Valeriana officinalis Open-pollinated. Known as Nature’s Tranquilizer or Herbal Valium, valerian root is used to reduce tension and anxiety, alleviate insomnia, and relieve muscle spasms and cramping, though for some people it can have a stimulating effect. Harvest roots in the fall of the second or later year. Early Greeks referred to valerian as phu (like our “phew”) because of the distinctive fetid musky smell of the roots. Sometimes called Garden Heliotrope for the wonderful fragrance of its flowers. Avoid high doses for prolonged periods. Tall leafy 3–5' perennial with clusters of honey-scented pale pink flowers. Remove flowers to hasten root development. Plant in moist fertile soil about 1' apart. Zone 4. ~800 seeds/g. ③
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See Herb Chart in the sidebar for uses and cultural information.
About medicinal herbs: Archeological evidence dates the medicinal use of herbs back 60,000 years to the Neanderthals. 85% of the world’s population employ herbs as medicines, and 40% of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. contain plant-derived materials. Fewer than 10% of higher plant species have been investigated for their medicinal components. Interest in traditional herbal remedies continues to grow.
Statements about medicinal use of plants have not been evaluated by the FDA, and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any ailment. Before using or ingesting any medicinal plant, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with botanical medicine.
Using herbs: Drying herbs at home is not difficult. Whole leaves retain their flavor at least a year. To substitute fresh herbs for dried in cooking, use triple the dried quantity called for in a recipe.
Culture: Some herbs are customarily grown from divisions because they cannot come true from seed, such as scented thymes and flavored mints. Some require fall sowing of fresh seed, such as sweet cicely and angelica, and these become available in August or September.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.