Valeriana officinalis

Common Name: Valerian, moon root, cats paw, all heal, great wild valerian, valeriane, setwall, phu
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Part/s Used: Root and rhizomes  
Energetics: Warming
Taste: Acrid, sweet, pungent, mildly bitter
Actions: Nervine, sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, analgesic, antidepressant, neuroprotective, soporific, hypotensive, carminative
Organ System Affinity: Nervous system, musculoskeletal, digestive, cardiovascular
Key constituents: Valepotriates, sesquiterpenes, volatile oils, alkaloids, flavonoids, polyphenolics, lignans, amino acids, tannins, resins, gums
Tissue state: Constriction
Planet: Mercury
Element: Air
Magick and ritual uses: A witch’s name for Valarian is cats paw. Valerian is used in shadow work, when going deep into the unconscious. Use during the new moon for extra magick. It’s a Samhain herb to help witches penetrate deep in the mysteries and go beyond their usual limitations to deal with fears and boundaries

Medicinal Preparations:

Tincture: Fresh 1:2  Dry: 1:5 70%
Drops: 15-90   Times a day: 3x
Glycerite: Fresh 1:3 Glycerin 50% Alcohol 50%
Drops: 5-60  Times a Day: 1-2x
Take during the evening hours. Valerian’s efficacy is highly dose dependent and for most it is recommend consuming higher doses for effective use. Rosemary Gladstar suggests however that some people do not have the digestive capabilities required to convert the volatile oils into their sedative properties and because of this anomaly it is recommended to start with low doses and work your way up to high. The fresh root is milder than the dried.
Tea: Hot/cold infusions, decoction
Ounces: 4-8  Times a Day: 1-2x in the evening
Although Valerian is a root, it is best gently steeped, rather than decocted to avoid destroying the volatile oils that are the active compounds. Herbalist David Hoffman suggests preparing a cold infusion, steeped 8-10 hours

Habitat and Botanical Description: 

Valerian is a herbaceous perennial native to Europe and western Asia that has naturalized in the temperate regions of the world. It can grow 3-5 feet tall and blooms with showy, fragrant pink white flowers during the summer months. The leaves are odd pinnate, toothed with lanced laced leaflets. Valerian is easily grown in the garden and prefers wet, well drained soil in full sun. It is a self-seeding plant but also spreads by rhizomes and can become an invasive without proper care. Deadhead the flowers to prevent self-seeding.

Medicinal Uses:

Valerian is one of our stronger nervine sedatives used to calm the central nervous system and has been used medicinally since ancient Greece and Rome.  

Valarian is a hypnotic that reduces night time waking and improves the quality of sleep and sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep). An herbal ally for those struggling with insomnia. Combines nicely with hops and makes a constitutionally balanced pair for sleep. If there is sleepiness in the morning, use the fresh root, which has all the same properties as the dried, but its milder and not strong enough to suppress REM sleep. Too much Valerian can cloud the mind, make you feel doped up because of its strong sedating effects. This may be the right herb for people weaning off sedating prescription drugs like valium who are used to something strong (under the guidance of a healthcare professional). Valarian is safe to use with children in a low dose, who have trouble sleeping or are teething (use with a cooling herb).

Valerian is an anxiolytic and anti-depressant, helping to soothe nervous tension and gently lift the spirits. It has a balancing effect on the nervous system and helps to calm folks who are agitated but uplift those who are depressed.

Valerian is an effective anti-spasmodic for smooth muscles. Used for ticks, twitches, intestinal and reproductive cramping, as well as tension headaches. As a carminative, it helps to relax the stomach promote healthy digestion,  ease tension and therefore allow more blood flow through the GI tract. Effective with children who are uninterested in eating due to nervous excitement, use a half hour before mealtime.  

Valerian is a hypotensive and found in many cardiovascular formulas. It promotes circulation by relaxing the blood vessels, increasing the overall volume for the blood to travel, and as a result decreases blood pressure. 

As an emmenagogue Valerian can help with delayed menses due to mental and physical tension. Valerians warming, moving nature helps to relax the body overall and promote better circulation and  blood flow.  

In rare cases, people can have the opposite reaction to Valerian, and can actually exacerbate tension and be overstimulate. It becomes a cerebral stimulant, increasing blood flow and circulation to the brain. It’s believed that this may be a constitutional factor for those sensitive to heat and may not be best for pitta types with a red face.

The root of Valerian has a very distinct taste!! We can tell a lot by the medicinal qualities of a plant from this communication. It’s bitter, acrid, pungent taste indicates that it is an antispasmodic and contains sedative properties. The scent of Valerian has a strong odor, which many find unpleasant, and few enjoy. The aroma has been described as stinky feet, or rotten cheese. In ancient Greece it was called “phu”

Energetically, Valerian can help people who have blocked creativity due to fear and anxiety. They are stuck in their heads and paralyzed by their own thoughts. They often must take mood altering drugs to cope with overwhelm. Valerian can be helpful for tense people who lack concentration.

Valerian is an herb of Mercury, which governs the mind, as well as the nervous system. Mercury herbs tend to have energetics that move quickly through the nervous system and have an overall balancing effect on the mind.  This helps one to calm, focus and find clarity among the internal chaos of emotions. It also helps the conscious mind to communicate more easily with the subconscious mind. Therefore it is used in many forms of divination including tarot.


Remove the flowering tops as they grow during the summer months to help the root develop. During the late fall, harvest the roots by removing the arial parts and unearth the root stock with a gardening fork. Shake out well and rinse. Dry in the shade. Once dried, Valerian should be stored in a glass jar, in a dark, cool area. The oils are sensitive to heat and the concentration of oils is in the root and has been shown to decrease overtime. Valerian should have a strong aromatic scent to it!

Recommended Products:


Although Valerian is considered a safe herb, there are some things to be aware of. Drug interactions are possible and may increase the effects of other sleep aids and interfere with prescription medications. Please consult with a healthcare professional. In some cases, Valerian can have the opposite effect and be stimulating causing headache, dizziness and stomach upset. Avoid taking Valerian with liver disease. Because Valerian is considered a sedative, avoid taking large doses and driving or operating heavy machinery


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  • Hoffman, David. The Complete Herbs Sourcebook. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Inc; 2016
  • Irvine, Heather. Valerian
  • Missouri Botanical Garden. Valeriana officinalis
  • Mountain Rose Herbs. Valerian Root.
  • Popham, Sajah. Alchemical Herbalism Course. School of Evolutionary Herbalism. Lecture Notes; 2020
  • Popham, Sajah. The Vitalist Herbal Practitioner Program. School of
  • Sinadinos, Christa. The Essential Guide to Western Botanical Medicine. Fieldbrook, CA; 2020
  • Sinadinos, Christa. Northwest School for Botanical Studies Course. Lecture Notes; 2014
  • Vermont School for Integrative Medicine. 
  • Wood, Matthew. The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books; 1997
  • Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise herbal: A complete guide to Old World medicinal plants .Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books; 2008

Disclosure: This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.