Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae) is a perennial flowering plant, with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer and can reach a height of 1.5 metres (5 ft). The fruits are nuts and the root system is a rhizome with numerous root tufts. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the 16th century. The flowers are frequently visited by many fly species, especially hoverflies and consumed as food by larvae of some lepidoptera, butterflies and moths.
Valeriana means "strong against diseases". The word valens means strong or fresh. The name might refer to a Roman herbal doctor named Valerianus who used the plant as a medicine. Other names used for this plant include Garden Valerian (to distinguish it from other Valeriana species), Garden Heliotrope (although not related to heliotropium Setwall and All-heal (which is also used for plants in the genus Stachys. Red Valerian, often grown in gardens, is also sometimes referred to as "valerian", but is a different species (Centranthus ruber) from the same family and not very closely related.
The plant and especially the rhizome contains several active substances: an etheric oil which together with valeren acid and isovalerian acid promote the very strong scent which is typical for valerian. The plant contains also valepotriat and several alcaloids. The content of the valerian oil varies immensely in relation to the species, the age of the pant and the harvest time.
The Valerian drops are used as a calming and somnolent means and is sold as an OTC medicine. Laboratory studies point out that the plant might have anticancer effects. The root works calming and cramp loosening and can be used in nervous diseases and inner cramps.
Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its properties, and Galen later prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia. In medieval Sweden, it was sometimes placed in the wedding clothes of the groom to ward off the "envy" of the elves. In the 16th century, the reformer P. Marpeck prescribed valerian tea for a sick woman.
John Gerard's Herball states that his contemporaries found Valerian "excellent for those burdened and for such as be troubled with croup and other like convulsions, and also for those that are bruised with falls." He says that the dried root was valued as a medicine by the poor in the north of England and the south of Scotland, so that "no broth or pottage or physicall meats be worth anything if Setewale [Valerian] be not there".
The seventeenth century astrological botanist Nicholas Culpeper thought the plant was "under the influence of Mercury, and therefore hath a warming faculty." He recommended both herb and root, and said that "the root boiled with liquorice, raisons and anisseed is good for those troubled with cough. Also, it is of special value against the plague, the decoction thereof being drunk and the root smelled. The green herb being bruised and applied to the head taketh away pain and pricking thereof."
Although valerian is a popular herbal medicine used for treating insomnia, there is no good evidence it is effective for this purpose, and there is some concern it may be harmful. There is no good evidence that valerian is helpful in treating restless leg syndrome or anxiety. There is insufficient evidence for efficacy and safety of Valerian for anxiety disorders.
The European Medicines Agency EMA approved the claim that valerian can be used as a traditional herbal medicinal product in order to relieve mild symptoms of mental stress and to aid sleep. The EMA stated that although there is insufficient evidence from clinical studies, the effectiveness of the traditional use of valerian is considered plausible when it has been used safely for this purpose for many years.
Because the compounds in valerian produce central nervous system depression, they should not be used with other depressants, such as ethanol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates, kava, or antihistamine drugs. Moreover, non-pregnant adult human hepatotoxicity has been associated with short-term use (i.e., a few days to several months) of herbal preparations containing valerian and scutellaria (commonly called skullcap). Withdrawal after long-term use in a male has also been associated with benzodiazepine-like withdrawal symptoms, resulting in cardiac complications and delirium.
The very limited animal and human data do not allow a conclusion as to the safety of valerian during pregnancy. Moreover, as a natural, unregulated product, the concentration, contents, and presence of contaminants in valerian preparations cannot be easily determined. Because of this uncertainty and the potential for cytotoxicity in the fetus and hepatotoxicity in the mother, the product should be avoided during pregnancy.
Source: Anemette Olesen Klosterurter, 2001, wikipedia 2017
Valerian: Mechanism of action (read information on wikipedia )
Brøndegaard, Etnobotanik, Folk og flora bd. 4
Læge Baldrian/ Valeriana officinalis
Saft af baldrian og pileblade blev brugt til salve på hævet strube, (begyndelsen af 1400t.)
Christiern Pedersen (1533): saft indgives mod epilepsi; vin- eller ølafkog af rødder var urindrivende, dekokt med fennikel og opiumvalmuefrø i vin eller øl drikkes mod lændesmerter.
Henrik Smid (1546): mellem de to fruedage 15/3 - 15/8 blev rødderne taget op og skyggetørret, den pulveriserede rod drukket med vin var urindrivende og hjalp mod gift og pest. Den friske urt knust og lagt på hoved stiller hovedpine. Øjne badet med vinafkog af rod og blomster bliver klare.
Simon Paulli 1648: den knuste rod indtaget med vin anbefales mod svagsynethed , heraf tilberedes også et øjenbadevand der blev solgt på apoteker. Nogle forfattere hævdede at planten eller en klud dyppet i dens saft kunne trække jern ud af hug- og stiksår.
Roden blev anført i farmakopeen in 1772. Den styrker senerne, er sveddrivende, fordeler svulster, lægges knust på sår og tørret i pose mod svage øjne. Roden har krampestillende, nervestyrkende, sved- og urindrivende og opløsende egenskaber, den modvirker hysteri og forrådnelse og anvendes mod indvoldsorm. Den pulveriserede rod indgives for epilepsi. Mod hovedsmerter gnides panden med baldrianblade og krusemynte. Klog kone på Rømø gav den tørre, knuste rod som middel mod kvinders søvnløshed - eller de tørrede blade under hovedpuden. En te af bladene mod nervøsitet.
Roden indgik i en beskyttende pest-akvavit og et råd mod bl.a. feber og hjælper mod hudløshed. Indgik i øjenbadevand og "Herr Niels' dråber" = urteudtræk i brændevin
Baldrian eller St. Buldrian nævner ni andre helgener i flere signeråd fx "hil dig San wenis urt = (Velands?) du er kommet af Jesu blod" (1692 og 1793) i lægeråd for at fremmane tyve , eller mod gæssenes forhekselse. Hvis køerne omkring Mortensdag 11/11 fik baldrian i foderet, kunne de ikke forhekses. Rod af baldrian og mesterrod spises med kerner af pæon og nyserod mod trolddom.
"Mand og kone at forene som altid kives og trættes, giv dem begge et krus Valeriana, så bliver de straks gode venner."
Danish source: Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og flora bd. 4: Læge Baldrian.
images: grethe bachmann and wikipedia