Interesting Facts about Valerian

One of the most effective essential oils for deep sleep and calming is that of valerian. It is a powerful natural remedy which has been recognized and used for many thousands of years for its valuable medicinal properties.

What is Valerian?

Valerian is an herb, and its essential oil is derived from its dried root. Used for millennia for emotional balance, calming, grounding, and deeper sleep, it has more recently been scientifically studied and proven to be an effective natural sleep and anti-anxiety aid.

Valerian is a perennial flower which is native to parts of Europe and Asia, and there are more than two hundred and fifty varieties of the plant. It has small clusters of heads of pink and white fragrant flowers which bloom in summer. Valerian flower extract was also used as a fragrance as recently as the 1500s, yet by far its use has traditionally been therapeutic. For many, its root has been used as a “cure-all” as it has so many applications for health and wellbeing.

Did you Know?

  • Hippocrates described the benefits of valerian
  • Ancient Greek physician and philosopher Galen prescribed valerian as an insomnia remedy and an antidote for poisons
  • A medieval recipe suggests giving valerian to men who are aggressive or fighting to calm them
  • Bridal grooms in mediaeval Sweden wore valerian flowers in their clothing to ward off the envy of Elves
  • Sixteenth century Reformer Pilgrim Marpeck prescribed valerian tea to an unwell woman
  • Sixteenth Century herbalist John Gerard espoused the benefits of valerian for croup, convulsions, and bruising
  • In the past, valerian was used to “cure” epilepsy
  • Valerian was widely used as a medicine by poorer people in Scotland and England’s north who has no access to proper nutrition or other medicines
  • During the 1800s, valerian was given to women to cure the “vapors”
  • Native Americans used valerian to treat stomach upset, cuts ,and wounds
  • Valerian was used during WWI and WWII to treat shellshock and nerves
  • According to folklore, the Pied Piper of Hamelin stuffed his pockets with valerian to lure the rats from the village. To this day, some rodent exterminators use valerian.
  • Valerian is also traditionally known as Great Wild Valerian, Phu, Capon’s Tail, All-Heal, Setwall, and Amantilla
  • Cats and dogs love the smell of valerian! It acts as a stimulant to cats similar to catnip – the opposite to the effect it has on humans
  • The essential oil derived from the dried root is very pungent and earthy, smelling in its raw form similar to a mature cheese. Others have describes the smell of the root as resembling ancient leather, stale sweat or worn socks.
  • Valerian is added to perfumes to give them a musky fragrance


Valerian has traditionally been used as a powerful yet gentle sedative, migraine treatment, anticonvulsive, antiseptic, and a pain relief medicine. It has no identified adverse side effects, however is not intended for long term heavy use.

Valerian’s sedative properties are comparable to those of benzodiazepine medicines, yet without the harmful side effects that these incur.

For an array of health benefits, choose valerian essential oil for deep sleep and calming. It also helps with anxiety and depression, prevents heart palpitations, improves gastric health and menstrual cramps, regulates blood pressure, and is great for the skin. It is safe for use in moderation and a great way to bring some relaxation to your life.

Written by Lorna Mates, Staff Writer at