valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial herb native to europe and asia (and has been naturalized in the united states) which has been used medicinally since at least as early as ancient rome, possibly earlier. through antiquity, dried valerian root has been used to treat insomnia, heart palpitations and gastrointestinal upset, and is still used today. that probably means it works, right?
today valerian is used to treat the following conditions:
INSOMNIA– valerian is best known as a sleep aid. one study found that 160mg of valerian and 80mg of lemon balm extracts worked as well as a standard dose of benzodiazepines in inducing sleep
ANXIETY – due to its sedative properties
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – valerenic acid inhibits an enzyme that breaks down GABA. higher levels of GABA help to lower blood pressure. valerian also contains some anti-arrhythmic compounds, which is why it has historically been used to treat heart issues. in ancient rome valerian was used to treat arrhythmias and heart palpitations. it has also been shown to increase blood flow to the heart and improve the heart’s pumping abilities.
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL – italian studies have suggested that valerian can aid in the relief of smooth muscle (intestinal) spasms
pour 1 cup of boiling water ofver 2 teaspoons of dried valerian root. drink 2-3 cups per day if you’re after the medicinal properties. there’s not much other reason to drink it, as the tea is very pungent. the smell has been compared to dirty gym socks, wet dog, “well-matured” cheese, etc. if you can’t stomach the smell, valerian is also available in tincture and capsule form. drinking the tea before bedtime has been known to help with insomnia and promote sleepiness.
i’m in the process of planting a medicinal herb garden, and valerian was one of the first i planted. i procured my seeds from johnny’s, but valerian seeds are pretty widely available. many of the companies i offered in my last post sell them. i’m not sure if valerian was a good or bad choice for my first medicinal, since you cant harvest the root until the second year. either way, i’m excited about it.
the green pharmacy, by james a duke, ph.d.