Valerian, properties and health benefits

Valerian, properties and health benefits


The Valeriana officinalis, traditionally known as Valerian, is a plant that has been used for hundreds of years to combat nervous excitement.


  • 1 Origins of Valerian
  • 2 Characteristics of Valerian
  • 3 What properties does Valeriana offer us?
  • 4 Contraindications of Valerian
  • 5 side effects

Valerian origins

This plant has been much appreciated since ancient times, in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire was already used. His name comes from the word valere, which in Latin means "great strength" or "health."

Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Galen, among other ancient authors recommended the use of Valerian for its calming effects. In ancient Greece, the name of the plant was "Phu", an allusion to the unpleasant smell that emerges from dry roots and withered flowers. The ancient Romans used to fight palpitations and arrhythmia. In the Middle Ages, the famous abbess Hildegard de Bingen, German herbalist, recommended Valerian as a sedative and as a sleep aid.

In France Valeriana officinalis was also considered a magical plant associated with white magic. It was believed that with it a powerful love potion could be made. Also in medieval Sweden it was placed in the gowns of the bride and groom to avoid the "envy" of the elves.

At the end of the 16th century, Europeans began using it to treat epilepsy. Apparently they calmed down epileptic seizures by inhaling dust from Valerian roots, and was also used to treat wounds. During World War II, Europeans took it in large quantities to calm the nervousness caused by the bombings.

Its name of "catnip" in some areas is due to the attraction of cats for their smell, however, although this plant seems to act as a sedative in man, in cats its action seems to be the opposite. In fact, it causes a state close to euphoria similar to cannabis.

Valerian characteristics

It is a perennial herbaceous family Valerianaceae. Its origin is in Europe and western Asia. In fact, its natural habitat is a humid and gloomy environment, growing mainly in forests and mountains of high altitude, although it can also be found in grasslands at lower levels.

This plant can measure up to two meters high, standing out for its vigorous looking stem but with short roots, which when dried can have a characteristic rather unpleasant smell. Between the months of May and July is when it begins to bloom, presenting an aspect between white or pink.

It is its roots that are used for its sedative and anxiolytic effects.

What properties does Valeriana offer us?

The main properties of valerana are its power soothing, relaxing, sedative and antispasmodic:

Its properties are:

  • It helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and hysteria.
  • Calms the neurosis.
  • It helps lower blood pressure and even tachycardia.
  • Promotes the balance of our nervous system.
  • It improves digestive disorders.
  • Promotes the elimination of gases and calms intestinal cramps.

Recently, in a clinical trial conducted with forty subjects, they reported the presence of beneficial effects of valerian (800 mg daily for 8 weeks) for Restless Leg Syndrome. The researchers observed a reduction in symptoms, improved sleep and a decrease in daytime sleepiness.

Contraindications of Valerian

Although it is a plant and its effect is not as potent as that of some drugs, that does not mean that it does not have some contraindications, which are the following:

  • It should not be taken together with alcohol or drugs depressants of Central Nervous System (CNS), because we would enhance its effects.
  • They cannot be taken alongside IMAO antidepressants.
  • It is preferable to avoid taking it during pregnancy or breastfeeding, since its safety has not been established.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) does not advise administering it in children under 12 years.
  • It is also not recommended that people suffering from respiratory allergies take it.

Side effects

An excess intake of Valerian can cause headache and even anxiety or irritable states, especially in the female sex.

In case of overdose, colic and tremor may appear, among other unpleasant symptoms, all of them transient.

David Alvarez Social psychologist / therapist