Sunday, September 19, 2010

Herbal Ally: Valerian

So yesterday was Yom Kippur, a 25 hour fast from food or drink of any kind. After I break a fast, I usually catch a buzz which makes it almost impossible to fall asleep and ensures me of a miserable next day. This time I decided to be a good herbalist and heal myself. I took some Valerian and had a great night's sleep and am feeling quite refreshed and content this morning. Valerian is a wonderful ally for those with extreme anxiety and insomnia. It is often referred to as 'Nature's Valium', although I think it should be the other way around and Valium (diazapam) should be referred to as the pharmaceutical Valerian. Although they sound alike and work in similar ways by binding to the same brain receptors, Valium is not derived from Valerian as many people think. Valerian is non addictive, does not interfere with the REM part of sleep, and you are not left with that groggy hangover feeling the next day.

Medicinally the roots are used. You would recognize Valerian simply from the pungent odor. It is kind of a stinky herb, although it does not bother me, some folks find it quite repugnant. (For all that odor though, it's effectiveness is worth it, in my opinion.) You can take it either in a tincture or capsule form. The plant itself has lovely smelling bell shaped flowers. I do not have any Valerian growing in my garden but I read that "Gregory Tilford, in his book From Earth to Herbalist, writes that Valerian is easy to grow and can be a great addition to the herbalist's garden. The roots are harvested when at least two years old and can be divided and planted again."

Botanical name: Valeriana officinalis.

May help: Anxiety, insomnia, menstrual cramps, tension headaches, sleep problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle cramps, and muscle spasms.

Origin: Europe and Asia, although Valerian sitchensis is in the western mid elevations of North America

Cautions and possible side effects: Do not use with prescription medications such as diazepam (Valium) or amitriptyline (Elavil). Don't use Valerian if you experience heart palpitations or nervousness after taking it.

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  1. hmm any idea if you can take this while nursing?

    I battle terrible anxiety and insomnia several times a month - often associated with PMS for a good week, and then intermittently through the rest of the month., I'm always scared to take anything b/c I don't wanna hurt my nursling. But it is VERY difficult to function on so little sleep! (for now i do relaxing techniques and so forth. and of course lots of prayer :) )

  2. Hi Elle,
    As far as the research I have conducted, books and online, I cannot find anything that says it would be a danger to your nursling. That said, someone did bring up the subject of age. If the baby is younger, the idea that the valerian would pass through the milk and cause drowsiness might be a concern as far as SIDS. How old is your baby? The older the child I should think the safer it would be. Also taking smaller doses, (valerian is quite effective so small doses are really all that is necessary)would be safe. Now, I was always told a beer was good for nursing mommies, (relaxing and yummy hopps the key here) and that was not an issue for nursing children. Another alternative is to use Bach floral remedies such a Rescue Remedy, quite safe for everyone, in fact if it is not in your doula bag you should really consider adding it to your tool kit. Blessings and sweet night sleep!


Thanks so much for you comment! I look forward to reading it! Blessings!