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Valerian is a plant native to Europe (including Britain) and parts of Northern Asia, which is used medicinally and magically (if you are so inclined). There are two species of this plant native to the UK but the genus comprises over 150 species. It is used primarily in the UK as a natural sleep aid and muscle relaxant. When utilised for medical purposes, the valerian used is usually the root stock of "Valerian Officinalis", an inconspicuous little plant with delicate frond-like leaves and a pink/purple flower. The root of the plant also honks... badly. There is no mistaking the smell of valerian root. More about that later...
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Valerian is a central nervous system relaxant and is prized as a remedy for short term insomnia. Unlike the effects of Benzodiazepines (valium, temazepam, lorazepam etc), this herb is not addictive nor are there any nasty side effects of note to worry about. Such is the efficiency of valerian, it has been used as a sleep aid for over a thousand years. When taken, valerian does not have the "hang over" effect that other sleep aids give you neither is it contraindicated with alcohol. Herbalist John Gerard stated in his writings that valerian was "held in such esteem as a medicine among the poorer classes in the northern counties and the south of Scotland, that 'no broth or pottage or physicall meats be worth anything if Setewale (the old name for Valerian) be not there." I love old English....
Valerian has a wide range of uses in the home, the main one being for insomnia. It is also a very effective stress reducer and many people with anxious depression and nervous disorders find it useful.
Valerian also has some very physical benefits when used with conditions such as sciatica, multiple sclerosis and neuropathy where it aids the numbness, tingling and pain associated with such conditions.
I have found it very helpful for the pain that I experience in my back and pelvis and also for the nerve pain that I suffer from as part of my M.E.
Valerian seems to have a part to play in assisting with migraines, rheumatism and behavioural issues. It also affects the stomach and can be taken as a digestive aid, being helpful for cramps and digestive issues. As a general relaxant it is easy to see how it would help these issues and I have found it to be effective and non invasive in terms of feeling hungover the next day.
This plant was held in such high esteem in medieval times that it was known as "All Heal" and some products bear this name today. For a plant that effectively allays pain and promotes sleep, I am amazed that a drug company or Government has not tried to ban it...
Valerian is also known as all-heal, set-well, English valerian, Belgian valerian, common valerian, German valerian, wild valerian, heliotrope, garden heliotrope, fragrant valerian, vandal root, phu (Galen), amantilla, and capon's tail.
Magical Uses and folklore:
Valerian is used ritually in water magic and rituals that are focused upon mercurial energy. It is also a traditional constituent of dream magic, love and harmony spells and for focus upon a wish or need. Valerian is used freshly cut in a pouch for dream magic and also for sleep protection. It can be burnt as an incense with charcoal blocks in a burner for harmony and protection of the home and family. Just a warning though, from one who has burnt it as incense, even when mixed with a nice resin like copal it still honks....
Valerian is contraindicated in pregnancy and technically breast feeding women, however I was given the go ahead to breastfeed and use Valerian. The herb should be used when needed but on a reasonably irregular basis, not because it is physically addictive but because it could become a prop which disguises the real issues behind sleeplessness or muscular pain etc. It is advised that you seek medical advice for any new conditions that you have just to check that it is not something that needs medical help.
For sporadic use as a sleep aid or muscle relaxant though, valerian is fine to use and safe.
EFFECTS ON ANIMALS:
Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? The roly poly intoxication is well known amongst cat lovers. Valerian has a similar effect on the nervous system of many animals, especially cats, and it is very hard to grow valerian in your garden if you have cats as I learned to my cost. I tried many ways to keep them off of my plants to no avail so I gave up and I now buy it. Valerian is fragile and does not like being jumped on and chewed by over-enthusiastic felines. Interestingly it is also very appealing to rats and folklore suggests that the Pied Piper of Hamelin secreted valerian about his person to lure rats to him. Luckily it does not seem to have this affect on humans, can you imagine the chaos down the pub if it did? Think the Lynx effect x 10.
Dosages vary according to the type of product that you use, so follow the instructions. If you buy the root dried and entire then I use a teaspoon of dried herb matter in boiling water as a tea which I steep for 5 minutes before straining and drinking. I try to disguise the taste as it is quite horrible. The dose can be altered and overdose is very unlikely, so it is advised that you try it out and find the right amount for your needs. Very high doses of valerian are not dangerous but it can give you a headache and make you feel groggy.
