Medicinal Plants- Valerian
A member of the umbelliferous plant family, valerian is native to the moderate climates found in Europe and areas of Asia; valerian has been successfully introduced in North America as well. Although it prefers moist, swamp like soil, valerian can also be found growing wild across the plains and into the mountains. About five feet tall at maturity, valerian is a perennial. And during the summer months, beautiful white blooms adorn its graceful foliage.
Valerian's medicinal properties have been recognized for thousands of years. Hippocrates extolled its therapeutic uses, and during the second century, Galen prescribed it for the treatment of insomnia. During medieval times, valerian was used as a remedy for nerves, headaches, and trembling limbs. Later, doctors in the nineteenth century blamed the root for the very things it was supposed to relieve, but WWII England widely disagreed and used the herb to combat stress during air raids.
Although the blooms of the valerian were popularly used throughout the sixteenth century in perfumes, valerian's medicinal properties are found in the rootstock (also known as rhizome) of the plant. Valerian roots contain a number of well-known medicinal properties including valepotriate (a calming substance), camphor (an antiseptic numbing agent), acetic acids (found in all living organisms, vinegar), tannins (astringents), and mucilage (gooey and loaded with protein). Roots may be used fresh or dried, but the drying of the roots requires temperatures over 104 degrees.
Most popular as a natural tranquilizer, valerian's calming properties make it a remedy for all types of nervousness and anxiety. In today's "always in a hurry" world, valerian is said to be an excellent remedy for people suffering from mental burn out and sleepless nights. On the other hand, valerian is also reputed to have the exact opposite effect on some users, and its use should be discontinued immediately if nervousness or headaches are experienced. Research is undecided on the benefits of valerian; some research claims that the root is ineffective as a sleep aid, others show that people using the supplements have an easier time falling asleep (without waking "sleepy headed") and awaken far less during the night. As in all things, different people experience different reactions.
Sleep disorders aside, valerian has also been seen as an anti-convulsive, and it has been used in the treatment of intestinal spasms and epileptic seizures. These uses have never been scientifically supported. Other uses are in the ever-expanding diagnoses of ADHD, but again, there is no scientific evidence to support its use for this disorder.
Valerian tea has long been a nighttime favorite, and may be easily prepared using a scant teaspoon of dried valerian per cup of boiling water. The herb should be steeped for at least five minutes prior to consumption and may be imbibed with no other additives, but if you like to sweeten with sugar or cream........... Be my guest.
Health food stores carry a variety of valerian products. Tablets and capsules are available as supplements, as are drops that can be added to water or other beverages. Dried valerian can be purchased and sewn into sachets. Use the sachets to indulge in an herbal bath; you'll feel twice as calm with a good soak. Another option would be to make a valerian soak on your own. Simply soak 3.5 ounces of dried root pieced in a quart of water overnight and strain; then add the strained soak to your bathwater. If you don't have the patience or desire to prepare your own soak, there are many valerian root products on the market.
As with any other medicinal plant and its supplements, consult a doctor before using.
The Complete Guide to Natural Healing . Orangeville, ON: International Masters
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