Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)


The plant was named in the 9th or 10th century, and the name is thought to have derived from the Latin verb valere meaning “to be happy.



Native to Europe and northern Asian, the herb is an erect perennial, growing to four feet with pinnate, divided leaves and clusters of small white or pink flowers. It has a massive root system and short rhizomes. The roots are a hairy, spindly mass and are collected in the autumn from two-year-old plants. It grows wild in damp areas, and is cultivated in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Russia for pharmaceutical purposes. Other varieties are found in South Africa, China, and Indonesia, the Himalayas, and North America. Each is used for a variety of reasons. Valerian grows as a weed in Europe and most parts of the British Isles.

The Greek physicians, Galen and Dioscorides, aptly called the plant “phu” because of its distinctive and rather unpleasant smell resembling that of ancient leather or something akin to stale perspiration. The older botanical classification, V. phu, reflects this. The root is still added as a musky tone to perfumes.

The plant was named in the 9th or 10th century, and the name is thought to have derived from the Latin verb valere meaning “to be happy.”

Valium, the most widely prescribed antianxiety drug, is said to have taken its name from the same source and from the herb itself.

For centuries, it was used for a variety of disorders, including epilepsy, which, in 1592, a cure of such was published by Fabius Calumna. Today, there is some evidence to support it as an anticonvulsant.

First mentioned in a medicinal context by Isaac Judaeus in the year 924 CE, it has since been highly regarded by herbalists as a nervine and sedative. Dioscorides and Gerard taught that it was an antidote for poisons, but it is as a treatment for nervous complaints that Valerian has become most noteworthy.

Since cats and dogs are attracted to the scent, it is said that the Pied Piper of Hamelin carried the root to lure the rats, and his music was just a decoy. In cats, it acts as a stimulant and can be substituted for catnip. In humans, it has the opposite effect and is a very popular remedy for insomnia.

It has long been valued by Nordic, Persian, and Chinese herbalists.

The variety, V. sylvatica, was used by Canadian Indian warriors as a wound antiseptic.

Valerian was used during the First and Second World Wars for treating shell shock and nervous stress.

Many tribes used the herb for treating nervous conditions and insomnia. The Blackfoot also used it to treat stomach problems, while several tribes, including the Thompsons of British Columbia and the Menominee, have used valerian root topically to treat cuts and wounds.

Key Actions

  • antispasmodic
  • carminative
  • diuretic
  • expectorant
  • lowers blood pressure
  • tranquilizer

Key Components

  • volatile oil (up to 1.4% including isovalerianic acid, borneol, geta-caryphyllene)
  • alkaloids
  • iridoids (valepotriates valtrate, isovaltrate)

Additional information

Weight 1 lbs
Type & Size

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