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Valeriana officinalis Family: Valerianaceae (valerian) Other common names: Tobacco Root, Capon's Tail, Setwall, Garden Heliotrope, Common Valerian, All-heal, Vandal Root

Need a good night's sleep? Often called nature's tranquilizer, Valerian is said to induce a sound sleep, calm the nerves, ease pain and relax nervous tension and anxiety. The herb has also been used to help with hyperactivity and behavioral problems.

Valerian is a hardy, herbaceous perennial, native to Europe and northern Asia, that reaches a height of two to five feet. Used as a medicinal herb since pre-Christian times, its name is derived from the Latin, valere, which means "to be strong" or "to be in good health."  In the fourth century B.C., Hippocrates recommended it as a sedative and anti-convulsive, and Galen, the Greek physician gave the plant its original name, Valerian phu, which could be the origin of our expression for an undesirable scent, because Valerian Root has a strong aroma that has been compared with dirty socks, rotten chees, and stale perspiration when dried and old leather when fresh. The odor of this plant comes from isovaleric acid, the main active constituent in its roots. Valerian Root was cited in virtually every pharmacopoeia in the world.  As a traditional medicine, the root was used by Nordic, Persian, Chinese and Indian herbalists, and it became very popular in the tenth century, when it was recommended by Arab physicians. It appeared in Anglo Saxon herbals to help recovery from shock, ward off plague and to treat epilepsy. Canadian Indian warriors carried the root in their medicine bags as a wound antiseptic, and it even appears that cats instinctively eat the plant when injured. It is further claimed that rats, earthworms and vermin are attracted to its odor, and that the Pied Piper of Hamelin carried Valerian Root to lure rats - his music merely being a decoy. In Europe, Valerian has also been used as a condiment and an addition to soups and ste
ws. During the First and Second World Wars, Valerian was considered an effective treatment for treating shell shock and loss of memory due to prolonged psychological strain.  Although Valerian was replaced as a reliable sedative in the United States after the Second World War when synthetic drugs were developed, in Europe it still remains the most popular non-prescription anxiety and sedative remedy. The primary chemicals in Valerian, valepotriates, regulate the nervous system, and they actually develop within Valerian extracts after processing begins. Other constituents include volatile oils, beta-carotene, tannin, choline, vitamin C, B-vitamins, alkaloids, quercetin, choline, essential fatty acids, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc and a high proportion of calcium (which is needed by the body for healthy nerve function).

Beneficial Uses:

Valerian Root is Nature's Tranquilizer. For centuries it has been used to regulate the nervous system and relieve tension, irritability, nervous exhaustion and stress, anxiety and hysteria.

As a sedative, Valerian Root is said to relieve insomnia, helping to provide a sound sleep without the morning-after grogginess frequently associated with prescription drugs (such as Valium, etc.).  It also does not lead to dependence or addiction when used.

Valerian is considered an anodyne that relieves pain and reduces sensitivity of the nerves. The herb is thought to help recovery from shock and sudden emotional distress, and relieve the harsh effects of rehabilitation for many addicts. Valerian is also an old-time nervine and remedy for St. Vitus Dance, vertigo, fainting, epilepsy and convulsions.

Recent research has demonstrated that Valerian has contributed to the treatment of (and has helped) children with "psychomotor agitation and non-adaptation disorders,"  i.e., hyperactivity and behavioral problems. The treatments appeared to enhance motor co-ordination, calmed their anxieties and diminished restlessness and aggression.

Valerian Root has been known to strengthen the heart and may sometimes reduce high blood pressure, particularly when anxiety is a factor. Some lab studies claim that its use helps to stabilize heart rhythm and helps treat palpitations.

As an antispasmodic, Valerian Root helps to alleviate muscle, intestinal and menstrual cramps.

Considered an analgesic, Valerian's pain relieving qualities are thought to be especially beneficial to athletes or anyone engaged in aerobics, weight training or strenuous exercise as a preventative and recovery treatment for aches and pains. It is also said to ease the pain of headaches.

Valerian has been used since ancient times as an expectorant, reducing mucus from colds, and it is also said to alleviate throat tickling and nervous coughs.

Because of its relaxant properties, Valerian has been thought to benefit those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and other problems of the intestines and stomach. Valerian appears to increase peristalsis in the intestines (contraction and relaxing of muscles), which moves things along more easily.  The herb is also thought to prevent fermentation in the stomach and decrease gas and intestinal colic.

Used externally, Valerian is an antibacterial and makes a fine facial wash.  It also encourages the healing of acne, skin rashes, wounds and ulcers.  In baths, it is soothing and relaxing and relieves muscle cramps.

*** Proved itself beneficial in research in one or more strictly conducted scientific trials that involved people (not animals or petri dish cultures) Insomnia.

**Provided it’s self beneficial in research that involved people, endorsed by
Germany’s Commission E for Therapeutic use, Anxiety, Nervousness, Nervous Tension, Restlessness, Stress.

*Provided it self beneficial in research that did not involve people, the study could have been done in a test tube, petri dish or animals for Therapeutic use, Acne, Depression, Epilepsy, Exhaustion, Fatigue.

Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, should not be combined with alcohol or with other sleep-inducing medications. 

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Disclaimer: The information presented herein by Organic Herbs Medicine Cabinet is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.