Valerian, winterizing in the garden.
How to grow
The seed of Valerian are slow to germinate. Sow them in spring under glass and plant out in summer to 60cm apart. Harvest the roots at the end of the second season then dry the rhizomes.
This herb is native to marshy soil. It likes a sunny, damp but well drained place. Cut off the flowering heads as they appear. Valerian can be grown in a container but it needs to be kept watered.
Valerian has pink flowers from June to August. It can reach a height of 75cm.
In the 1970’s, researchers began to study the scientific properties of valerian and its effects in humans, leading to its approval as a sleep remedy by Germany’s Commission E in 1985.
Valerian is believed to affect GABA, an amino acid involved in states of anxiety, by binding to GABA receptors in the brain. This is how tranquilizers in the Valium family work.
The root of the valerian plant contains a mix of compounds that are thought to induce the sedation, including valepotriates, valeric acid and volatile oils.
Despite its odor, valerian was considered a perfume in 16th century Europe. The tincture has been used for its sedative properties for centuries; It is still widely used in France, Germany, and Switzerland as a sleep aid. About 50 tons of valerian are sold each year in France.
Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic.
It has a remarkable influence on the cerebro-spinal system, and is used as a sedative to the higher nerve centres in conditions ofnervous unrest, St. Vitus’s dance, hypochrondriasis, neuralgic pains and the like.
The drug allays pain and promotes sleep. It is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrain, as it possesses none of the after-effects produced by narcotics.
During the recent War, when air-raids were a serious strain on the overwrought nerves of civilian men and women, Valerian, prescribed with other simple ingredients, taken in a single dose, or repeated according to the need, proved wonderfully efficacious, preventing or minimizing serious results.
Though in ordinary doses, it exerts an influence quieting and soothing in its nature upon the brain and nervous system, large doses, too often repeated, have a tendency to produce pain in the head, heaviness and stupor.
It is commonly administered as Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, and often in association with the alkali bromides, and is sometimes given in combination with quinine, the tonic powers of which it appreciably increases.
Oil of Valerian is employed to a considerable extent on the Continent as a popular remedy for cholera, in the form of cholera drops, and also to a certain extent in soap perfumery.
Ettmuller writes of its virtues in strengthening the eyesight, especially when this is weakened by want of energy in the optic nerve.
The juice of the fresh root, under the name of Energetene of Valerian, has of late been recommended as more certain in its effects, and of value as a narcotic in insomnia, and as an anti-convulsant in epilepsy. Having also some slight influence upon the circulation, slowing the heart and increasing its force, it has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations.
Valerian was first brought to notice as a specific for epilepsy by Fabius Calumna in 1592, he having cured himself of the disease with it.