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Herbs for Health - Valeriana officinalis

There are many herbs that are useful in a medicinal capacity but perhaps none are so well known as valerian. Valeriana officinalis, of the Valerinaceae family, is also known as valerian, Baldrian, cat’s love, cat’s valerian, kesso root, St George’s herb and garden heliotrope. Its medicinal properties lie in its root, which can be dried for use in tea or capsules, or distilled into oils and ointments.

Though it has a relatively wide range of uses, valerian root is most commonly used for sleep disorders – particularly insomnia. It acts as a sedative to the brain and nervous system, allowing for sleep to come easily. As a remedy for insomnia, valerian is often combined with hops or lemon balm, either in a tea, pill, in a sleep pillow or even added to bath water. Many people choose valerian as an alternative to prescription sleeping pills, such as Valium, as it is less likely to leave you feeling groggy the next morning. Its sedative properties also lead it to be used in combination with other herbs as a remedy for conditions such as anxiety and stress, as well as symptoms related to these conditions, such as hysteria, panic, excitability, fear, migraines, stomach upset, depression and mild tremors. It is thought to help with sciatica and multiple sclerosis, shingles and rheumatic pain, as well as being useful to stabilise blood pressure and regulate arrhythmias. Some people also prescribe this for epilepsy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some women use valerian to help with pain from menstrual cramping and symptoms associated with menopause. It is not recommended as safe for use when pregnant or breast-feeding. The usual dose of valerian is 1 teaspoon in oil form, 1 – 2 cups of tea or 1 – 2 capsules, though as you are unlikely to overdose on valerian you can play around until you find what suits you.

Though it is commonly used as a remedy for insomnia, there are many things to think about before taking valerian – including whether medicine is the best optionyou’re your condition. More information can be found here. Valerian tends to be most effective when used regularly, with the best results seen after around 2 weeks. However, there has been no research into the effects of long-term use of valerian. There can be side effects to taking valerian root, including headaches, dizziness and (counter-intuitively) sleeplessness. Due to its nature as a sedative, there can be reactions with other drugs and if you are due to undergo surgery under anaesthesia it is recommended you stop taking valerian at least 2 weeks beforehand.

*This article is intended for interest only – use of herbs given are traditional and do not reflect the herbs efficacy. It is not intended, nor should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition please consult a qualified health professional prior to using any herbal preparation. Although the facts have been checked carefully, we cannot guarantee the reliability of information provided. Essential oils should not be used on children or vulnerable adults (elderly, breast feeding or ill) or during pregnancy. Some essential oils and herbs can be toxic, whether taken internally or used on the skin – your health care professional will advise.


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