Valeriana officinalis

If you feel all tied up inside and you are so tired that you could drop but you just can't relax or sleep, then you should learn about the herb valerian.

In one of our herb classes, a man told about his wife's depressions. He said, “When she tried to sleep she would toss and turn and she would get up a lot. When awake, she was moody and depressed. Sometimes she would sulk or fly into a rage. They tried many different medicines and drugs, but they all seemed to sedate her and make her drowsy and listless. Sometimes she would look into my eyes searching, like she was pleading, “Please help me before it's too late.” Her mother called one night and suggested that we try some valerian tea. I protested, saying, “The doctors are doing all they can and besides, I don't believe in herbs.”

“After a dozen or so calls from her mother, I finally got some valerian root and made up some tea. It tasted terrible and smelled horrible, and my wife would have no part of it. It took a whole day before she would take a few sips. It helped her to relax and it really helped her to sleep. She started to feel much better. The more we learned about herbs, and use them, the better she felt.”

The plant valeriana officinalis will grow up to about three feet high and have white blossoms on a single stock. The bottom leaves are bright green and shaped like a spade. As the leaf matures, it becomes fern-like and then it divides into deep lobes, almost like separate leaves.

Valerian has been known by many different names: “amantilla,” “theriacaria,” “marinelle,” “setwall,” “capon's tail,” “heal-all,” “great wild valerina,” “garden heliotrope,” and “phu.”

The fisrt valerian root has a very distinctive aroma like fresh, rich earth. However, after the root has dried, it has peculiar odor. You either like it, or it smells awful. Some say it smells like rotten feet or dirty socks, and they can't stand to be around it. Others, however, like the morbidly-pungent smell that is between musk and mold that seems to conjure up the deja vu of some other time and some other place.

Valerian is one of the best tranquilizers that can be found. It is also an antispasmodic, anodyne (pain killer) and nervine, without any narcotic effects. It is a strong, sure and safe sedative that is very effective in times of emotional stress and pain, bronchial spasms, intestinal cramps, convulsions, despondency, mental depression and epilepsy. In recent years, it has been used in drug withdrawal programs. Some claim that it will induce sleep, even when opium has failed.

Valerian works better and more effectively if used in combination with other herbs. As an aid to sleep, as in Grandma's herbal Night Nervine, valerian is combined with hops, blue vervain, , skullcap, ladies slipper, spearmint and others. Valerian has been used to overcome stress, and to calm and feed the nerves when combined with other nerve herbs such as those found in Grandma's herbal Nervine.

To make sure we, and the animals, don't take too much of this wonderful herb, Mother Nature put an extra amount of bad taste and bad smell into this herb. If she didn't, most folks and animals would get carried away and take too much. Some cats become intoxicated and seem to go into ecstacy with valerian root, even more so than with catnip. Valerian has the same effect on rats. Eventhough valerina roots smells bad, it's a fantastic nerve herb. If you pick it in the wild, be sure of what you are picking.

Remember, valerian is strong medicine. Moderation in all things!

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