Valerian is a legendary herbal ally that most of us can grow right in our own backyards. Let’s dig deeper into its surprising medicinal and magickal properties!
Growing to four feet, valerian is a clump-forming perennial herb with a yellow-brown rhizome, hollow stems, deeply divided leaves, and small white or pinkish flowers that form flat topped clusters. It is native to Europe and Asia, but is naturalized in North America. In the wild it grows in grasslands, damp meadows, and along streams.
If you choose to include this botanical bad boy in your witchy garden, I suggest locating it near the catnip and extending the anti-cat stakes into its bed. Depending on your regional watering needs for this group of plants, I imagine a perennial bed of echinacea, catnip, and valerian would be breathtaking. Or at least beautiful.
The flowers themselves smell sweet, but the leaves and the roots… Well, not everyone seems to enjoy the smell of valerian. It has been described by some as simply earthy and others as smelly gym socks.
Valerian’s unique aroma seems to have a similar affect on our feline friends as catnip does. They will actively seek out valerian, bite at the root, and even roll around on it. Cats aren’t the only ones attracted to this pungent perennial. Legend has it that the Pied Piper of Hamelin used valerian to attract the rats when luring them out of town.
Other Names: Setwell, Capon’s Tail, All-heal, Garden Heliotrope, English Valerian, Phu, St George’s Herb, Vandal Root, Wenderot
Composition: Valerian refers to the fresh root or underground parts of the plant, as well as the dried roots.
Methods of Administration: tea, tincture, capsule, bathing agent
Valerian root has a 2,000 year history as a sedative. Over 200 studies have been conducted, and it appears that even the aroma of the herb contains sedating properties. Currently, it is listed as a sleep aid in over 16 different pharmacopoeias worldwide. It is preferred over mainstream medications because it does not interact with alcohol or other drugs, as mainstream sleep aids often do.
And while it is best known for its sedative properties, it is not a niche herb. Valerian is a bit more like a one man band. It helps with sleep, nervous conditions, and stress. It also helps with circulatory issues. It slows down heart rate while increasing the force of the beats. It stimulates the stomach and intestinal motility. It has been used since ancient times as a treatment for epilepsy and even stole the spotlight for a short while as an antidote to the plague. It remains one of the best herbal sources of calcium and magnesium.
- anodyne (mild)
- after-birth pains
- arthritis (pain)
- blood pressure (high)
- bronchial spasms
- digestive disorders
- drug addiction
- heart palpitations
- irregular heart beat
- menstrual cramps
- menstruation (promotes)
- migraine headaches
- muscle spasms
- nervous breakdown
- nervous conditions
- pain relief
- scarlet fever
- skin eruptions
- stomach problems
- stress related eczema
- twitching spasms
- worms (expels)
Valerian is generally considered safe, but it doesn’t agree with everyone. For some people it can be stimulating and irritating, the exact opposite of what one would expect.
Avoid taking large doses of valerian for extended periods of time. Instead, take modest doses for 2 to 3 weeks and then break for a week before taking again. Happily it is nonaddictive and won’t leave you feeling too sleepy. If your muscles start feeling rubbery, that’s a sign that you’re taking too high of a dose. Just back it off a little bit and you’ll be fine.
Caution is advised during the use of barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other sedative drugs, as valerian has the potential to increase the effects of some sedatives.
When I first got started with herbs, the first herbalist that I was drawn to was Rosemary Gladstar. She has a tincture recipe that is actually about to go on my brewing shelf for coughs. I will probably switch out the licorice root for something else and share a separate blog post at that point but for now I would like to share the original recipe in honor of one of the women who inspired me upon this path.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Bronchial Relaxer Formula
This formula is helpful for treating deep spastic coughs.
1 part licorice root
1 part valerian root
¼ part cinnamon bark
¼ part ginger root
Tincture the herbs in 80 proof alcohol following a standard tincture procedure.
