Thursday, April 10, 2008

Roots: Valerian

Common Name: Valerian
Botanical Name: Valeriana officinalis, V. sitchensis + 150 spp.
Plant Family: Valerianaceae
Major Plant Constituents: Isovaleric acid, valeric adic, valerine, chatinine alkaloids, volatile oil
Parts used: Roots

Historical Uses: Some Pacific NW tribes cooked and ate the leaves and roots - not very palatable reports Tilford. Pied Piper had these roots in his pocket to lead the rats off the island.

Uses: Mainly known as a safe sedative. It is also anti-spasmodic, carminative, and hypotensive. Useful for insomnia due to the mind racing about. Because it is also stimulates digestion, lungs, and cardio output, a thorough understanding of a person's systems should be known before using. (Michael Moore)

Contraindications/Cautions: Some people do react poorly to this herb, especially in high amounts. It's suggested to not use it daily for more than three weeks. The dry root tincture has more stimulus and accumulative effects.

Personal Experience: I use valerian for menstrual cramps, especially at night. This time around I tinctured some of the fresh root, and currently some is drying for a dry root tincture - just to explore the differences. I remember the first time I smelled valerian and had the typical reaction of "that is so gross." This time around I really loved it. It was earthy and pungent in a good way. Gail Faith Edwards suggests that those who don't like the smell probably should find another plant to work with.

I had read about animals being attracted to this plant and got a nice first hand experience of that this time around. I walked through our door with lots of bags in my hands and set them all down on the kitchen floor - including a brown bag of valerian roots. Almost immediately our cat, Alfalfa, was brushing up against the bag, though, I'll admit I didn't really pay attention. I just thought he was so happy to see me. (Yeah right.) After greeting my husband I turned around to see Alfie plunged head first into the bag. Quite adorable. The entire time I was making a tincture and preparing it for drying, Alfie was right there with me incredibly interested in all that I did. I've never seen him get that excited over catnip, but valerian, let me tell ya, was a big hit.

Works consulted:
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, Michael Moore
Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, Gail Faith Edwards
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory Tilford