Valeriana is a common perennial herb grown throughout Europe.
It may be used safely to reduce tension and anxiety, over-excitability and hysterical states. It is calming without being notably sedative and is practically non-addictive. In fact, Valeriana in combination with Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) has been reported to be more effective than diazepam (i.e. Valium) in treating symptoms of anxiety when given to 100 patients for two weeks in a double-blind clinical trial.
It is also an effective treatment for insomnia as it will produce a natural healing sleep. The sedative effect is due to the valepotriates and the isovaleric acid, which is also responsible for the characteristic smell of the extract. Documented human studies have reported a mild hypnotic action in both normal sleepers and insomniacs, indicated by a beneficial effect on sleep latency, wake-time after sleep, frequency of waking, nocturnal motor activity, inner restlessness and tension and quality of sleep.
The valepotriates have an antispasmodic action too. Valeriana does not have an appreciable action as a pain reliever, but where pain is associated with tension it is undoubtedly of benefit. As an antispasmodic it will bring relief in dysmenorrhoea and it can help in migraine and rheumatic pain. It may also be applied locally as a treatment for cramps and other muscle tensions.
Valeriana may also be used as an expectorant to help relieve tickling, nervous coughs. It also has a strengthening action on the heart, and experiments indicate that it lowers blood pressure. Tincture of valerian is reputed to clear dandruff.
Finally, Cats are attracted to valerian, which can induce a state of ecstasy in them. Rats, too, are attracted by it. It was used in the past by rat-catchers to bait their traps.