2-3g root per 8oz water for tea
100g per bath
As a Sleeping Aid:
Look for extracts containing 300-500mg
Aqueous Extract: 400-900 mg by mouth up to 2 hours before bedtime
Ethanolic extract: 600 mg by mouth at bedtime
Herb (fresh or dried): 2-3 g by mouth 3 times per day
Combinations with hops or lemon balm: 320-500 mg by mouth at bedtime
Take for no more than 28 days without breaking for at least 7 days.
Valerian is often combined with other sleep inducing herbs such as hops, passionflower, lemon balm, lavender, and chamomile. It can also be combined with calendula to relieve cramps or hawthorn berry to treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Try these tea recipes:
1 teaspoon valerian steeped in a cup of hot water for 15minutes.
Tension and Mental Calming: ½ teaspoon valerian, ½ teaspoon skullcap
Sleep: ½ teaspoon valerian, ¼ teaspoon passion flower.
Drink one hour before bed.
Because of the volatile nature of its aromatic oils, valerian root is generally infused rather than decocted. Those same aromatic oils impart the flavor to the tea so you might want to consider mixing valerian with other more flavorful herbs or taking it as a tincture.
Magickal Correspondences and Associations of Valerian
Deities: Wieland, Bast
Planet: Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon
Zodiac: Virgo and Aquarius
Magickal Form: powder or tincture
Magickal Properties of Valerian
- dream work
- feline magick
- love and harmony
- Samhain celebrations
- Yule celebrations
- Useful in spells related to ending guilt and negative self-talk and developing self-acceptance.
- Can be used in animal magic, especially cat magic and evoking animal spirits.
- Use in spells to turn bad situations to your advantage.
- It can be used in magick relating to stress, anxiety and insomnia.
- Use it in healing spells for pain relief.
- Evil spirits do not like the smell of valerian and will be chased away by it. Sniff valerian to drive out internal demons.
- The dried root can be used to dispel negative energy.
- Consume valerian to promote a highly relaxed state before performing dream work or meditation.
- For protection from evil and magick, use Valerian in sachets, amulets, or talismans and carry it with you.
- Sachets placed around the home help protect the home from lightening strikes.
- Placed in a dream pillow, it protects against nightmares, and taken as a Tea, it promotes peaceful sleep.
- A few leaves placed in the shoes protect against colds and flu.
- Leaves or amulets in the immediate vicinity help restore harmony to quarreling couples. Growing the plant on your property ensures harmony with your spouse.
- Valerian stalks can be dried and soaked in tallow or oil, then used as a torch for spells and rituals. The torch can then be used to light sacred fires. Meditation in the light of a torch improves clarity for a given situation.
- Steep some valerian in the ritual cup when doing work when the Moon is in Virgo or Aquarius.
- Combine valerian with other herbs and crystals in sachets or amulets to use for protection, or in a dream-pillow to ward off nightmares.
- Spread the herb around a ritual space to cleanse and purify the space. King Solomon’s sprinkler is to have included the herb as an ingredient when cleansing the temple.
- Add the herb to a love sachet. It was said that the sprig pinned to the garment of a woman would cause men to “follow her like children”.
- Valerian is a cleansing herb, and can be used to purify ritual spaces and consecrate incense burners. For self purification, use as a tea during the purification period.
- Valerian can be substituted fo “graveyard dust” in black magick. Graveyard dust is used in conjuring ghosts to do your bidding.
- It enhances any curse or hex you place, and used alone as a hex, it can be cast upon your enemy’s pathway or steps, or placed in a red bag and buried on your enemy’s property to bring evil upon them.
- To prevent unwanted visitors, sprinkle powdered herb on your front stoop and say their name.
- For eliminating troubles, write the trouble on parchment paper, then burn and mix the ashes with powdered herb, then bury.
- The root is ground and added to protection sachets. The ancient Greeks would hang the protection sachet under a window to charm evil away.
Dried valerian can be purchased in the Apothecary.
If you like Valerian 101, you might like these as well:
Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.