Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae. The rhizomes and roots are the parts of the plant used.

The roots are unearthed in the late autumn. They need to be cleaned thoroughly and dried in the shade.

Functions of valerian

Valerian is one of the most useful relaxing nervines that is available. Valerian:

  • may safely be used to reduce tension and anxiety. It can help to calm people who 'can't switch off' and it relieves palpitations, panic and tremors. Generally it eases any stress-related condition. This means that it can also assist in insomnia and induce a natural healing sleep. However, about 20% of the population respond to Valerian as a stimulant, so if you take it and still have insomnia and are very alert try hops, chamomile, passionflower, or skullcap, which are all excellent herbs to relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia.
  • has a calming relaxing effect on the muscles and blood vessels. This means that it will cause blood vessels to dilate and thus the blood pressure will go down.
  • is an anti-spasmodic herb which will aid in the relief of colic, intestinal cramps, indigestion and flatulence. As a pain reliever it is most indicated when the pain is associated with tension.
  • can assist in migraine and rheumatic pain.
  • can be used to assist in relieving menstrual pain and premenstrual tension. It is also useful for some menopausal symptoms.

Notes on valerian

  • Do not take valerian if you are already using sleeping tablets.
  • Do not take over a long period of time (more that 2-3 weeks) without a break.
  • Do not confuse this plant with false valerian, also known as kiss me quick (Centranthus ruber.)
  • Valerian is not related to the pharmaceutical drug valium.
  • For the relief of tension it will combine well with skullcap.
  • For insomnia it will combine well with passion flower and hops.
  • For the treatment of cramps it will work well with cramp bark.
  • It may cause heart palpitations and nervousness in those who are sensitive to it. If such stimulation occurs discontinue its use.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonsful of the root and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk when needed.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

Grow valerian from seed planted in the spring or by detaching and replanting the aerial shoots that grow from the side of the plant and take root. This can be done at almost any time of the year.

Valerian will grow in most soil types, but it prefers plenty of humus and does the best in part shade.


Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.




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