Valerian has been used successfully to guard against sleeping disorders, restlessness, anxiety and is useful as a muscle relaxant. It has an age-old use as a tranquilizer and sleep aid. It contains chemicals that appear to have sedative properties known as valepotriates, with the highest concentration occurring in the roots.
Valepotriates are like magic fingers that chemically massage our tight nerves just enough so that we don’t go totally bonkers.
Today’s herbalist recommend this herb for nervousness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, muscle spasms, headache, menstrual cramps and intestinal cramps.
It has been recommended for epilepsy but that has not been supported by research, although, one of its ingredients, valproic acid, is used as an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizing drug. Valine, an essential amino acid, is named after this plant.
Valerian roots have a very unpleasant odor, described as “the smell of dirty socks”. With this being said, I recommend administering this herb by way of capsule. (And don’t even burp, phew.)
Some researchers compared valerian herbal medicine to benzodiazepines such as valium. Valerian herbal supplements are the much safer and milder sedative. Valium can be an addictive drug. Regular users may develop a tolerance, requiring an increase in dosage to obtain the desired effect. When valium is withdrawn, withdrawal symptoms may develop. Symptoms may include restlessness, insomnia, headache, nausea and vomiting. However, valerian is not addictive and produces no withdrawal symptoms.
Valiums effects are exaggerated by the use of alcohol and barbiturates. The sedative effect of valerian are not exaggerated by alcohol or barbiturates.
Valium may cause morning grogginess. Valerian may cause morning grogginess if taken in unusually large amounts, but, recommended amounts do not.
Women who use valium while pregnant increase the risk of birth defects. Valerian has not been linked to birth defects.
Animal studies have shown this herb also reduces high blood pressure, has some anti-tumor effects and suggest that it has anticonvulsant effects.
It is listed in the Federal Drug and Administration’s list of herbs regarded as safe. As with all herbal nutrition supplements, valerian supplements should only be used in amounts typically recommended for medicinal purposes and you should always consult with a health professional first, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medications.
Valerian is a hardy perennial that grows to a height of about 5 feet. The stem is erect, grooved and hollow. Its leaves are fern like with umbrella like clusters of tiny flowers that bloom from late spring through summer.
CHEMICAL & NUTRIENT CONTENT
Acetic acid, butyric acid, calcium, camphene, chatinine, formic acid, glycosides, magnesium, volatile oils, pinene, valeric acid and valerine.
Valerian may be propagated from seeds or root division. Roots may be divided in spring or fall. It grows best in rich, moist, well drained soil under full sun or partial shade. Once the plant is established, plants self sow and spread by root runners. Older plants become weedy and over crowded and lose vitality. Thin them when harvesting roots.
Harvest roots in the fall of their second year. You may split roots to speed up drying. Its unpleasant odor develops as the roots dry.
Valerian herb also has an attractant effect on cats, similar to catnip. As a precaution you may want to use chicken wire fencing. Intoxicated felines have been known to destroy plants.
Other herbs with anti-spasmodic actions include balm, black cohosh, blue cohosh, chamomile, dong quai, fennel, garlic, licorice, mullein, passion flower, red raspberry rhubarb, rosemary, skullcap and thyme.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR PETS:
The tea can help calm a pet during a thunderstorm or unfavorable events, like a trip to the vet. It also helps the body relax in the presence of pain and is useful for anxiety and insomnia.
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