Common Valerian

This genus of about 200 species of annuals, perennials, semi-evergreen subshrubs and evergreen shrubs occurs worldwide, except in Australia. Valerianus officinalis (valerian) is an attractive plant for the back of borders and woodland gardens. It should not be confused with Centranthus ruber (red valerian), a popular ornamental with no medicinal uses. The scent of dried valerian roots attracts cats; some cats find the smell of valerian-based herb teas quite irresistable and will search out discarded tea bags. Valeriana officinalis was used by Hippocrates in the 4th century BCE, and appears in Anglo-Saxon herbals. In the Middle Ages it was known as an all-heal and regarded as a cure for epilepsy. Valerian tincture was widely used in World War I to treat shell shock (loss of memory and other functions due to prolonged psychological strain). Today valerian is recognized as a safe, effective sedative that does not react with alcohol, and does not cause dependency. The active constituents are complex; no single compound or group of compounds has been isolated as responsible for the sedative effect. The roots contain iridoids, known as "valepotriates", that appear to regulate the functioning of the nervous system. Some authorities claim that the valepotriates are not present in the root itself, or in preparations derived from it, but actually develop during processing. Similar constituents are found in other species, including V. jatamansi syn. V. wallichii (Indian valerian) and V. capensis (Cape valerian); both have a long history of use for nervous disorders, insomnia, epilepsy, and hysteria.

Valerian is one of the best-known herbs for promoting a good
night's sleep and easing nervous tension. Its sedative effects were first
recognized in the seventeenth century, and since then it has enjoyed a
long history of safe and effective use. Its Latin name, Valeriana, means
"well-being". In popular lore, it is known as cat's weed or moonroot.

Sometimes called herbal Valium because of its ability to relieve anxiety and insomnia, valerian is an ancient herb used in China, Greece, and other parts of the world. Valerian was recommended by the Greek physician Dioscorides for a great many conditions, including liver problems, urinary tract disorders, nausea, and indigestion. Today it is one of the world's most popular herbs and the most widely used sedative in Europe.

Variable, clump-forming perennial with short rhizomes and aromatic pinnate leaves, to 20cm (8in) long, irregularly divided into 7-10 pairs of lanceolate, entire or toothed leaflets. Small tubular pink or white flowers are borne in clusters in summer, followed by tiny seeds with a tuft of white hairs.

