Nature’s tranquilliser, Valerian calms the nerves without the side-effects of comparable orthodox drugs. It has a rather unpleasant smell and was called ‘phu’ by the Greek physician Galen. Hippocrates noted that Valerian had sedative and anti-anxiety properties and he often used it to treat ‘women’s diseases’. 
By the 18th century Valerian was widely used as a sedative and to treat nervous disorders.  It was also commonly used to treat ‘vapors’ in women, headaches, anxiety, palpitations, high blood pressure, irritable or spastic bowel, menstrual cramps, epilepsy, and childhoos behavioural and learning problems. 
During World War I and II, Valerian was employed to treat and prevent shell shock in frontline soldiers, and to calm those who were exposed to air raids.
This is a well researched herb, finding that the constituent valepotriate in the extract seems to depress the nervous system. It was found the fresh plant is more sedating.

Botanical Name: Valeriana officinalis

Common name: Valerian

Family: Valerianaceae

Parts Used: Rhizome and root

Active Constituents: 

  • Iridoid glycosides called valepotriates (0.5-2%) – sedative-
  • Alkaloids
  • Volatile oil -sedative
  • Valeric acid and derivatives – sedative
  • Amino acids (including choline)
  • Lignans


Bitter, pungent, cooling, drying & sweet


A ‘well controlled person’ – tightly controlled. Cool at all times. May have one word answers. “Mind over matter”. Won’t give much away. Passionate but may not show it.

These people may be afraid to sleep. 

There is muscular contraction & tension. Fears that are held in — manifest as tension. Gritting teeth. May have fluctuating blood pressure & enlarged spleen.


  • Anxiolytic / GABAminergic
  • Sedative
  • Hypnotic
  • Spasmolytic (smooth & skeletal)
  • Anodyne / Analgesic
  • Carminative
  • Hypotensive / blood vessel relaxant
  • Nervine
  • Improves sleep latency (i.e. time taken until falling asleep) and sleep quality

“…for such as be troubled with the crampe and other convulsions, and for all those that are bruised with falles” – John Gerard, 1597



  • Conditions presenting nervous excitability (specific)
  • Insomnia & disturbed sleep – it has been found that Valerian, either on its own or in combination with Hops, was associated with improvements in sleep latency and sleep quality.  It appears to improve the quality of sleep, reduce the time it takes to get to sleep and not cause drowsiness upon awakening.
  • Restlessness
  • Nervous tension
  • Anxiety / hysteria
  • Stress
  • Migraine / headache
  • Epilepsy
  • Pain reliever

– withdrawn from benzodiazepines

GIT / visceral:
  • Nervous digestive problems
  • IBS
  • Digestive and menstrual spasms
  • Intestinal colic and flatulence


  • Rheumatic / joint / muscle pain
  • Skeletal muscle tension


  • High blood pressure
  • Nervous heart problems


  • Contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation and children under 12 years
  • Kidney disorders (Bone)


  • High doses may lead to morning drowsiness
  • Some individuals experience a stimulating effect (10%?)
  • Traditionally sedatives were avoided during depression and insomnia with restlessness during the early hours of the morning

Ody warns to not use more than 2-3 weeks without a break – continual use or high doses may lead to headaches & palpitations


CNS depressants or alcohol Additive effect with benzo’s


Liquid Extract
2-6ml 1:2 / day or 15-40ml 1:2 / week – Valeriana off.
1.5ml 1:2 / day or 10-30ml 1:2 / week -Valeriana edulis
Dried Herb Equivalent
3 – 9g / day dried root or rhizome (decoction / infusion) – Valeriana off.


  • Insomnia – hops, scullcap, passionflower, kava, California poppy
  • Pain – Kava, salix, Jamaican dogwood
  • Anxiety – hypericum, kava


  1. Valarian is probably best known as a soporific and prescribed to treat insomnia
  2. Approximately 1 in 10 people will find valerian to be stimulating rather than relaxing
  3. High doses may lead to a feeling of grogginess and a ‘hangover effect’ in the morning
  4. A specific for anxiety with depression
  5. May be combined with hypericum in anxiety and depression
  6. Is a spasmolytic used also for cramps and colic

References & Links to Articles:

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