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This image of Valerian comes from Nicholas Culpeper’s English Physician and Complete Herbal published in 1789. 
This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valeriana officinalis is a member of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae), native to Europe and Asia but now grown all over the world (Spinella, 2001). A perennial growing up to one or two meters tall (3–6 feet), it has dark green, pinnately compound leaves with serrated leaflets along the stem and at the base of the plant. It bears white to pinkish flowers in terminal clusters and produces an offensive odor when the roots are dry and exposed (Eadie, 2004). For centuries an ointment from Valerian officinalis has been used in China, Egypt, and Greece, as well as other countries throughout Europe, to treat sleep disorders (Gooneratne, 2008). During the 18th and 19th centuries, valerian was also used in Europe as a popular anticonvulsant remedy to treat epilepsy (Eadie, 2004). One study has shown that the root extract improves the quality of sleep for women who suffer sleep disorders as they progress through menopause (Bent et al. 2006).

Historical use

Nicholas Culpeper’s English Physician and Complete Herbal published in 1789 includes historical information on the use of Valerian. The root was boiled with licorice and raisins and ingested to treat coughs and remove phlegm. It was boiled in wine to treat a bite or sting from a venomous animal. A drop of boiled Valerian was applied to the eye to remove any dimness of sight and alleviate any eye pain. It was also used to treat any internal or external wounds and remove splinter or thorns.

Original image of text described in Historic Use section.
This image of comes from Nicholas Culpeper’s English Physician and Complete Herbal published in 1789.

Latest Research

  • Physiological and biochemical regulation of Valeriana jatamansi Jones under water stress
    by Ankita Thakur on March 5, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Understanding the physiological and biochemical regulations in a medicinal plant under stress environments is essential. Here, the effect of water stress such as flooding and water deficit [80% (control), 60%, 40%, 20% field capacity (FC)] conditions on Valeriana jatamansi was studied. Both types of water stresses retarded the plant growth and biomass. Photosynthetic pigments were reduced with maximum reduction under flood stress. Chlorophyll fluorescence study revealed distinct attributes under…

  • Does valerian work for insomnia? An umbrella review of the evidence
    by Valéria Valente on February 15, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Valerian is one of the most used herbal agents (phytotherapeutics) to manage sleep disturbances, in particular, sleep-onset difficulties in young adults. However, the evidence based on primary studies and systematic reviews that supports its use in this domain is weak or inconclusive. In the current study, an umbrella review was performed on the efficacy of valerian for sleep disturbances with a focus on insomnia. As such, only systematic reviews (with or without meta-analysis) were considered…

  • Safety Concerns Related to the Simultaneous Use of Prescription or Over-the-Counter Medications and Herbal Medicinal Products: Survey Results among Latvian Citizens
    by Inga Sile on August 25, 2023 at 10:00 am

    The use of herbal medicines is increasing worldwide. While the safety profile of many herbal medicines is promising, the data in the literature show important interactions with conventional drugs that can expose individual patients to high risk. The aim of this study was to investigate the experience of the use of herbal medicines and preparations and the risks of interactions between herbal and conventional medicines among Latvian citizens. Data were collected between 2019 and 2021 using a…

  • Immunological evaluation of herbal extracts commonly used for treatment of mental diseases during pregnancy
    by Moritz Winker on June 14, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Nonpsychotic mental diseases (NMDs) affect approximately 15% of pregnant women in the US. Herbal preparations are perceived a safe alternative to placenta-crossing antidepressants or benzodiazepines in the treatment of nonpsychotic mental diseases. But are these drugs really safe for mother and foetus? This question is of great relevance to physicians and patients. Therefore, this study investigates the influence of St. John’s wort, valerian, hops, lavender, and California poppy and their…

  • Phytotherapy of mood disorders in the light of microbiota-gut-brain axis
    by Maciej Korczak on January 15, 2023 at 11:00 am

    CONCLUSION: Modification of microbiota-gut-brain axis by natural products is a plausible explanation of their therapeutic properties. Future studies evaluating the effectiveness of herbal medicine and isolated compounds in treating mild mood disorders should consider the bidirectional interplay between phytoconstituents and the gut microbiota community.


Eadie, M. J. (2004). Could valerian have been the first anticonvulsant? Epilepsia, 45(11), 1338-1343. doi:10.1111/j.0013-9580.2004.27904.x

Gooneratne, N. S. (2008). Complementary and alternative medicine for sleep disturbances in older adults. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 24(1), 121-138, viii. doi:10.1016/j.cger.2007.08.002

Spinella, M. (2001). Herbal Medicines and Epilepsy: The Potential for Benefit and Adverse Effects. Epilepsy & Behavior, 2(6), 524-532. doi:10.1006/ebeh.2001.0281