Historically, valerian was used to treat insomnia, migraine, fatigue, and stomach cramps. Today, valerian is promoted for insomnia, anxiety, depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause symptoms, and headaches.
Although valerian is thought to be fairly safe, side effects such as headache, dizziness, stomach problems or sleeplessness may occur. Valerian may not be safe if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. And it has not been evaluated to determine if it’s safe for children under 3 years old.
The effective dosage of valerian root extract for treatment of insomnia ranges from 300 to 600 mg. An equivalent dose of dried herbal valerian root is 2 to 3 g, soaked in one cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. The product should be ingested 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime.
Valerian Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup of milk (300 ml)
- 1 tsp fresh or dried valerian root
- 1 tsp dried lavender flowers or a few fresh sprigs
- 1 tsp dried lemon balm or a few fresh sprigs
- 4 pieces of dark chocolate
Bring the milk and herbs to the boil, and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. Add the chocolate and stir until fully melted. Pour through a fine sieve and enjoy in small sips. If you don’t like chocolate, use a tsp of honey instead for a herbal honey milk.
Where to grow valerian
Grow valerian in a cottage garden, an informal border or wild garden, at the edge of a pond or streamside, ideally in moist soil. Site in sun or partial shade. The flower stems of valerian grow to 1-1.5m tall from a basal clump of foliage, so plant towards the middle or back of a border.
Valerian is considered an invasive species in many jurisdictions outside its natural range, including the US state of Connecticut where it is officially banned, and in New Brunswick, Canada, where it is listed as a plant of concern. If you aren’t allowed to grow valerian in your area, you can buy the dried herb and root in most health stores.