Latin name: Valeriana officinalis
Family: Valerianaceae (Valerian Family)
Medicinal use of Valerian:Valerian is a well-known and frequently used medicinal herb that has a long and proven history of efficacy. It is noted especially for its effect as a tranquilliser and nervine, particularly for those people suffering from nervous overstrain. Valerian has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries. The root is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The active ingredients are called valepotriates, research has confirmed that these have a calming effect on agitated people, but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue. The roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in the autumn once the leaves have died down and are used fresh or dried. The fresh root is about 3 times as effective as roots dried at 40°C, whilst temperatures above 82°C destroy the active principle in the root. Use with caution, see the notes above on toxicity.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Grassland, scrub, woods etc, on dry or damp soils. Avoids acid soils.
Edible parts of Valerian:Seed. No further details are given but the seeds of other members of this genus are parched and then eaten. An essential oil from the leaves and root is used as a flavouring in ice cream, baked goods, condiments etc. It is especially important in apple flavours. The leaves can also be used as a condiment. The plant is used in moderation as a herbal tea.
Other uses of the herb:The plant yields about 1% of an essential oil from the roots. It is used in perfumery to provide a "mossy" aroma, though the scent is considered to be disagreeable by many people. The dried roots are also placed in linen cupboards and clothes drawers in order to scent the clothes. The dried root attracts rats and cats, it can be used as a bait to lure them away from other areas. An ingredient of "QR" herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. The plant can also be used to make a very good liquid plant feed. It attracts earthworms. The leaves are very rich in phosphorus.
Propagation of Valerian:Seed - sow spring in a cold frame and only just cover the seed because it requires light for germination. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out into their permanent positions in the summer if sufficient growth has been made. If the plants are too small to plant out, grow them on in the greenhouse or frame for their first winter and plant them out early in the following summer. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.
Cultivation of the herb:Grassland, scrub, woods etc, on dry or damp soils. Avoids acid soils.
Known hazards of Valeriana officinalis:It is said that prolonged medicinal use of this plant can lead to addiction. A course of treatment should not exceed 3 months.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.