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valerian herb

Botanical: Valeriana officinalis

Family: Valerianaceae

Parts Used: root

Actions anodyne, anti-spasmodic, carminative, nervine, sedative, stimulant

Other names for valerian include All-heal, Amantilla, Arden heliotrope, Capon’s Tail, Phu (Galen), Setwall, Setewale, St. George’s Herb, Tagara, Tobacco root, Vandal root. The name Valerian was first seen in the tenth century and is of Latin origin – valere which means “to be healthy”. Valerian is a beneficial herb used in many herbals that produce sedative effects. Valerian is a credible and compelling alternative to chemical anxiolytics and narcotics.

Valerian is widely known for its calmative effects and is largely used to treat sleeping disorders. It has anxiolytic and tranquilizing properties, and sleep-inducing and calming effects on the nervous system.

This makes Valerian very efficient in reducing sleeplessness and helping a person cope with restless nights and insomnia. It fights anxiety and nervousness, and lowers heart rate, relieving hypertension and tachycardia.

Because of its sedative properties, valerian is also useful in alleviating nervous disorders, such as panic attacks, depression, hysteria, and excitability.

Valerian contains a number of active constituents, including valerenic acid and various valepotriates, which are responsible for its sedative effects. It would seem that these compounds are able to increase the effect of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino-acid naturally produced in the brain, which has tranquilizing and mood-improving effects.

Uses for Valerian


Valerian roots are eaten by the tribes of western mountains of India. It is popular as dressings in salad in France. I found an interesting recipe for cabbage and valerian leaf.


Valerian oils are the perfect alternative to synthetic fragrances without all the harsh chemicals. It is pure and natural and by using a carrier oil could be applied directly to the skin and reap the therapeutic benefits along with the fragrance. The oil of valerian is used in many blended perfumes as it gives a different leathery note to a fragrance.

Using Valerian for Wellness

Valerian works very simply; it acts as an effective natural sedative to relax the central nervous system within the brain. This makes it easier for the brain to deal with stress, and to work through problems without over loading the neurotransmitters within the brain. While the herb is a sedative is does not cause lowered inhibitions or focus like some other sedatives have been known to cause.

Valerian eases pain and promotes sleep. It is of notable benefit to those who suffer from irritated nerves. The best part, it produces none of the after-effects brought on by using narcotics or anxiolytic.

Valerian acts as a natural muscle relaxant and is very effective in reducing pain. In calming the nervous system it assists in easing aches and pains. This makes the use of valerian helpful for headaches and migraines, reducing menstrual cramps and muscle spasms, and relieving arthritis and other pains.

Owing to its muscle-relaxing properties, valerian root is also known to reduce digestive problems caused by stress by calming the muscles of the digestive tract. It is efficient in easing the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), flatulence, bloating, intestinal colic and other disorders caused by nervous tension.

One clinical trial (Ziegler et al. 2002) showed that during six weeks of treatment, Valerian extract showed a comparable effect on primary insomnia as oxazepam (a benzodiazepine).

Dose: For a headache, try 1 teaspoon of valerian tincture followed by 1/4 teaspoon every 30 minutes until symptoms subside. 3-9 grams/day of dried root as an infusion (1 teaspoon root in 8 ounces hot water, covered; take one to three cups/day); 2-5mL 3x/day of a 1:2 tincture*


  • GRAS
  • can cause stomach upset if used in large amounts
  • in about 5% of the population valerian acts as a stimulant (good to be aware of this if you haven’t used valerian before!)

*All doses come from the book Herbal Therapy and Supplements by David Winston and Merrily A. Kuhn.

“They that will have their heale,
Must put Setwall in their keale.”
~ Gerard 1597

Works Cited:

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