Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Valerian: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Valerian is often used to treat insomnia, tension, and nervousness, heart palpitations, and tension headaches.

The smell of valerian reminds people of old socks. Nevertheless, cats go wild over valerian and so do rats. According to legend, valerian was used by the Pied Piper to clear rodents out of Hamelin. Today, the herb is lauded for its ability to soothe anxiety and relax active minds that do not allow for restful sleep. Various medicinal species of the herb are native to Europe and western Asia and grow wild in North America; several species are native to the U.S. You may find valerian in grasslands, damp meadows, and along streams.

If you can ignore this herb's stinky smell, you'll find it's very useful when included in herbal remedies for insomnia and stress. Odor aside, it may help you relax!

Uses for Valerian

Valerian is a lovely flowering plant used to relieve anxiety and relax muscles. Despite what some people have come to believe, valerian is not the source of the drug Valium, though it is an excellent sedative and hypnotic (sleep inducer). Valerian also has an antispasmodic action and is used for cramps, muscle pain, and muscle tension.

Valerian is commonly used for insomnia, tension, and nervousness. It's useful in simple cases of stress, anxiety, and nervous tension, as well as more severe cases of hysteria, nervous twitching, hyperactivity, chorea (involuntary jerky movements), heart palpitations, and tension headaches. Valerian preparations are highly regarded for insomnia. Several studies show that valerian shortens the time needed to fall asleep and improves

the quality of sleep. Unlike commonly

used sedatives, valerian does not cause a drugged or hung-over sensation in most people.

The relaxing action of valerian also makes it useful for treatment of muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, and high blood pressure. Valerian relaxes the muscle in vein and artery walls and is especially indicated for elevated blood pressure due to stress and worry.

Valerian is used as a general nervine, meaning a substance that has a tonic effect on the nerves, restoring balance and relieving tension and anxiety. In the study of herbs, a nervine is classified as stimulating or sedating. Stimulating nervines are used in cases of sluggish mental activity, depression, or poor ability to concentrate; sedating nervines are used to treat anxiety, turmoil, restlessness, and insomnia.

Some herbalists consider valerian to be both stimulating and sedating, depending on the individual and the situation in which it is used. Occasionally, for example, people who use valerian to relax or improve sleep find that it worsens their complaints. Valerian is somewhat warming and stimulating, and perhaps the adverse reaction occurs in those who are already overly warm or stimulated.

Valerian is best for treating depression caused by prolonged stress and nervous tension.

Valerian is mildly stimulating to the intestines, can help to dispel gas and cramps in the digestive tract, and is weakly antimicrobial, particularly to bacteria.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare valerian for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.