Valerian: medicinal properties, method of use and benefits


Valeriana officinalis





The genre Valerian belongs to the family of Valerianaceae and includes perennial herbaceous plants that live in wetlands, in woods, along streams up to 2000 m above sea level and is found spontaneously in regions with a temperate and cool climate.It is native to central Europe even if it has now been also naturalized in Western Europe and North America.

The species that is cultivated and most widespread due to its characteristics is the Valeriana officinalis L.

The valerian has a decidedly very majestic and elegant bearing, reaching even one and a half meters in height. The roots consist of a rhizome that reaches up to 30 cm in length, rich in roots that give off an unpleasant odor.

The stem of the valerian is erect, up to 1.5 meters high, hollow inside, furrowed by numerous grooves and not very branched.

The leaves the lower ones are opposite, petiolate while the upper ones are devoid of them, imparipinnate, provided with 5-20 more or less wide leaflets of a beautiful intense green color.

The flowers of valerian are are small, hermaphroditic (flowers that contain both female and male reproductive organs), white or pink collected in umbrellas and fragrant (not very pleasant) and appear from spring and throughout the summer.

The fruit it is an achene surmounted by a sort of feather that facilitates its dispersion by the wind and ripens from July to September.

Valerian can be considered a polymorphic plant, that is to say that it takes on different aspects depending on the pedo-climatic conditions in which it develops.

It is found spontaneously above all in humid areas but can also be grown in the home garden as it develops without excessive difficulty.It is a plant that grows well both exposed to the sun and in partial shade, prefers temperate climates even if it resists low temperatures . It adapts to almost all types of soil even if it prefers medium-heavy soils, which tend to be clayey, neutral or even slightly basic and requires a humid environment but with well-drained soils. It propagates either by seed or by division of the plant.


Valerian is known for its properties and is the best natural remedy for nervous imbalances.

His constituents are: essential oils, valerenic acids, alkaloids and it has not yet been identified which active ingredient (or active ingredients) responsible for its sedative properties.

It is used for sleep disorders, for anxious manifestations such as panic attacks, anxiety attacks, tremors, abdominal cramps, nervousness, palpitations, etc. It is also used in the case of stress migraines.

The Italian Medicines Agency classifies valerian-based drugs as psycholeptics, i.e. as sedative substances that act on the central nervous system.


Valerian uses fresh or dried rhizome which is harvested in autumn from plants of at least two years of age.The rhizome must be immediately cleaned well from the earth that adheres very firmly to the roots, washed in water and left to dry in the air.


Generally it is not used much in its natural state as it has a very unpleasant smell but as a medicine already prepared to be bought at authorized retailers. In any case, infusions, tinctures, capsules, tablets and extracts can be made of it.

Valerian is not used in cosmetics.


The term valerian comes from the Latin be worth "To have strength" probably in reference to the fact that this plant was in good health.

Valerian is also called cat grass or catnip because its scent attracts them and basically destroys it as they rub on it. For this reason, it is not easily found in places frequented by cats.The dry root also attracts mice and can be used to hunt these annoying rodents.

It is a plant that has been known since ancient times and in the Middle Ages it was considered a panacea and it is said that Fabio Colonna, a famous scientist of the 1500s, cured epilepsy thanks to this plant.

Valerian is not used in cooking. Valerian is often confused with valerianella (Valerianella olitoria or Valerianella locusta) of the same family, known as gurnard(photo below) which provides a delicious salad that we usually find ready in sealed bags.

Valerianella has some of the properties of Valeriana officinalis even in a milder way: purifying, emollient and laxative. It is very rich in vitamin A.


In any case, it should be borne in mind that it should be used with great caution and under direct medical supervision.

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