Valeriana septentrionalis – Valerian

ValerianValeriana septentrionalis (and related species)

Valeriana = va-lee-ree-ah-na, from the Latin medieval name valere (to be healthy or “health”) because of the medicinal qualities;

septentrionalis = L. “of the north”;

Identification: This slender stemmed perennial is 30 – 70 cm tall. The white flowers are small and sessile in compound cymes. The basal leaves are elliptical, lanceolate or spatulate. The stem leaves are opposite and pinnate, with 3 – 7 leaflets. The rootstock is scented.

Distribution & Habitat: Valerian is fairly widespread in moist meadows and boggy places.

Preparation & Uses: Valeriana edulis, a related species, is edible. The roots of this plant are large (over one foot long and two inches thick). It is said to be slightly poisonous raw but the poison is neutralized during cooking. Taste apparently improves after cooking yet the root remains quite nutritious. Indians used to cook it in pits or “fireless cookers”. The roots are best collected in the spring or summer because they become fibrous in the fall.

Medicinally,Valeriana officinalis root has been used by herbalists as a major herb for many years. The related species of our area are thought to have the same effect as Valeriana officinalis. These herbs are listed as antispasmodic, calmative, stimulative tonic and nervine. Water is the solvent. Valerian is most popular as a nerve tonic and it is most effective when combined with skullcap (Scutellaria), blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and European mistletoe (Viscum album).

Valerian is useful in all sorts of nervous conditions, migraines and insomnia. It is useful in epileptic fits, St. Vitus dance, nervous derangement or irritations, debility and menstrual pain.

The Indians used valerian as a cure for distemper in horses. Cats love valerian (just like catnip) so you might have to keep your valerian “secure”.

The correct dosage is 1 teaspoon of rootstock steeped in 1 pint of boiling water. Take 1 cupful in the course of a day. Of fluid extract, take 2 teaspoons in 1 cup of water. Let it stand 24 hours. Take ½ – 1 cup before bed. Of the tincture, take 20 drops, 3 times a day.

Caution: Valerian should never be boiled. Large doses of valerian causes poisoning. Symptoms such as headaches, mental excitement, visual illusions, giddiness and even spasmodic movement can occur.