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Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Medicinal Uses of Valerian Root

Disclaimer. I am not a licensed health practitioner. This is just another post on an item you might wish to have available if needed so that a physician can treat you and your family as best as possible. No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician. Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care. A qualified, licensed physician or other medical provider should be consulted before beginning any herbal or conventional treatment.

The vast majority of the herbs covered in the past 20 months have had antibacterial and/or antiviral effects--effects that may be crucial in a collapsed society.

But herbs have other actions to conditions that don't need antimicrobial substances. Like it or not, when life gets sporty, especially as it has this year with COVID-19 and the riots in May and June, mental health issues also come into play. And I'm not talking about schizophrenia and bipolar issues, but the everyday stuff like anxiety and stress and how they affect us and others. TEOTWAWKI-type situations can make it difficult for even the most reasoned and prepared people to sleep. Think of how it can affect those who haven't really mentally prepared.

So today's herb is neither antiviral nor antibacterial. Valerian root is just really good stuff for calming you down, lowering blood pressure and anxiety, and helping you sleep. Let's learn more.

Valerian, Valerian officinalis, is a perennial herb that grows 2-6 feet in height, with white to pale pink flowers. It does not smell good, unless you think old dirty socks smell good. Interestingly, the odor becomes stronger as it oxidizes, and the same is true of the strength of the tincture. This is one of the few places where oxidation is good.

Valerian naturally grows in moist areas near streams and among rocks. It is more difficult to find growing wild in the western US and does better in the eastern US and is even considered invasive in Connecticut. (The easiest place to find valerian is in the supplement section of the grocery store.) Valerian flowers from June through September and in the west is found at altitudes from 5000 to 11000 feet.(1) Valerian grows well in a garden, with the easiest way to get it started being plants purchased from a nursery or with root cuttings. Starting from seed takes considerably more effort.

To begin preparing valerian for medicinal use, harvest roots (technically speaking, they are rhizomes) in the late fall. Cut up the roots and dehydrate thoroughly. Process in a blender for a minute or so, if desired. Most usages involve beginning with the dried root or powder, but there are a few instances where using a fresh tincture of the root is more effective.

Keep in mind that valerian can have different effects on people and may not be effective in some. The method of preparation also influences the medicinal effect it exerts.

Infusion: To 1 teaspoon dried valerian root add 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and let steep 15 minutes. This water-based preparation is especially effective when used as a sedative and to manage problems with the central nervous system.(2) It is best for promoting relaxation and sleep and reducing stress.(3) It also works well in individuals with cold hands and feet or who are having difficulty adjusting to cold temperatures, and especially any who might be considered feeble.(4) The infusion is especially helpful to those experiencing heart palpitations due to overwork.(5)

Tincture: The dried root is tinctured in a 1:5 ratio using 70 percent alcohol. In a glass canning jar, add about 1/2 cup dried root to 1 cup alcohol. Cover with a lid and date it. Let steep for five weeks in cool, dark place, shaking daily. Strain and discard the plant matter. For anxiety, stress, and insomnia, use 30-90 drops up to 3x per day, or at bedtime.(6). This dried root tincture exerts more of a sedating effect. A fresh root tincture (using a 1:2 ratio in 70% alcohol), on the other hand, is more stimulating.(7)

Valerian is used to treat the following conditions:

Cardiovascular. Valerian has been demonstrated to exert a significant effect in treating several cardiovascular problems. Naturally, as with everything else, but most especially when dealing with the heart, these treatments should only be used under the direct supervision of a physician familiar with valerian and how it works.
Angina. Chinese researchers reported that valerian relaxes spasms, opens blocked arteries, and reduces cholesterol. I haven't been able to locate the source for this claim or find any other research to support it.
Hypertension. Valerian has also been shown to lower high blood pressure.(8)Neurological. Valerian's abilities to mitigate stress, anxiety, depression, and related mental health issue are what it is most commonly used for.

Anxiety, Stress. Valerian is extremely effective in reducing anxiety.(9)
Depression. A fresh root tincture is more stimulating and thus is more effective for depression.(10) Do not use if taking other antidepressants such as amitriptyline.
Headache (tension). The infusion with the dried root is more effective.(11)
Insomnia. Valerian alone works best in individuals weakened from sickness, stress, or worry. For others, especially children, valerian works better when combined with lemon balm.(12)
Muscular. Valerian also acts as an anti-spasmodic to calm muscle spasms and relieve pain. It may be taken internally as an infusion, but the tincture may also be used topically to relieve the following:
Menstrual cramps (13)
Muscle pain
Intestinal cramps (14)Respiratory. An infusion or tincture may relieve bronchial spasms.

Contraindications: Do not use valerian with alcohol or sleep-inducing medications, including melatonin.

Caution: A paradoxical effect is rare, but in some patients valerian can cause insomnia and anxiety.

(1) Kimball Chatfield, Medicine from the Mountains: Medicinal Plants of the Sierra Nevada, 149.
(2) Charles W. Kane, Medicinal Plants of the Western Mountain States, 303.
(4) Charles W. Kane, Medicinal Plants of the Western Mountain States, 302.
(5) Ibid, 303.
(6) Stephen Buhner, Herbal Antibiotics, 379.
(7) Kane, 303.
(11) Kane, 303.
(13) Kane, 303.
(14) Ibid.
Joseph Alton, The Survival Medicine Handbook.

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