I have used Valerian for many years, in raw tea form, tinctures and in capsules. This is a herbal medicine that once smelled is never forgotten. To say that the herb smells of rotten socks is being complimentary, it really is that disgusting. Therefore I have become adept at disguising the smell. The taste luckily is not as offensive as the aroma and can usually be hidden by using either alcohol in a tincture (I use brandy) or in a tea with lemon juice and honey.
I use valerian for times when I cannot sleep and also as a muscle relaxant which works very well. This is a herb that has been used for centuries and there has been a lot of research conducted into the effects, safety and properties of this plant.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Valerian is available to buy in capsules and tea form from health stores such a Holland & Barrett and from herbal suppliers. The root can be purchased in a dried form and taken as a tea or you can buy empty capsules to self fill and administer. There are also tinctures of valerian available which are made with alcohol. It is difficult to name a price here as it varies so much but as a rough guide:
Valerian capsules start at around £4.50 for 500mg x 30 caps.
A tincture is a good way to take this if you don't like swallowing pills but the cheapest way to take valerian is to buy the dried root and drink it in tea form. 250g of root powder is available on Amazon for £8.50. Tinctures start at around £8 for 100ml.
This amazing and versatile plant has been the focus of both medicinal remedies and folklore for a long time. From Chaucer to The pied piper, valerian root features and it is steeped in history. It is especially interesting to read the old botanical herbals to read what it was used for. It has plenty of modern day uses and is safe and effective. I have found it to be easy to take (once I get past the taste) and very effective for what I use it for. I have experienced no ill effects and consider it to be an important home remedy.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant which grows up to 1.5 m high. It has pinnate shiny oval leaves and small white or pink flowers in branching clusters during the summer. It grows best in damp very fertile ground with a little shade. I bought a packet Valerian seed with the plan to grow it for planting partly under the trees near my pond, but the seed proved very difficult to germinate. I haven't found it as a young plant for sale in my area, but it's on my list of plants that I look out for and I'm hoping for the pale pink flowered variety.
Valerian has a long history of use in treating tension, nervous anxiety, emotional distress, insomnia, headaches and colic. It was used in the First and Second world wars to treat shell shock. The antispasmodic properties in Valerian help relax tense muscles and I use it for this reason as I suffer at times from back pain. I buy 1500g tablets. It can be also found in capsule form, as a tea and an essential oil. The fresh roots of Valerian are said to smell like ancient leather, however the dried root smells rather like old socks or stale sweat. Usually after taking a tablet I will wash my hands as just holding a tablet for a few moments leaves an unpleasant aroma.
I tend to take Valerian in the evening because of its sedative properties and also my back pain has often got worse during the day. I find it really helps ease the painful muscles so much so that by the time I go to bed I can curl up and sleep comfortably. A bottle of Valerian stays in our medicinal cupboard for use in relieving any kind of muscle tension or cramps, menstrual pain, headaches, nervous stress and sleepless nights.
As a remedy for insomnia Valerian is a natural and gentle option, it is non-addictive and doesn't give you a 'groggy' feeling. My daughter took 250g Valerian capsules to calm her nerves when she approached her driving test. She felt Valerian took the edge off her anxiety and helped her to stay focused.
Valerian is often one of the ingredients in natural calm tablets, but can be bought in pure form from places like Holland & Barrett, Nature's Best, Amazon and Boots.
Not for use for young children and is to be kept in a cool, dry place.