Common Name:
Common Valerian
Other Names:
All-Heal, Amantilla, Baldrian, Belgium Valerian, Capon's Tail, Cat's Weed, Fragrant Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, Moonroot, Tagara, Valerian, Vandal Root
Botanical Name:
Valeriana officinalis
Native Location:
W Europe, Europe, Asia
Moist soil in sun or shade. Remove flowers to encourage rhizome growth.
By seed sown in spring; by basal cuttings in spring; by division in spring or autumn.
Rhizomes and roots are lifted in the second year after the leaves have died off and used fresh, dried for use in decoctions, infusions, liquid extracts, tablets, and tinctures, or distilled for oil.
1.5m (5ft)
1.2m (4ft)
Plant Facts:
Valerian belongs to the umbelliferous family of plants. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this graceful perrenial emits a spicy aroma and tastes slightly bitter. Remedies are often made from its cylindrical rootstocks, which spread via underground runners.
Valerian is native to Europe and the parts of Asia that have a moderate climate. It prefers moist soil—swampy meadows in particular—but it also grows on the plains and in the mountains, even at altitudes above 6,000 feet.
Valerian's recorded use can be traced back to the fourth century BCE when the Greek physician Hippocrates noted its effectiveness in treating nervous conditions. By the Middle Ages it had received its official name, Valeriana, most likely from the Latin valere ("to be healthy"), and was traditionally prescribed by folk doctors for "hysteria", restlessness, the "vapors", headaches, heart palpitations, indigestion, and flatulence. The renowned early seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper confirmed that valerian "helps to drive wind from the belly" and also recommended that the notoriously bitter-tasting root be boiled with licorice, raisins, and aniseed for coughs and congestion. During World Wars I and II, valerian was used to treat combat-stressed soldiers and civilians experiencing shell shock—a precursor of today's post-traumatic stress disorder.
The root of the valerian plant contains various active medicinal agents: approximately 5 percent valepotriate (the calming substance), 1.5 percent essential oil from Borneo camphor, formic and acetic acids, mucilage, and tannins.
Parts Used:
Rhizomes, roots, oil.
The rootstock (rhizome) of the healing plant is used in natural medicine; it is used fresh or dried, which is done at temperatures above 104°F.
Root and other underground parts.
A popular natural tranquilizer, valerian is an excellent remedy for all forms of nervousness. It helps to alleviate anxiety; it promotes sound sleep; and its calming effects can benefit those suffering from exhaustion or mental burnout as well. The herb also appears to have anti-convulsive properties. However, some people cannot digest valerian properly and may get headaches or feel nervous when using it. In these instances, another herb should be used.
A bitter, sedative, warming herb with a musky aroma. It calms the nerves, relaxes spasms, improves digestion, relieves pain, and lowers blood pressure.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for insomnia, hysteria, hyperactivity, anxiety, cramps, muscular tension and spasms, migraine, indigestion of nervous origin, hypertension, and painful menstruation. Externally for eczema, ulcers, and minor injuries (especially splinters). Combined with Scutellaria lateriflora (See, Virginia Skullcap) and Viscum album (See, Mistletoe) for hysteria; with Humulus lupulus (See, Hops), Passiflora incarnata (See, Maypops) for insomnia; with Caulophyllum thalictroides (See, Blue Cohosh), Dioscorea villosa (See, Colic Root), and Pulsatilla vulgaris (See, Pasque Flower) for painful menstruation.
To treat stress, anxiety, hysteria, insomnia, menopausal symptoms, and lack of concentration. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of valerian to treat insomnia caused by anxiety as well as restlessness.
Today, valerian is taken most frequently—in teas and capsules—for anxiety, stress, tension headaches, migraines, and insomnia. Often mistakenly called the "Valium" of the herb kingdom, valerian in fact shares no chemical properties with that prescription drug. Indeed, unlike conventional tranquilizers and barbiturates, research indicates that valerian is nonaddictive, has few side effects at prescribed doses, and produces no withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Valerian is also an excellent muscle relaxant and is often prescribed for intestinal cramping, menstrual cramps, and muscle sprains and spasms.
For a calming tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 heaping teaspoons of dried, chopped root. Let stand for 8 to 12 hours. Drink 1 cup, flavored with honey if desired—during the day or right before bed.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of valerian in extract form may range from 400 to 900 mg, taken two hours before bedtime.
Methods of Administration:
  • Valerian Tea:
    Pour 1 cup of boiling water of 1 tsp. of dried valerian. Allow to steep for 5 min. Add linden leaves or hops to enhance the calming effect.

  • Tablets:
    Valerian comes in tablets and capsules. Take 1 to 2 capsules or tablets (200 mg. each) up to 3 times a day.

  • Drops:
    Take 30 drops, or up to 2 tsp., of liquid valerian in a glass or lukewarm water. Repeat up to 3 times daily.

