capon’s tail
  • English Valerian
  • Garden heliotrope
  • German valerian
  • Great wild valerian
  • Heal-all
  • Heliotrope
  • Setwall
  • Tagara (Sanskrit name)
  • Vandal root
  • Vermont valerian
  • Wild valerian

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Parts Usually Used

Dried root, rhizome
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Description of Plant(s) and
Culture

Valerian is a tallish plant with clusters of pink or, less commonly, white flowers. A perennial grows to 4-5 feet. Leaves strongly divided, pinnate with lance-shaped leaflets; lower ones toothed. Tiny, pale pink to whitish, tubular flowers, grow in three-forked terminal heads in tight clusters; each flower has a small, inrolled calyx at the base; as the fruits form, calyces become feathery parachutes. Blooms June to July.

V. officinalis bears pinkish-lavender or pinkish-white flowers; V. rubra, red; V. cocinea, deep red. Partial shade. Zones 4-9.

Other varieties: Native Americans used 2 different herbs that were both called valerian. Valerian: tobacco root (V. edulis) the Nevada Paiutes called “Gwee-ya” and the Northern Paiutes called “Ku-ya.” And valerian (V. septentrionalis) the Blackfeet used as a hot drink from the roots for stomach trouble.
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Where Found

A native of damp woods, roadsides, and riversides. Quebec, Maine to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio to Minnesota. Native of Europe.

Do not confuse valerian with Lady’s Slipper which is often called American valerian, although both herbs are said to produce similar therapeutic action.
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Medicinal Properties

Calmative, antispasmodic, nerve tonic, nervine, sedative, anodyne, and carminative, aromatic, emmenagogue
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Biochemical Information

Active components are called valepotriates. Valerianic, formic and acetic acids, essential oils, resin, starch, a glucoside, and 2 alkaloids (chatrine and valerianine).
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Like many botanicals, valerian has a long history. Named the “Valium of the 19th century,” although chemically unrelated to Valium, is recognized worldwide for the relaxing effect it has on the body. Often, in Europe, it is prescribed to treat anxiety. Valerian does not taste very good, but it has few unpleasant side effects and is not addictive; unlike prescription drugs in the United States such as Valium and Xanax. When Valium is taken together with alcohol, the 2 drugs tend to greatly exaggerate each other’s effect on the body. Valium is a synergistic drug in that respect and tends to exaggerate serious side effects as well. For centuries valerian has been the treatment of choice by herbalists when treating panic attacks or nervous tension.

Valerian has a curious effect on some animals. Cats become frisky on smelling it, and an oil prepared from valerian and aniseed is used by gypsies to quell unfriendly dogs. Horses, too, are known to like its scent, as are rats and mice, for whose benefit it was once used as a bait in traps.

The common name of valerian is heal-all, which comes from the Latin word valere, meaning to be well. It is believed valerian is the spikenard referred to in the Bible as a perfume brought from the East.

Valerian has a distinctive, rather unpleasant smell, and was aptly called phu by the Greek physician Galen. In recent years, it has been well researched, with chemicals called valepotriates developing in valerian extracts. These seem to depress the nervous system, and the fresh plant is more sedating.
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Uses

Used for hypochondria, nervous headaches, irritability, mild spasmodic affections, diarrhea, epilepsy, migraine headaches, croup, hysteria, convulsions, vertigo, nervous cough, delirium, neuralgia, muscle cramps, gas pains, stomach cramps, spasms, palpitations, gas, colic, depression, panic attacks, emotional stress, PMS, menstrual cramps, despondency, insomnia.

Research has confirmed that teas, tinctures, and/or extracts of this plant are CNS-depressant (central nervous system), antispasmodic, and sedative when agitation is present, but also a stimulant in fatigue; antibacterial, antidiuretic, liver-protective. Valerian is a leading over-the-counter tranquilizer in Europe.

A nerve tonic has a relaxing effect and even euphoric effect on the system, although too much of it brings about the opposite result.

A marvelous remedy for fevers. Will often clear a cold overnight. Good for expelling phlegm from throat and chest. Will expel worms when everything else fails. Excellent for shortness of breath and wheezing. Tea can be used as an enema for pinworms and tape worms and externally as a wash for sores, wounds, chronic skin diseases, and pimples.

If taken too often or in excessive doses, however, it can cause headaches, spasmodic movements, or hallucinations.
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Formulas or Dosages

Harvest in the fall. Do not boil the root.

To obtain the maximum benefit take 1 tbsp. of fresh juice daily. The latter is often prescribed as a cure for insomnia, where its great value is that it calms the mind without having a narcotic effect. Non-addictive.

Drying roots is different from drying leaves. Roots should be dried at a high temperature, such as 120 degrees F. until the roots are brittle. If they are rubber-like, they should be dried longer. Store roots after drying to keep free from moisture.

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. root in 1 pt. boiling water. Take cold, 1 cup per day, or when going to bed.

Cold extract: use 2 tsp. roots with 1 cup water; let stand for 24 hours and strain. Take 1/2 to 1 cup when going to bed.

Tincture: take 20 drops on sugar or in water, 3 times a day.
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How Sold

Valerian roots are grown commercially and used in proprietary medicines in Europe. Other valerians are not generally used in herb medicine.

Capsules: take 1 or 2 a day.

Extract: mix 10 drops in liquid daily.

Tincture: take 1 to 2 tsp. in a glass of water.
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Warning

Valerian should not be used for more than 2 to 3 weeks at a time, as it may then be harmful or become addictive. Large doses or extended use may produce symptoms of poisoning. In extremely high doses, it may cause paralysis and a weakening of the heart. Take the tea twice daily, for no more than 2-3 weeks at a time without a break, as continual use or high doses may lead to headaches and palpitations. Do not exceed the recommended dose. Use under medical supervision.

Valerian enhances the action of sleep-inducing drugs, so avoid if taking this type of medication.

Do not confuse with the garden plant, red “American” valerian (Centranthus ruber) which has no medicinal properties.
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Resource Links

LiveStrong.com: Is Valerian Root Dangerous to the Liver?

University of Maryland Medical Center: Valerian

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Valerian

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Valerian

Drugs.com: Valerian

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Bibliography

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! The Magic of Herbs in Daily Living, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Co. (1988).

Buy It! A Useful Guide to Herbal Health Care, HCBL (Health Center for Better Living).,1414 Rosemary Lane, Naples, FL 34103., Special Sale Catalog, 1996

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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