Valerian root has proven itself as a herbal sedative
valerian, also called witch's or cat's herb, is a honeysuckle family and is known for being relaxed and helping you fall asleep. The plant is easy to grow yourself. Here you can find out what symptoms the medicinal herb is used for and what you need to watch out for when growing in your own garden.
Valerian at a glance - the most important facts
- The medicinal plant helps against sleep disorders, stress, anxiety, migraines, menstrual and stomach problems as well as against nervousness and inner restlessness.
- Children under the age of 12 should not take valerian supplements.
- A break should be taken after prolonged use.
- The plant is suitable for commercial cultivation as well as a garden plant.
- It is sown in March and April and blooms from May to August. We harvest all year round, but only since the second year.
- Valerian is a perennial family - not a species, but a genus with several species whose properties are similar.
- Our real valerian, Valeriana officinalis, comes as a wild form from temperate Eurasia. Here it grows in ditches, in forest clearings, on wet meadows and on the edge of the forest.
- The plant loves sun, the soil should be rich in nutrients and permeable.
- Valerian plants are very adaptable, but they do not tolerate extreme heat and drought.
Valerian is a perennial herb that reaches between 90 cm and 200 cm in height, depending on the amount of nutrients and solar radiation. It is anchored with yellow and white roots that branch out several times and have a typical smell (stink root). The roots are branched, but not deep. In winter the plant lives on in its roots.
From late March to mid-April, depending on the weather, the first leaves sprout in a color similar to peppermint. They have a lancet shape, but the edges are pinnate first and secondly sawn. The lower leaves are the largest, the uppermost the smallest; they drape each other on the stem. Its color fluctuates between brown and green. It is slightly hairy.
When ripe for fruit, valerian produces fruits that are reminiscent of nuts and are up to 5 mm long. There is one seed per fruit.
Valerian roots were known as medicinal plants in ancient times - in Europe as well as in Asia to India and Pakistan. In the Middle Ages, it served as a means against completely different purposes than today.
Instead of fighting insomnia and inner restlessness, it should help against acne, flatulence or cough, headaches and eye diseases.
The doctors mixed the roots with wine, opium, licorice or anise. Hildegard von Bingen recommended it for pleurisy (also pleurisy) and the disease Vicht, which was probably a nascent tumor.
It was only in the 18th century that the soothing and sleep-promoting properties of the medicinal plant were discovered and from then on used as a natural sedative. To date, valerian comes as a natural remedy for ailments such as
- Migraines and other headaches,
- Gastrointestinal problems and
- Menopausal symptoms
Valuable ingredients in the valerian root
We use the root of valerian. We dig them up in the autumn and dry them. Alternatively, these are also available in health food stores or in pharmacies. We can eat the dried roots straight or prepare a tea from them, make a medicinal wine, a tincture or a bath additive. This promotes sleep, helps against cramp-like pain in the stomach and inner restlessness.
The most important ingredients are contained in the essential oil of the valerian root:
- Valeranon and
Added to this are the valerenic acids.
Valerian as a medicine application
We usually take valerian as capsules, tablets or as root tea. The tablets are popular for acute problems, for example if you are afraid of exams. On the other hand, we drink tea for sleep disorders, chronic restlessness or a psychologically triggered headache.
Recipe for valerian tea
For a valerian tea, we take about 3 grams of valerian root and pour 300 ml of boiling water over it. We let the tea steep for ten minutes before drinking it.
Children under the age of 12 should not take valerian supplements because there is little medical research on valerian in children. If you have been taking the medication for a long time, for example with sleep disorders, you should take a month off before you take it again.
Sowing and harvesting valerian
The best way to sow the medicinal plant is in seed boxes, ideally in the greenhouse, as long as the night frost hits, because the sensitive seeds cannot tolerate severe frost. When the seedlings show leaves and the sun shines between March and the end of April, depending on the onset of cold, we plant the tender plants - at a distance of about 60 cm, because valerian develops into a perennial with a height of 1 m.
We plant on a loosened soil - if the soil can be sifted, it is optimal for the perennial plant. It is best to rake vigorously before using the plants. A south-facing position with no shady trees and full sun is ideal.
If the valerian grows, you can harvest in the second year. Only in the second year does the perennial develop flowers, from which seeds in turn form. Of course the wind spreads these seeds.
The flowers can be collected and dried from July to August, and the roots in October. It is best to collect the flowers in the early morning: the lower the temperature, the more active ingredients are included.
Loosen clay soil
If the soil is loamy, loosen it with sand. This way more air gets into the soil and the water reaches the roots better. Conversely, you should mix a very sandy soil with compost. The seeds should be fresh as valerian seeds from the previous year rarely germinate.
You hardly need to fertilize. In the garden, compost is sufficient as fertilizer. In the bucket you can help with an herbal fertilizer every 6 weeks.
In order to be able to clean the roots well, we cultivate valerian on sieve-able soil with few stones. The fewer other wild herbs, the deeper and looser the soil, the better the yield. The more humus there is in the soil, the more fine roots are created and the more difficult it is to clean the roots.
A light germ
The medicinal herb is a light germ. Therefore, you only need to press the seeds lightly into the soil and then keep them moist. It is sown in the bed or in buckets in March and April. You don't need a pre-culture. You can also sow in pots on the balcony or terrace. Make sure that the pots go wide as valerian roots grow sideways.
Valerian needs moisture
In periods of drought, watering or watering is a must, because valerian loves moisture. Ideally, the earth is always slightly damp. The cadmium content in the soil should be less than 0.5 mg / kg. You should also have the soil inspected for lead and mercury.
In general, you should only grow medicinal plants in locations that are away from industrial fumes and urban waste. Low temperatures are not a problem. Valerian is frost hardy.
Diseases and pests
The plant is robust. Aphids haunt the perennials and settle in the leaf axils. We can remove them with water spray or with an adhesive tape. Powdery mildew can occur, but is rare. This affects valerian especially when the perennials grow dense and the soil contains too much nutrients.
An extensive relationship
Valeriana officinalis belongs to the genus valerian and thus has more than 400 cousins. His relatives include the wild teasel and lamb's lettuce. Valerian is not the only crop among the valerian plants. Valeriana wallrothii is grown as a medicinal plant, and the Indian spikenard (Valeriana jatamansi) is popular as a spice in India.
The herb of the god of light
The name valerian is derived from Baldur, the Germanic god of light. The Latin name comes from the verb valere, which means "be healthy". The species name officinalis stems from the fact that the herb was available in pharmacies (medicine).
Baldur was not only the god of light, but also of the sun, spring and justice. It is possible that valerian was seen as a "balancing justice" for sleep complaints and psychological stresses for which those affected were not to blame.
Valerian for dinner
Valerian is not only a medicinal plant, but also a spice. In Indian cuisine, the ground root is popular for soups and stews. The taste is unique - a little bit bitter with a sweetish undertone.
The early leaves can be used like lamb's lettuce and also taste similar. No wonder they are relatives. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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