Valerian photo

Valerian Officinalis L.

Common Name: Valerian (E) Blessed Herb (E)

Sanskrit: Tagar

Valerian is an ancient traditional remedy for overexcitement and sleeplessness. Its Latin name, Valeriana officinalis, is derived from the Latin ‘valere’ which means ‘to be healthy’.

Botanical Description

Valerian is a perennial plant widely distributed in the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.

It is a shrub which can grow up to 150cm in height with a fibrous and shallow root system.

The leaves are opposite, basal and cauline, and they can be entire or dentate; the colour is dark green with a purple hue.

The flowers are in bloom from June to September; they are small, held in clusters and have a pinky white colouring. The corolla is tubula with a funnel-form, slightly saccate at the base.

The fruit is a hairy or glabrous capsule containing one oblong compressed seed.

How it Works

Valerian is indicated in any condition in which tension and anxiety are dominant, assisting in discharging toxins from the nerves, joints, blood, colon and tissues and acting directly on the nerve channels.

It is an effective nervine and sedative, relaxing tense muscles including the heart and may be indicated where tension induces palpitations. Valerian is primarily used to encourage undisturbed sleep and a healthy sleeping pattern.

Valerian can also be used to relieve tension, anxiety, over-excitability and hysteria. For example, it can even prove effective for tension headaches or muscular pain that is brought on by anxiety.

Valerian is also an anti-spasmodic, relieving intestinal cramps and colic.

It is a common treatment for pain associated with menstruation and dysmennorhea. It is also said that the anxiety and sleeping difficulties due to premenstrual concerns can be easily treated by using this herb.

Into the Heart of Valerian

The mechanism of action of valerian in general, and as a mild sedative in particular, has not been fully elucidated. More than 150 constituents have been identified, however none appear to be solely responsible for valerian’s effects, suggesting many of them may act synergistically.

Some of the compounds, such as valerenic acids and components of the essential oil, which are generally are believed to have some affinity for the GABA receptors, inducing their release and concentration and inhibiting their re-uptake.[2]

Valerian has demonstrated in clinical studies muscle-relaxant qualities, thanks to its antispasmodic action through direct effects on smooth muscle[3].

Clinical studies suggest that Valerian has an anxiolytic effect as it decreases systolic blood pressure responsiveness, inhibiting a stress-induced rise in hear rate and reducing anxiety[4].

Oral administration of Valerian root extracts reduced bronchial resistance in both histamine and antigen-induced bronchospasm[5].


Nerves: Indicated for insomnia, panic attacks and lack of concentration. It specifically cleans the channels of toxins and tension; it is excellent for headaches, trembling, palpitations and it can relax contracted neck and shoulders muscles.

It can also be used in the treatment of mild depression when there are signs of mania.

Heart: Its relaxing qualities treat palpitations, tightness in the chest and high blood pressure.

GIT: As a warming carminative it is useful for erratic digestion, bloating and constipation. It soothes all spasms in the intestines and prevents the movement of stress from the mind to the intestines, helping to reduce irritable bowel syndrome as well.

Lungs: Its warm and unctuous energetics benefit the wheezing and spasmodic coughing of asthma and bronchitis. 


[1] Herbal Monograph: Valeriana officinalis – Luke Robinson

[2] In vitro study in the interaction of extracts and pure compounds from Valerian officinalis roots with GABA, benzodiazepine and barbiturate receptors - Mennini T et al.

[3] Pharmacological screening of valerenal and some other components of essential oil of Valeriana officinalis - Hendriks H et al.

[4] Effect of kava and valerian on human physiological and psychological responses to mental stress assessed under laboratory conditions - Cropley M et al.

[5] Biological and analytical characterization of two extracts from Valeriana officinalis - Circosta C et al.

[6] Principles and practice of phytotherapy – Simon Mills, Kerry Bone

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