Valerian: Uses, folk medicine and homeopathy, ingredients, Effects

Valerian: Uses, folk medicine and homeopathy, ingredients, Effects

Valerian is native to Europe and Asia, and the plant has been naturalized in North America. The drug comes mainly from cultivation in Japan, the USA, Holland, Belgium, Eastern Europe and, to an increasing extent, Thuringia. The rootstocks (rhizomes), the roots and their offshoots (Valerianae radix) are used as a drug.

Typical features of Valerian

Valerian is a perennial shrub that grows between 30 cm and 2 m tall with pinnate leaves. The plant has small white-pink flowers in flat cymes. The aromatic-smelling rhizome with numerous roots lies underground. The familiar Valerian includes a species complex with multiple subspecies.

The rootstock is light brown and ovate, about the size of a foxglove. It bears numerous light to grey-brown roots about 1-3 mm thick and several centimetres long. Rarely, grey-brown, nodular, thickened extensions are part of the drug. 

Taste and smell of Valerian

Valerian gives off a very characteristic, pleasant smell. The popular name “cat weed” is based on the fact that Valerian is said to attract cats with its scent. Since cats can see very well, people thought Valerian was an eye medicine.

According to legend, the typical smell also helped the Pied Piper of Hamelin when he hunted rats: the valerian branch attached to his belt is said to have attracted the rats. The taste of valerian root is sweet, spicy and slightly bitter.

Valerian – application

 Valerian root is one of the essential non-addictive herbal tranquillizers. The most important and clinically approved areas of application of Valerian are nervousness and restlessness, problems falling asleep and general sleep disorders. In combination with other substances, it is used for mild nervous disorders, severe nervous stress, restlessness and insomnia, poor performance and poor concentration.

Use Valerian

In addition to calming and antispasmodic properties, Valerian also has a slightly psychologically stimulating effect. Therefore, the drug also influences feelings of anxiety and tension and induces a state of balance.

The drug also has an effect on menopausal symptoms and on feelings of anxiety that begin in the days before the menstrual period.

Valerian is also available in bath form. Added to the bath water, the root has a slightly calming effect and relieves muscle tension.


Valerian in folk medicine and homeopathy

For centuries, Valerian has been used in folk medicine as an antispasmodic for all spasmodic diseases. The drug is said to relieve pain in the gastrointestinal tract, for example, and is also used to treat spastic symptoms of inflammation in the large intestine (colitis).

Traditionally, valerian root is also said to support the cardiovascular system during nervous stress. The drug was also used in the Middle Ages to remedy the plague and other epidemics.

In homoeopathy, Valerian is used for diseases of the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, the heart and the musculoskeletal system.

ingredients of Valerian

Valerian root contains less than 1% essential oil, the main component of the oil being bornyl acetate. The actual oil content is highest in the seed harvested in autumn.

If the root is dried carefully, it contains 0.5-2% valepotriates. Valepotriates chemically transform as the plant dries, giving it its distinctive odour.

Valerian root also contains small amounts of flavonoids and free fatty acids, sugars, starch and alkaloids, which are said to have an excitatory effect on cats.


Indications where Valerian can help

Valerian can be effective for the following indications:

  • insomnia
  • sleep disorders
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • restlessness
  • restlessness
  • nervousness
  • lack of concentration
  • poor performance
  • menopausal symptoms
  • Angst
  • muscle tension

Valerian dosage


As one of the most essential herbal sedatives, Valerian is contained in numerous teas, herbal medicines (phytopharmaceuticals) and baths. In the form of tea, valerian root is included in many tea blends, such as calming, nerve, sleeping and gastrointestinal teas. Valerian medicines are available as drops, liquid extracts, coated tablets, capsules or other liquid or dry extracts. Valerian is often combined with lemon balm, hops, St. John’s wort or passion flower herb in combination preparations.

Dosage of Valerian

The average daily dose for tea is 2-3 g of the drug per cup. The tea should be drunk at least once a day. In the case of extracts, the average daily dose is also set at 2-3 g of the drug at least once a day.

If you have trouble falling asleep, about 400 to 900 mg of valerian extract should be taken about 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed; in the case of restlessness, 300 to 450 mg is distributed throughout the day.

An infusion of 100 g valerian root with 2 litres of hot water is suitable for external use. After 10 minutes, everything is passed through a tea strainer and added to the bath water. The bathing time should be 10-20 minutes, and the bathing temperature should be around 35° Celsius.

Prepare Valerian

To prepare tea, 2-3 g of the drug is poured with hot water, left for 10-15 minutes, and passed through a tea strainer. The tea should be drunk at least once daily, preferably in the evening before bed.

Valerian synonyms

German plant name: Valerian

German synonyms of the plant: True Valerian, familiar Valerian, familiar Valerian, large Valerian, medicinal Valerian, medicinal Valerian, cat valerian, meadow valerian, valerjahn, witch’s herb, cat’s weed, wood sperm, Stinkbaltes

Latin plant name: Valeriana officinalis L. sl

Latin synonyms of the plant: Valeriana baltica Pleijel

German drug name: Baldrianwurzel

German synonyms of the drug: Balder’s buck root, eye root, cat’s root, cat’s root

Latin drug name: Valerian root

Latin synonyms of the drug: Valerian root, Valerian rhizome, Valerian rhizome

English name: Baldrian, Common Valerian, Belgian Valerian, European Valerian, Fragrant Valerian, Garden valerian, All heal, Baker’s hartshorn, Garden-Heliotrope, Phu, Setwell, Tobacco root

Plant family Latin: Valerianaceae

Plant family German: Valerian plants

Valerian – effect

The effect of Valerian is due to its interaction with nerve cells, which release an inhibitory messenger substance in the nervous system. Despite intensive research, the drug’s effectiveness-determining importance could not be determined. However, clinical studies have shown that inhibiting nerve cells can achieve positive results regarding the time it takes to fall asleep and sleep quality.

Valerian: Effect not immediate

Valerian effectively relieves sleep disorders and nervous conditions when taken for several weeks. Please note that Valerian’s calming and sleep-promoting effect does not usually appear immediately but only after about 14 days.

Treatment with Valerian should be discontinued before an operation with anaesthesia, as it may interact with the anaesthetic substances.


Side Effects and Interactions of Valerian

In rare cases, taking Valerian can lead to problems in the ​​gastrointestinal tract and, extremely rarely, to allergic reactions. Headaches, restlessness and cardiac dysfunction are also possible.

The effect of sedatives or sleeping pills can be enhanced by taking valerian preparations at the same time. This applies in particular to the simultaneous intake of alcohol.

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