Medicinal Herb Post #26 written July 3, 2018
Valerian – Valeriana officinalis
Europeans brought this long time used perennial with them across the great waters. Valerian grows wild in our mountains and has the loveliest smelling flowers. It is considered one of the safest and most effective nervines to help with stress, insomnia, headaches, anxiety and muscle pain. It’s easy to grow, but does prefer partial shade and rich moist soil. It will self sow easily if it’s left to go to seed. The medicine is found within the root, which has a strong scent after it has dried. Some people find it appealing and may indicate they would benefit from it. It smells bad to other people, like repulsive stinky feet… which could be an indication that they don’t necessarily need to use it or that it could have an opposite effect on them. The fresh root smells better than the dry root. I recently learned from an herbalist in NM that the fresh root is better to tincture because it doesn’t contain the isovaleric acid, the chemical that makes it smell like stinky feet. This is also really good for those who may need to take valerian for an extended period of time because the isovaleric acid can cause depression if used for a while. Another reason to grow it.
It works to depress the central nervous system relaxing nerves and smooth muscles in the body that would contribute to pain relief. It also contains 2 compounds, valerenic acid and valerenal that have been found to help induce sleep and raise gamma neurotransmitter levels. Studies aren’t clear as to why it works in the body, but that it does and is even effective when used long-term and for acute problems. It has been used with hawthorn berry and lemon balm to calm anxiety and even high blood pressure.
I make a tincture with Valerian root, Hops flowers, Lavender, Chamomile and Lemon Balm that is very effective for going to sleep when one is tired and can’t quiet the mind. It’s also effective for getting back to sleep after waking in the night. It has no ill sides effects, like waking up groggy in the morning or having to become dependent on it.
When using equal parts, Valerian, Skullcap, California poppies and Chamomile it is a fabulous pain reliever. Add Lemon Balm to the mix for headaches.
For deep spasmodic coughs try using 1 part licorice root, 1 part valerian root, 1/4 part cinnamon bark and 1/4 part ginger root. Drink as a tea.
It is best to start with a low dose and work your way up as needed. If you take too much you might experience a heaviness in your body. Back off the amount again and start lower. If one needed to use the dry root tincture long term it is best to take a break after 2 weeks and then start again.