Common Names: common valerian, fragrant valerian, garden valerian, all-heal, amantilla, setwall, setewale, capon’s tail, heliotrope, and vandal root.

the plant

Valerianaceae is a small family of about 200 species of herbs found almost world wide (the species used for its herbal properties is Valeriana officinalis).  It has bilateral, symmetric flowers that bloom June-September and a dry indehiscent fruits called an achene (for an explination far better than the one I can give on what that means, try here ) as well as alternate and opposite leaves resembling these of ferns.  Its medicinal roots consist of long, cylindrical fibers issuing from its rhizome. Its stem is erect, grooved, and hollow. Valerian is a distinctively smelling perennial used frequently for sleep and anxiety disorders.  Valerian leaves are fernlike.

its history

Valerian was recommended for digestive problems, nausea, liver problems, and even urinary tract disorders by ancient Greek physicians. It has long been used to treat insomnia and anxiety in Ayrvedic and Chinese medecine, and was even used as an antidote to the plague, as well as a remedy for epilepsy.  It is even thought that a extinct species may have been used as a common perfume in Biblical times.     


Valerian is commonly grown as a ornamental plant in the US.  It tolerates a wide range of soil acidity and can tolerate full sun to partial shade.  It prefers rich, moist soil and should be watered often.  They can be planted by seed, but due to poor germination, are better off propagared by separating runner plants. 

The flowering tops must be cut off as they appear, thus enabling the better development of the rhizome. Many of the young plants do not flower in the first year, but produce a luxuriant crop of leaves, and yield rhizome of good quality in the autumn.



harvesting, preparation & storage

Harvest roots in fall, or early spring before shoots arrive.  Wash roots then dry using dehydrator or in oven at 120 F.  Dry until roots are hard, almost brittle.  This takes a LONG LONG time…depending on the root size, anywhere from  I generally keep long pieces of root in a jar filled with rice to keep them moisture free and ensure that they are completely dried out and then use a coffee grinder to smoosh them up.  Store valerian away from light.  The dried herb can be taken orally in a capsule, or added to hot water to make a strong herbal tea (that tastes/smells gross).  An essential oil can also be made of the herb.

medicinal use

Valerian has been used to relieve anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, stress, headache, nervous stomach cramps, uterine cramps, discomfort, and PMS…

How To Prepare
To prepare Valerian tea, combine 3 to 5 grams (about 1 teaspoonful) of crushed Valerian with 150 milliliters hot water (about two-thirds cup), steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain.
   To make a bath additive, combine 100 grams (about one-half cup) of crushed Valerian with 2 quarts of hot water for each full bath.
   A variety of commercial preparations are available in capsule and tablet form.

Typical Dosage
For relief of insomnia, typical doses of Valerian extract range from 400 to 900 milligrams 30 minutes before bedtime. Because the potency of commercial tablets and capsules may vary, follow the manufacturer’s directions whenever available.
   For other forms of the herb, the following daily dosages are commonly recommended:

Powder: 15 grams (about 3 teaspoonfuls)
Tea: 2 to 3 cups daily, including 1 before bedtime
Alcohol solution: 1 to 3 milliliters (about one-quarter to one-half teaspoonful) 1 or more times per day
Alcohol solution (1:5): 15 to 20 drops in water several times daily
Pressed juice: 1 tablespoonful 3 times daily for adults; 1 teaspoonful 3 times daily for children


contraindications & side effects

Valerian may or may not be safe for pregnant or lactating women and children (different sources have different opinions)    

According to the National Institues of Health, studies show valerian is safe to use for short periods of time.  Other sources state that long term (more than 4-6 weeks) use can cause insomnia, pupil dilation and heart problems. 

Valerian can cause upset stomach, mild headaches, dizziness and occasionaly, tiredness the next day.

Do not use valerian in a bath if you have an open wound, a skin problem such as psoriasis or excema, a fever, an infection, or heart problems.

Valerian has a long history of exceptional safety, which has been confirmed by clinical studies. In 1995 a woman in Utah attempted suicide by taking about twenty times the recommended dose. She was discharged from the hospital the next day, undamaged.

While taking valerian, caution should be used when driving or operating machinery. Unlike Valium- like drugs, valerian is not associated with dependence or addiction. While valerian is not synergistic with alcohol, it is best to be cautious in this regard. Sedatives should never be combined with alcohol.

Although no cases of drug interactions have been reported, animal studies have demonstrated that valerian can potentiate the effect of phenobarbital and benzodiazepines. It can also aid in the withdrawal of benzodiazepine tranquilizers and sleeping pills, but this should only be done under a doctor’s supervision.

There are no known contraindications to using valerian during pregnancy or lactation. Valerian should not be used nightly for longer than six months.

Poisoning may result if large amount of the tea are taken for more than 2 to 3 weeks. Do not boil the root.
Consuming large amounts of valerian may cause headache, giddiness, blurred vision, restlessness, nausea. And morning grogginess.

