Valerian is a flowering plant from the Valerianaceae family and is native to Europe and some parts of Asia. It has since then naturalized and introduced in North America.
Valerian grows up to two feet tall and is planted to decorate garden landscapes but also can be found growing in damp grasslands. Valerian has hollow and straight stems and is capped by umbrella like flowery heads. It has pointed dark green leaves at the tip and little hairy stems underneath. Valeria is an appealing plant because of its sweet smelling traits. It reaches full bloom in June when it shows its pink and sometimes purple flower form.
The use of Valerian as a medicinal herb dates back to ancient Rome and Greece. Hippocrates mentioned its properties in his writings and Galen later prescribed Valerian as a remedy for insomnia. Valerian can also be processed as a tea. In medieval Sweden, town folks used to place Valerian in the wedding clothes of the groom as a means to rid away the spirits of the “elves”.
The root of the valerian plant is the part that is used as herbal medicine by pressing into fresh juice of dried fresh forming a powdery substance.
In modern herbal medicinal use, Valerian is still widely prescribed as a cure for insomnia or sleep disorders and serves as an added option to benzodiazepine drugs. Valerian is also used as a sedative for hysteria, excitability, nervous tension, epileptic seizures, gastrointestinal spasms, heart palpitations, headaches, trembling, intestinal colic and stress. Valerian is also popular in the United States as an ingredient to make nutritional supplements. During World War II, when air raids hover over England, Valerian was used with other ingredients as a medication to cure civilians of nervous tensions and helps calm the nerves thus preventing mass hysteria.
Small studies done around the world concludes that Valerian can be helpful in treating people afflicted with insomnia, although no definite test can prove how much of a help valerian does to curing insomnia it is still widely regarded as one of the leading herbal and holistic form of treatment for sleep disorders and insomnia.
One particular edge the valerian root has over other herbal medicines is its ability not to produce a hangover effect on the physical and mental functions of a person the next day. Comparing to the normal sleeping pills, valerian root presents less side effects unlike many sleeping pills which produced a worsening case of insomnia once people discontinued its use. Valerian does not present that problem even if it discontinued abruptly.
Scientists are still studying the over-all chemical properties of Valerian to fully maximize its use as a holistic and herbal treatment. Scientists do believes that valerian root helps increase the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) chemicals in the brain. GABA is proven to help regulate nerve cells in the brain and creates a calming effect on stress and anxiety.
Valerian is not only a flower that adds appeal to landscapes and gardens, it can also be used holistically as a herbal treatment for sleep disorders, stress, anxiety and other conditions and most importantly It does not provide side effects.