  • Valerian Bath Sachets:
    Place 3½ oz. of dried valerian root pieces in a small cotton bag. Let the bag soak in the bathtub. This herb bath is ideal for calming nervous or agitated children.
  • Valerian Soak:
    Soak 3½ oz. of dried valerian root pieces in 1 qt. of water for 10-12 hr. Decant the liquid and use it in your bath. For an even quicker solution, try one of the ready-made bath products that contain valerian and other herbs.
Extra Tip:
To use valerian in a medicinal preparation, first crush the dried root in a mortar; it will have an unpleasant smell. A scant teaspoon of the powder is sufficient to make a cup of tea.
Never combine valerian with prescription tranquilizers or sedatives; oversedation may occur. Be cautious when driving until you know how the herb affects you. Mild side effects include slight headache or upset stomach. More serious side effects—often caused by overuse of the herb—include severe headache, grogginess, nausea, blurred vision, and, in rare cases, excitability. If you have any adverse effects, stop taking the herbs and consult your doctor or herbalist.
Possible Side Effects:
Valerian's side effects include insomnia, nausea, heart palpitations, and headache.
Drug Interactions:
Taking valerian with these drugs may cause or increase serotonin syndrome (symptoms of which include agitation, rapid heart rate, flushing, heavy sweating, and possibly even death):
Desipramide, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Fluvoxamine, (Alti-Fluvoxamine, Luvox)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Nefazodone, (Serzone)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Pramipexole, (Mirapex)
Protriptyline, (Vivactil)
Trazodone, (Desyrel, Novo-Trazodone)
Venlafaxine, (Effexor)
Taking valerian with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Nadroparin, (Fraxiparine)
Reteplase, (Retavase)
Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Tenecteplase, (TNKase)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlipodine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking valerian with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
Ferric gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (Fero-Grad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Taking valerian with these drugs may hinder the therapeutic effects of the drug:
Iproniazid, (Marsilid)
Moclobemide, (Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine, (Nardil)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)
Tranylcypromine, (Parnate)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking valerian with these drugs may increase the risk of excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Allopurinol, (Aloprim, Zyloprim)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Aripiprazole, (Abilify)
Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
Baclofen, (Lioresal, Nu-Baclo)
Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
Buprenorphine and Naloxone, (Suboxone)
Bupropion, (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
Butalbital, Aspirin and Caffeine, (Fiorinal)
Butorphanol, (Apo-Butorphanol, Stadol)
Carbamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
Chlorpromazine, (Thorazine)
Citalopram, (Celexa)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clomipramine, (Anafranil, Novo-Clopramine)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clonidine, (Catapres, Duraclon)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Clozapine, (Clozaril, Gen-Clozapine)
Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
Cyclobenzaprine, (Flexeril, Novo-Cycloprine)
Dantrolene, (Dantrium)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Doxylamine and Pyridoxine, (Diclectin)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
Fexofenadine, (Allegra)
Fluoxetine, (Prozac, Sarafem)
Fluphenazine, (Prolixin, Modecate)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Fluvoxamine, (Alti-Fluvoxamine, Luvox)
Gabapentin, (Neurontin, Nu-Gabapentin)
Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Meprobamate, (Miltown, Movo-Mepro)
Mesoridazine, (Serentil)
Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
Methocarbamol, (Robaxin)
Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
Methotrimeprazine, (Nozain, Novo-Meprazine)
Metoclopramide, (Apo-Metoclop, Reglan)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Mirtazapine, (Remeron)
Molindone, (Moban)
Morphine Hydrochloride, (Morphine Hydrochloride)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
Nefazodone, (Serzone)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Olanzapine, (Zydis, Zyprexa)
Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
Oxazepam, (Novoxapam, Serax)
Oxcarbazepine, (Trileptal)
Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
Oxycodone and Acetaminophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
Paclitaxel, (Onxol, Taxol)
Paregoric, (Paregoric)
Paroxetine, (Paxil)
Pentazocine, (Talwin)
Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
Perphenazine, (Apo-Perphenazine, Trilafon)
Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Pizotifen, (Sandomigran)
Pramipexole, (Mirapex)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Propofol, (Diprivan)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
Propoxyphene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
Protriptyline, (Vivactil)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Quetiapine, (Seroquel)
Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
Risperidone, (Risperdal)
Ropinirole, (Requip)
S-Citalopram, (Lexapro)
Secobarbital, (Seconal)
Sertraline, (Apo-Sertraline, Zoloft)
Sodium Oxybate, (Xyrem)
Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Thiethylperazine, (Torecan)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Thioridazine, (Mellaril)
Thiothixene, (Navane)
Tiagabine, (Gabitril)
Tizanidine, (Zanaflex)
Tolcapone, (Tasmar)
Tramadol, (Ultram)
Trazodone, (Desyrel, Novo-Trazodone)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Trifluoperazine, (Novo-Trifluzine, Stelazine)
Trimipramine, (Apo-Trimip, Surmontil)
Venlafaxine, (Effexor)
Vigatrabin, (Sabril)
Zaleplon, (Sonata, Starnoc)
Ziprasidone, (Geodon)
Zoldipem, (Ambien)
Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
Zuclopenthixol, (Clopixol)
Taking valerian with this drug may be harmful:
Loperamide, (Diarr-Eze, Imodium A-D)—may increase the risk of confusion, agitation, and other symptoms of delirium.
Lab Test Alterations:
May increase results of liver function tests including aspartic acid transaminase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), total bilirubin, and urine bilirubin.
Food Interactions:
Increased risk of drowsiness and impaired motor skills when combined with alcohol.
Supplement Interactions:
May enhance therapeutic and adverse effects of herbs and supplements that have sedative properties, such as 5-HTP, Kava-Kava, and St. John's Wort.
Economic Uses:
Oil is used in "mossy" perfumes. An ingredient of relaxant herb tea blends. Extracts are used to flavor ice cream, bakery products, condiments, soft drinks, liqueurs, beers, and tobacco, and are especially important in apple flavors. Also used in bait for trapping wild cats and rodents.
May cause drowsiness.
Contraindicated with other sedative drugs and/or antidepressants.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 399-400.
The Complete Guide to Natural Healing Group 1 Card 11.
The Cherokee Herbal by J.T. Garret Copyright ©2003 by J.T. Garret pps. 244, 255-256, 260, 265-267, 269-272
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp459-463
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 100-101