Thanks for reading :)
© Lunaria 2012
Valerian root (valerina fauriei) can be purchased as a powder for tea, in tablet form, or as an esssential oil. It is well known for its soporific qualities but it actually has more uses than this. SYNONYMS: Also known as valerian officinalis, European valerian, Belgian valerian, garden valerian and fragrant valerian. WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? This a perennial herb which grows up to 1.5 metres high and has a hollow stem. The leaves are dark green and the flowers a deep purple. The roots are short, thick and greyish in colour and mostly grow above the ground. The plant has a very strong odour. WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? Valerian is a native plant of Europe and parts of Asia. It is also grow in USA and has been cultivated in Belgium for oil production. FOLK TRADITION: Since Medieval times this herb has been hailed as a general 'cure all'. It has been used in western folk medicine as a cure for nervous tension or restlessness, such as insomnia, migraine, period pains, colic, rheumatism and for pain relief. It has also been used for cholera, epilepsy and skin complaints. In Chinese medicine it is used for backache, colds, menstrual problems, bruises and sores. The root is currently in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific for conditions caused by 'nervous excitability.' ACTIONS: Antidandruff (as an infusion or in oil form) diuretic, antispasmodic, depressant for central nervous system, hypnotic (use with care) sedative. THE OIL: Brown in colour with a balsamic, musky odour. This oil blends well with mandarin and cedarwood. SAFETY: Non toxic, non-irritant but possibly causes sensitization of the skin in some people. Use inmoderation because of the hypnotic effects and the depression of the central nervous system. USES: Insomnia, <
br>nervous indigestion, migraine, restlessness, tension. VERDICT: I didn't find this herb effective as a sedative. It didn't help with my insomnia. I also found the aroma quite sickly and heavy and it gave me a headache, rather than helping to cure one. The tablet for of this herb caused sickness and stomach cramps as would be expected from mild poisoning. I would advise caution if you are thinking of trying valerian. It had a bad effect on me. However, I have heard many good reports of its effectiveness in treating insomnia. Different people seem to react in different ways to this herb. If you are going to try it take a low dose at first, incase you get a bad reaction.
Valerian was the very first herb I ever tried. I indirectly owe the FDA for this. The US. FDA. (Food and Drug Administration). This fed. govt. agency banned Tryptophan because a contaminated batch caused several dozen people to pass away from a severe muscle disorder. Okay I don't remember the exact number. The important point to be was that the amino acid was banned. I think this was terribly unfair. While I do feel sorry for the families of those affected, even the US Center for Disease Control said it was the contaminant in that one batch and not the substance itself. Call me paranoid but Tryptophan which raises serotonin levels naturally just happened to be banned just when Prozac (Fluoxetine) was coming on the market from EI Lilly. Hmmm elininate the competion. Getting back to Valerian. I'm not certainif Valerian is the base for Valium or not. Some herb books says it is and some not. It really does help you sleep. It helps treat hypertenion (high blood pressure) It is very calming. Some precautions. Not for pregnant, nursing women. Any herb can be quite dangerous for children under the age of two. Valerian is cheap, easy to obtain in a health food store. I stronly recommend capsules. The one drawback and I think it's major is that it smells like dirty sweat socks. That's why I am recommending capsules. Overall rather effective for its purposes, generally safe to use. Overdose can cause diarrhea, nausa and vomiting. Rated relatively safe for persons not allergic to it. Some precautions. Don't take tranquilizers unless you get the okay from your doctor. Be careful driving a car or operating complex machinery or any activity where alertness is of utmost importance.
I have been an insomniac for about 5 years;there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep for hours and lying awake thinking about things and becoming irritable and frustrated. I had tried things like Nytol,which worked for a couple of nights then it'd be back to the same tossing and turning in bed.I even was prescribed valium by the doctor,but this was too addictive and dangerous in the long-term.I no longer fancied a benzodiazepene hangover... I stumbled across Valerian preparations in various alternative books and magazines,about it being a good treatment for insomnia,relaxation and sedation.I also read that it relaxed you enough to get you off to sleep without leaving you feeling drowsy and sluggish the next day.I also liked the way it said it was safe enough to use day after day,and left you feeling refreshed in the morning.I thought I may as well give it a go... I bought a bottle of 30 valerian one-a-day capsules,taken 30mins before going to bed with food.It said to have 600mg of concentrated "standardised" (meaning a governed amount) valerian extract.I took one just before going to bed with a glass of milk and awaited the result. When going to bed,I felt relaxed,calm and comfortable without a worry on my mind.i perhaps had the best sleep I've had in years.That was two years ago and I haven't looked back since.I can now see why it's given the name "all-heal."I thoroughly recommend this for anyone who's had to face the misery of insomnia...
Primarily for insomnia, Valerian works like a sedative helping you to relax, and to sleep deeply and restfully, reducing night awakenings as well as increasing dream recall the next day. It is also sometimes used for relief from anxiety and stress. It has