Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an ancient perennial flowering plant, originating in Europe and Asia. Its name stems from the Latin word valere which means ‘to be healthy and strong’. It’ll grow approximately 1 metre tall and has delicate pale pink flowers in summer that will attract hoverflies and butterflies. The roots are the main part used and release a yellow-green-brown oil. Valerian likes full sun but will grow well in most soils, however dry, stony ground will produce roots with the most oil.

Valerian root is dried and is primarily used as an herbal remedy for insomnia. It’s said to have a sedative effect on the brain and the nervous system and may be useful in calming anxiety. The root has an unpleasant smell when first lifted from the soil. Valerian roots need two seasons to be of use and must be dried slowly in a dry, dark spot.

A suggested dosage is 30g of dried root to 600ml of boiling water taken in ‘wineglass’ doses when cool. Pour boiling water over the root – however do not actually boil the root. Savvy? Drink about an hour before bed over several days to encourage natural sleep. Valerian is considered an acquired taste, however should only be used for as long as necessary. Having Valerian too frequently or as too strong a concoction could be counter productive and cause restlessness and bring on headaches. No one wants that.

Soak, or if you want to get technical – macerate, some root in water for a soothing wash for healing sores and skin complaints.

Any home remedies should always be used with caution.


Back, P & Boxer, A. (1987). The Herb Book. London: Octopus Books.

Little, B. (1986). The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices. NSW: Reed Books Pty Ltd.

McIntyre, A. (19950. The Complete Woman’s Herbal. NSW: Gaia Books Ltd.

Image By Franco Folini from San Francisco, USA - Valeriana officinalis, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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