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Valerian – An ancient sedative herbs

valerian - valerijana


Valerian is a plant native to Europe that grows up to 2 meters high. It is grown as a medicinal plant, for decorating gardens, but also grows wild on moist lawns. The flat, hollow stem at the tips carries floral rosettes like umbrellas, with fragrant white, light purple or pink flowers, which bloom in June. The root is light gray-brown in color, with a distinctive odor.

Plant has been used as a sedative for more than 2000 years. The ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen described its soothing properties and used it to treat insomnia and as sedative. It is still used today in modern herbal medicine to treat the same disorders.

Latin: Valeriana officinalis L., Valerianaceae

This plant grows in Europe, North Asia and America. It grows well on moist but also on dry soil. In the spring, each plant forms one hollow tree. The leaves are arranged in pairs and consist of six to ten petals. It begins to bloom in mid-summer. The flowers are white, light purple or pink, with a pleasant scent. The root is light gray-brown in color, with an unusual, recognizable odor, which attracts cats so they often rub their nose against a fresh plant or root. Hence the plant got its name.

Historical and traditional application

Valerian is a medicinal plant whose soothing properties have been described continuously throughout the 2000s. For medicinal purposes, the root of the plant is mainly used, whose strong smell makes it easily recognizable. In ancient Greece, it has been used since the time of Hippocrates to treat several different diseases. Dioscorides, a Greek physician, author of De Materia Medica, used plant to treat diseased liver, urinary and digestive tract.

Arabic medicines also prescribed it to their patients. In addition, it was used as a spice and as a raw material for the production of fragrances. In the Middle Ages, the name for valerian was “Nard”. In older documents, preparations of plant root are called “Amantilla”. The origin of the name valerian is not completely known. It first appears in old texts in the tenth century and it is generally believed that the name is a derivative of the Latin word “valere” which means to be strong and healthy. In the medieval folklore tradition of certain peoples, it was used as part of magical potions that largely based their effect on a calming effect.

Today, it is official in the pharmacopoeias of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Russia, Switzerland, as well as in the European Pharmacopoeia, and serves as a sedative and treatment for sleep disorders.


What does valerian contain and how does it work?

Valerian contains valtrate, dydrovaltrate and isovaltrate, valeric acid, beta-sitosterol, sesquiterpenes and ursolic acid. Although it has been used as a sedative and to treat insomnia for over 2000 years, the ingredients responsible for this action as well as the way they work are still unknown.

Medicinal activity:

Valerian acts as a natural anxiolytic and sedative, so it is suitable for relieving anxiety, a condition manifested by feelings of anxiety, fear, until the onset of panic, with psychomotor tension and internal restlessness. Anxiety is most often unmotivated and not related to an object or person. It is in this case a milder natural alternative to benzodiazepines. In cases of sleep disorders, as well as anxiety caused by nervous diseases, valerian has been shown to be effective and is recognized as a medicine by the World Health Organization, the German Commission E, as well as the European Scientific Cooperative for Phytotherapy (ESCOP).

What part of the plant is applied?

Only fresh plant root is used, which is carefully dried at a temperature below 40 C.

What do modern scientific research say about the effectiveness of valerian?

  • Insomnia is considered to be one of the biggest health problems.
  • Latest research has shown that valerian could be used effectively to treat insomnia with fewer side effects than conventional medications.
  • Laboratory tests have shown that it shows a strong anxiolytic effect.
  • Clinical study of the efficacy of the combined liquid extract and hops given in a single dose, showed that this application leads to an increase in sleep time as well as time spent in deep sleep.
  • Systematic review of previously published studies on the effectiveness preparations in the treatment of insomnia has shown that valerian preparations can improve sleep quality without leading to side effects.
  • Laboratory studies of the effects of preparations have shown that they show a significantly higher anxiolytic and antidepressant effect, and a significantly lower sedative and muscle relaxation effect. It is believed that these properties contribute to the improvement of sleep disorders.
  • Examination of the efficacy and tolerability of the combined extract and lemon balm in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders in children under 12 years of age showed that in the case of both of these disorders there is a significant improvement.

How is it dosed?

Root tea: Boil 2 to 3 grams of tea in 2 dl of water. To calm down and in case of anxiety, drink tea prepared in this way 2 to 3 times a day. To treat insomnia drink 2 dl of tea two hours before bedtime.
Capsules (300 mg of extract from 3.0 grams of valerian root): For the treatment of anxiety and for calming 3 x 1 capsules daily. For the treatment of insomnia 1 capsule in the evening two hours before bedtime.

Tincture: For the treatment of anxiety and for calming 3 x 60 drops a day. For the treatment of insomnia 60 drops of tincture in the evening two hours before bedtime.

Is valerian harmful?

It belongs to the group of harmless medicinal plants. There are no known contraindications or side effects.

Are there any interactions with any medications?

Interactions of valerian preparations with drugs have not been proven.

In what dosage forms is it used?

Valerian is applied in the form of tea from the roots, tablets or capsules containing valerian root extract, tinctures, baths for external use.

Can valerian be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women?

There are no restrictions on the use of valerian preparations during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Image by WikimediaImages, noraderpilz from Pixabay


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