Versatile Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis)

I  love valerian and as a result its one of my favourite herbs. In fact there is always a bottle of homemade tincture readily available in my cupboard.

Valerian’s pretty pink flowers bloom in July  and grow throughout Europe.

Furthermore Valerian is a member of the honeysuckle family. This family is well known for its shrubs and woody vines.

 

Folk Names Names for Valerian

Other names that valerian is known by includes;

  • All heal because of its many uses.
  • Capon’s valerian – A capon is a castrated male chicken. The spreading head of valerian’s flowers are said to look like a capon’s tail.
  • Cat’s valerian because cats have a strong attraction to the herb. It has a similar effect on them as the better known catnip. As a result cats’ love to roll around on valerian and rub themselves with it.
  • Fragrant valerian may be because of its sweet smelling flowers or the strong odour of its roots. The root smell repels many but I actually like it.
  • Phu or “phew!” because of ancient Greeks thinking the roots smell like dirty old socks.
  • Valere – maybe Valerian came from this Italian word because it means to be strong / healthy.

Valerian Root

Valerian is well known for its herbal support. Particularly with regards to easing anxiety and its sedative effects. I love valerian’s root and use it because of a meditation I was listening to. Consequently after listening to the meditation I followed its suggestion to make a decoction by;

  1. Placing a teaspoon of valerian root into a 500ml bottle of water.
  2. Leaving it to soak for 8-10 hours in the fridge overnight.
  3. Sipping it throughout the next day.

This works for me when I need help to keep calm during a bad day. I also drink it before night time to promote sleep.

This was a good option for me initially but now I have a better way of taking valerian in tincture form.

Homemade Valerian Tincture

Valerian tincture is readily available to buy but I prefer to make my own. I love making my own concoctions because I have a creative side. In fact valerian tincture is the most widely used preparation for valerian root

Its easy to alter the amount taken to suit different individuals using a tincture. To find out more about why this is important take a look at my “Herbal Preparation Dosages” post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/herbal-preparation-dosages-hsp-highly-sensitive-person/

I use vodka to make my tinctures but other spirits can be used. The vodka I use is 40% alcohol. If you can’t or don’t want to use alcohol another alternative is glycerine.

How I Make My Valerian Tincture

  1. Weigh 15g / 1/2oz dried root using electronic scales for accuracy.
  2. Finely cut the dried root and place it in a Pyrex jug.
  3. Add 200ml of vodka (or glycerine).
  4. Stir and pour the mixture into a glass bottle or jar with an airtight lid.
  5. Shake the bottle
  6. Label the bottle with the name “valerian tincture”and date of preparation.
  7. Store in a cupboard away from direct sunlight.
  8. Shake the mixture daily.
  9. After 4 weeks strain away the root using a conical funnel and cheesecloth. Most noteworthy its important not to leave it any longer.
  10. Throw away the root.
  11. Pour the strained tincture back into a clean bottle.
  12. Label the new bottle with “valerian tincture”, the date of straining, dosages, ingredients and uses.

I use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the tincture in water, or a cup of tea, depending on requirements. Using up to 3 times per day if necessary.

Measuring the ingredients is even easier using a set of aluminium cups. I put a 1/4 cup of valerian root into a jar and add 2 cups of alcohol. I love how easy it is to use cups. Try some for yourself and this link shows the ones I use;

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/710-53481-19255-0/1?icep_id=114&ipn=icep&toolid=20004&campid=5338456669&mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fitm%2FUtensil-Set-Stainless-Steel-Measuring-Cups-Scales-Flour-Scoop-Measuring-Spoons%2F283261374686%3FssPageName%3DSTRK%253AMEBIDX%253AIT%26var%3D583986998305%26_trksid%3Dp2057872.m2749.l2649

I buy my valerian root from Buy Wholefoods Online Ltd and I’m very happy with its quality and price.

 

My personal experience with valerian tincture

Personally I find the tincture very useful in the following situations;

  • Keeping me calm on particularly trying days.
  • Helping to ease pounding headaches.
  • Easing extremely bad stomach pains. My pains happen regularly because they are due to my digestion issues. Its very important to go see a doctor if you don’t understand why you have excruciating pains of any kind.
  • Helping me to sleep when I struggle to drop off.

Sleep meditations and/or chamomile tea are my first ports of call when I can’t sleep. As a result of not sleeping for a few days I start to struggle to function. When this happens I reach for the valerian tincture. I add 1/2 – I  teaspoonful of tincture to a cup of tea and this works well for me.

Its important to note how quickly the valerian tincture works and I make sure I’m off to bed straight after taking it.

For a double whammy I add the tincture to my chamomile tea. The valerian tends to give me at least five or six solid hours sleep without interruption.

To find out more about chamomile tea take a look at my “Drinking Chamomile under the Wolf Red Blood Moon” post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/?s=DRINKING+CHAMOMILE+UNDER+THE+BLOOD+RED+MOON

 

Uses

Valerian has so many possible uses showing why its also known as “all heal”. Some ways that it may ease or support the body are with regards to;

  • Anxiety and nervous tension
  • Bronchial spasms
  • Epilepsy symptoms
  • Excitability, restlessness and irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypochondria
  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual pain
  • Menopausal restlessness
  • Mental confusion
  • Muscle and intestinal cramp
  • Pain Relief
  • Palpitations
  • Skin Problems
  • Smokers cough
  • Tension headache and migraine
  • Upper respiratory problems

 

CAUTIONS

Anxiety UK shows these cautions before considering taking valerian;

  • Valerian enhances the action of sleep-enhancing drugs. Therefore it should not be taken at the same time as sleeping pills or tranquillisers. Valerian can be combined with other herbs and these include chamomile, Melissa and passionflower.
  • Do not take if pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Valerian should not be taken before driving or any other situation where you need to be alert.
  • Valerian is not suitable for children

https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/anxiety-information/guide-to-herbal-medicine/

Also;

  • Don’t use for severe depressive states.
  • Large doses may cause dizziness and mental confusion..
Interesting points
  • Valium in NOT related to valarian.
  • It lacks the side effects of some sedative drugs and these include barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
  • No dependence or withdrawal symptoms reported.

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. In fact I believe its best to try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them. There are some medications that valerian may interfere with.

Valerian and Gardening

Valerian good for the garden because it attracts more earthworms to the soil. Equally important it increases phosphorus in the soil and this is an essential macro-element for plant nutrition.

You can plant valerian in large and deep pots. Placing them where they thrive in sun and partial shade in the afternoon is important. Its easy to harvest the roots from the pot and then replanting them they grow well.

Equally important is to keep in mind is that valerian may grow up to five feet tall. Keep this in mind when deciding where to plant them.

Please remember that if you see valerian while foraging that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowners permission.

Furthermore valerian can attract rats as well as cats. In fact some wonder if the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s flute had nothing to do with the rats following him. Maybe there was valerian in his pocket!

 

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Magical Valarian

Magically the herb’s uses include;

  • Love spells
  • Purification
  • Reuniting fighting couples
  • Sleep – Harry Potter fans may remember mention of soporific qualities in the stories. Due to these properties it was given in teas to encourage sleep.

 

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