Valerian has an important place within herbal medicine as a natural sedative. From time immemorial parts of the plant have been processed into tinctures, teas and extracts. Valerian is used for sleeping problems, anxiety, stress and as a natural alternative to tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines.
Valerian is an herbaceous plant and family of the honeysuckle. It occurs in the wild in parts of Europe and Asia. It is a perennial plant. The flowering period occurs around June or July, sometimes later in September. It produces white to pink flowers, formed in umbels. The plant has a dark green color, with a bare stem and feathery leaves, scattered in rows. It prefers to grow in moist, humus-rich soil with not too much shade. It grows to a height of about 60 to 120 cm.
Valerian comes from the name Valeria and the Latin word valere. This means "in good health, in healthy vigor”. The plant was named so because of the many health aspects attributed to it.
Valerian as natural sedative within phytotherapy
Valerian is a well-known plant within herbal medicine or phytotherapy. Here it is widely advised to people with, for example, anxiety problems and insomnia.
Valerian was already widely used as a medicine in ancient Greece, about two thousand years ago. Originally the plant was widely used as a remedy for cramps, because of its bitter and aromatic properties. The Greek sage Hippocrates already wrote about the properties of the plant. Dioscorides also wrote extensively about valerian in his work 'De Materia Medica'. The sedative effect of valerian was only discovered later. The first descriptions of its sedative properties were probably made by the Greek physician Claudius Galenus, in the second century AD. Then some 15 centuries passed before valerian's properties as a sedative were rediscovered.
In 1597, the book "Herball" was published, written by John Gerard. This stated that valerian 'is excellent for those who suffer from nervousness and spasms'. It was also said to be a remedy for open wounds. The dried root of valerian was widely used as medicine by poor people in the north of England and Scotland, and according to them, 'no soup or porridge or meat dish had any value, when there was no valerian'.
In the 17th century, the astrological botanist Nicholas Culpeper described the plant valerian. He thought valerian was under Mercury and therefore had a warming effect as a medicine. He recommended the use of both the root and the leaf and gave as a recipe: 'the root boiled in licorice, raisins and aniseed is a good medicine for those who suffer from a cough.’
From this point on, the use of valerian became increasingly popular. It was used by doctors in cases of hysteria, nervousness and anxiety. Until the 1940s, valerian was widely used as a sedative. After this, in the 1950s, it fell increasingly into disuse with the rise of pharmaceutical tranquilizers.
Valerian gaining popularity again
More and more people are turning away from pharmaceutical companies and the medications they offer. The sharing of knowledge, through the Internet, books and word of mouth, shows that more people are questioning the use of synthetic, pharmaceutical products to treat diseases and ailments. The side effects of these drugs show that there are also a lot of health risks involved. Natural medicines and painkillers such as CBD, valerian and the like are more readily chosen. Of course, if you want to stop taking certain medications, you should always consult with a doctor first.
Good night's sleep and dealing with stress and anxiety
Many people struggle with sleep problems. There are various reasons for this and it is often a combination of several problems. Today's society makes it difficult for many people to relax. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure on people, within the work environment and the family. On top of that come the current living standards, where people live 'luxuriously', but at the same time lose their natural balance and have too little exercise, sit inside too much, eat unhealthy food and watch a screen (in the evening).
Many people with sleep problems or anxiety take valerian as a natural remedy. The effects of the plant help you unwind during the day and sleep well at night. For example, users report that valerian helps them fall asleep faster and sleep through better.
Properties of valerian:
- Calming the body and mind
- Helps better deal with mood swings due to stress and anxiety
- Affects the natural sleep rhythm
- Supports a good night's sleep
Alternative to heavy sedation medication
The effect of valerian is essentially exactly the same as strong medication such as Valium and Xanax, but without the side effects.
Valerian acts on a particular part of the brain that deals with anxiety (the amygdala).
Valerian consists of several substances that contribute to its action. The include the alkaloids actinidine, chatinine and valerine. It also contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), sesquiterpenes and flavonoids.
Mechanism of action
Several studies have been done on the action of valerian. There is still uncertainty about the exact action of the active ingredients. GABA receptors play a role in calming the nerves and this is what tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines work on. For example, the action of valerian helps to reduce fretting, anxiety and overactivity in the brain.
The serotonin receptors are also partially stimulated by valerenic acid, including 5-HTP. This area plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle.
Attraction to cats
Valerian has an irresistible attraction to cats and is also called "catnip," not to be confused with Catmint (Nepeta cataria). If you don't like cats, it's best not to have this plant in your garden! ;-)
Valerian tea for sale at Sirius
Sirius sells the root of valerian, which can be made into tea. If you suffer from sleeping problems or often feel anxious, it can be very helpful to drink a cup of valerian tea in the evening. Do not make a habit of doing this every day, it is good to not let the body get too used to the effect of valerian.
The smell of valerian is strong and unpleasant for many people. The taste is generally doable and it is advised to combine valerian with other herbs to improve the taste. Some examples are lavender, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm, hemp, ginger. Honey and/or lemon juice can also be added.
- Do not use valerian during the day because it makes you sleepy.
- Do not take valerian when you have to drive or operate machinery.
- Do not use valerian with other sedatives or narcotics such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates. They will enhance each other's effects and this can have dangerous health consequences.
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