This week in NG we’ll be talking about the herb valerian, paying special attention to the uses as derived from its root. Historically valerian has been associated with mixtures for sedation, and most recognized by its pungent smell. In one variation of the Pied Piper tale, valerian, or the powder from the root, was used to lure rodents, and then children, out of the town.
Herb – Valerian Root
Genus and Species: Valeriana Officinalis
Energies: Peace Bringing
Deity: Asclepios or Hypnos
Powers: Love, Sleep, Purification, Protection
This week in NG we’ll be talking about the herb valerian, paying special attention to the uses as derived from its root. Historically valerian has been associated with mixtures for sedation, and most recognized by its pungent smell. In one variation of the Pied Piper tale, valerian, or the powder from the root, was used to lure rodents, and then children, out of the town. I am a bit skeptical about valerian’s ability to lure any human, due to its abrasive smell (something like body-odor and dirt combined), but valerian is known to have a certain sway over rodents and cats: acting as a blood-pressure reducer in rats and performing a similar function to catnip in cats. Around the 10th century valerian was considered a panacea or all-heal, and since then has been used in many levels of medicinal and magical practices.
For medicine purposes valerian is mainly taken internally in the form of powders, pills, or teas, and rarely used as an essential oil. In its three main iterations it can be used to treat insomnia and nervousness. Unlike many other sleep-aids on the market, and in marked contrast to the similar-sounding Valium, valerian does not have potential for addiction, lacks severe side effects, allows for an alert awakening, and can be safely taken with alcohol. To use as a sleep aid, take preferred form of valerian 30 minutes before bed. In times of nervousness or mental fatigue, valerian can be used as a sedative, bringing a level of peace to otherwise racing thoughts or overwrought emotional states. To use as a sedative, take it any time before or during times of mental or emotional distress.
To protect your home against lightning and evil of any kind, hang a sprig in a central living area. If you have a quarrel with a lover or friend, introduce valerian into a space you mutually occupy, and watch as the issues dissipate around valerian’s peaceful energies. On the darker end of the spectrum, valerian can be used as a substitute for graveyard dust in certain malicious mixtures and spells (such as those to bring illness to an enemy). Valerian flowers (often white, pink, or lavender in appearance) can be carried in a sachet to encourage a deeper love and deeper sleep within the individual, along with general protection of the carrier. Remember, of course, that for magical uses, one must truly engage the energy of the plant for see its full effects.
Valerian is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun or partial shade. Once established, it will self-sow and/or spread by root runners. Valerian does best in rich, moist, well-drained loam. It is better to propagate valerian from an existing plant rather than grow from seeds, which have a highly limited viability.
Next week in NG we’ll be discussing the powers of diamond, subsequently the birthstone of those born in April. See you then!
Z. Smith is a cookie connoisseur, moonlight meanderer, and aesthete at large. His work has previously appeared in 13 Experiments, Folio, Stone Soup Review, SLUG Magazine, Salt Lake City Weekly, and CATALYST Magazine. He earned his BA in English from The University of Utah and currently writes from a room with many plants.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Herbs and Things by Jeanne Rose
The New Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman
Sleep Medicine by Sudhansu Chokroverty and Michel Billiard