FDA lists valerian as generally safe. Use only in consultation with a doctor if you are using valerian for therapeutic purposes. If you experience any side effects, stop the use immediately.

active components

The chemical composition of valerian includes sesquiterpenes of the volatile oil (including valeric acid), iridoids (valepotriates), alkaloids, furanofuran lignans, and free amino acids such as g-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tyrosine, arginine, and glutamine.


magickal properties and correspondences

Gender: Feminine
Planet: Venus or Mercury, depending on source
Element: Water
Astorlogical Sign: Virgo, Aquarius
Power: Love, Sleep, Purification, Protection

Valerian is a frequent ingredient in love and harmony spells and potions, including spells for sexual love. It has a relaxing effect when taken in a Tea, and as such can be used in massage or sex magick.  Leaves or amulets in the immediate vicinity help restore harmony to quarreling couples.  To find out if your love is reciprocated, bend a plant in the direction of their home.  If the plant continues to grow in that direction, you are loved in return.  Growing the plant on your property ensures harmony with your spouse.


other uses


  • cats love valerian…

Valerian has an effect on the nervous system of many animals, especially cats, which seem to be thrown into a kind of intoxication by its scent. It is scarcely possible to keep a plant of Valerian in a garden after the leaves or root have been bruised or disturbed in any way, for cats are at once attracted and roll on the unfortunate plant. It is equally attractive to rats and is often used by rat-catchers to bait their traps. It has been suggested that the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin owed his irresistible power over rats to the fact that he secreted Valerian roots about his person.

  • I have heard, anecdotally, that valerian is useful for teething infants…I haven’t tried this, and I haven’t found it in a reliable source…but I have heard accounts of both rubbing valerian extract over the gums and of giving an infant a piece of valerian root to gnaw on…  I have no idea whether or not this works, or how safe it is…
  • a decoction of valerian leaves can be added to the bath to relieve tension
  • I have also heard of valerian tea being used as an enema to get rid of pinworms, though I have been unable to verify this
  • Planted in the gardesn it helps increase the number of earthworms, increases phosphorous in nearby soil and provides a rich mineral content to compost


recipes and spells

Peaceful Sleep and Dream Sachet

1 teaspoon dried valerian root
2 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers
pinch of dried lavender flowers (though I would use a helluva lot more more than just a pinch, valerian smells gross…)

Grind together with mortar and pestle, as you do say something akin to “Quiet mind, restful body, may peaceful dreams grace me tonight”

Place in small muslim bag under your pillow/

from Wicca Herbal by Jamie Wood 

another dream/sleep spell can be found here…



6 thoughts on “Valerian”

  1. Hi, I’m no witch although I seem to have my ex always calling me that. But, I am keen on herbal medecines. Currently I amgrowing, to my amazement, valerian and its running away with itself. I know that the root is good but can you make tea from the leaves. The information, skirts round that question and is making me think that I should use the root. I can’t take normal medication cause I react quite weirdly to them. Anyway, I live in Australia in a frost prone area, but this plant dies back in the frost and grows more vigorously once frost ceases. I got other things like chamomile, lavender, heartsease, roses, marigold, sunflower, snapdragon and other edible plants but really a novice at this.
    I really do need to have this answer on valerian though
    regards, and I hope to hear from you again. Jan

  2. Hello Kitchen-Witch,
    What an amazing synopsis you have provided here! Thank you for all your hard work that I may be so fortunate to find the answers I was looking for so quickly! Hope you are having a wonderful day! Keep up the amazing work:-)!

  3. anne brinkley said:

    I took verlerian supplement.I felt a little weird.I felt like I was in a spiritual world with the spirits in my house.then when I closed my eyes.I passers out and slept better than I have in my whole life.I was still in the same spot I slept in the next morning.had not moved.I usually don’t sleep and move around a lot at night.I love velerian.but it stinks like ass.

  4. Can you mix it with cold water and get the same effect as a tea

  5. sparklingonyx said:

    I know this is from ages ago, but this information is still useful! Also, I’ve been trying to figure something out… if you have the capsules, is it possible to empty them into hot water and drink it that way? We bought the capsules for my nephew who has found he has difficulty swallowing pills. Any response would be greatly appreciated.
    Again, thank you for the info 🙂

    • Well…you’d probably be better off with a tincture if you want to use it by itself (it your nephew is a child, you want a glycerin based tincture that is alcohol-free) . Valerian is sort of icky…really icky by itself, the quick shot of tincture followed by anything else it the best bet. A tea with valerian is fine, especially in combination with other herbs to mask the taste a bit–lemon balm, catnip, lavender, chamomile, and hops are kid friendly, but you’d have to experiment a bit there. Kava and American skullcap aren’t kid friendly, but can work in a tea for an adult (kava can cause liver damage at sufficiently high amounts, so use this with caution). I had a roommate that switched shifts every 8 weeks and I made her a lemon balm-lavender-chamomile-catnip tea that she would drink after she took valerian tincture (while holding her nose) to help adjust to the changing schedule.

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