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Herb of the week: Valerian.

Photo: Valeriana officinalis 6. A short-short profile:

Latin: various species of Valeriana.
Family: valerian family, Valerianaceae.
Parts used: The roots and the aboveground parts.
Taste: Aromatic. The smell ... that's indescribable.
4 humors: Warm, dry.


  • a nice relaxant, sleepytime herb
  • ... for most people. For some, it's a top-tier pick-me-upper instead.


  • "The" part to use is the root. I've also given fresh or dry leaf and/or flower (which will dry into fluff), as needed.
  • The aboveground parts are weaker than the root.
  • Fresh is weaker than dried.
  • If you're a hot person, leave the valerian to others. It's a hot herb.
  • If you're not sure if valerian would suit your particular insomnia, give the fresh leaf a shot. That way, if you get a hangover from valerian, it won't be as bad as a hangover from a whole bottle of bad vodka, or whiskey, or similar.
  • The flowers, while quite pretty, are a very bad idea to keep indoors in a vase. You'll get a headache from the stench.
  • Some cats love dried or drying valerian root. Be aware of that, and don't leave any doors or windows open when you dry it.
  • Cats love valerian (and catnip, and various catnippy mint family plants) because the scent of these plants is similar to kitty sex pheromones. They think they're getting it on ... if that's not false marketing, I don't know what it is.
  • The root is a piddling small thing of no consequence. Valerian is one of those plants which keep their real roots in the universe next door.
  • Valerian loves wet feet. And, if it doesn't grow in grass, you can "dig up" the root by tugging gently on the flowering stem. (Grass roots will hold on to valerian roots. Perhaps the grasses want their relaxation, too?)


  • I've given it in insomnia, but it's a very good idea to find (and do something about) the reason for the insomnia. If you don't, chances are, the problem pops up elsewhere ... for instance, as various extreme bursts of anger, crying, laughter or similar that'll leave your near and dear baffled: whatever did I do to warrant that?
  • It's extremely good for the times when you know you have to get up all too early in the morning. One person took valerian every other Tuesday night, in order to be asleep at 2000 hours, in order to get up at 0400 in the morning ...
  • Tincture, check. Tea, check. Capsules, why not. Chewing on a piece of dried leaf: works admirably. Chewing on a piece of fresh or dry root: works nicely.

Comments on Facebook:

  • Angela N:
    Good to know, although I thought of it as heart medicine.
    31 August 2012
  • Wellbeings:
    Many people find it helps them to deal with nervous tension and insomnia.
    30 August 2012
  • Kelly B:
    I love Valerian...for those nights when I know my mind won't stop talking and I need to get to sleep. It knocks me right out and I feel well rested the next morning.
    30 August 2012
  • The Philo School of Herbal Energetics
    I'm one of those rare ones allergic... I get really speedy.... AND can't grow it in my garden, it just leaves....
    1 September 2012 at 01:52
  • Henriette:
    All right! In my garden, it grows utterly uninhibited. Seeds EVERYwhere
    1 September 2012 at 10:35

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Jess:
    Date: 31 Aug 2012 10:31:07 -0700

    A hot herb indeed! I was given some during my first labor 7 years ago. To help me sleep. Well, it made my spine and head feel like they were going to explode off of my body. The energy went skyward not downward. Not so relaxing for someone with heat excitation. A wicked experience.

It's in my book "Practical Herbs 2.

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments.

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