Valerian is so good for anxiety that Valerian B.P. (made to British Pharmacopeia standards) was handed out to civilians in air raid shelters during the First World War. At high strength it is extremely good at calming the nerves fast, so useful for heading off panic attacks and in cases of extreme nerves – like stage fright, fear of flying and exam stress. The root is the part used and it has a very distinctive, earthy smell. This smell drives cats crazy for some reason and encourages them all to congregate for feline valerian orgies!
Valerian is also used as a sleep remedy although it doesn’t cause drowsiness. This makes it useful as a day time mental sedative where keeping alert is essential. As a sleep remedy, it is particularly indicated where the insomniac is kept awake by worrying – the hamster on a wheel mind going round and round at three in the morning! Or can’t drop off to sleep because the mind is churning over the day’s events. Symptoms that go with this are often restlessness or twitchiness. So people who have nervous tics, habits, restless legs or who are inclined to pacing are well-suited to valerian.
At Napiers we combine it with other herbs for sleep – Hops for drowsiness, Skullcap as an antispasmodic and painkiller. It is a majestic garden plant as you can see from this photo taken in my garden in July.