How to Grow and Use Valerian

How to Grow and Use Valerian

Let’s talk about how to grow and use Valerian…

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a powerful and very amazing herb. It has very potent medicinal qualities, makes your cats go crazy, and you can even grow it at home.

With pretty pale-pink or white flowers, and long green leaves, it isn’t a bad plant to have in a landscape or garden.

The medicinal part of the plant, however, is in the roots. So even though it is carefree and can get quite tall (up to 4 feet tall), you might not want to plant it in a back row or somewhere difficult to get to. You will need to be able to dig it up for the medicinal roots, so choose the location for your valerian carefully.

So let’s talk about how to grow and use valerian. This plant is a delightful addition to any garden.

Medicinal Uses of Valerian:

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For medicinal purposes, Valerian root is good in the following ways:

  • It is an excellent remedy for stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • Valerian is great for healing the nervous system and the digestive system.
  • This herb can also be used as a strong and natural sedative and pain-reliever.
  • It can be used for headaches (see: my Headache post for more details)
  • Valerian can be made into a diluted tea and added to pet food for anxious/restless pets, especially if you are about to travel with the pet, because it calms them. See this post for more details.

There are many ways you can take Valerian for these medicinal purposes. Check out my post to learn how to make a Valerian decoction. Here is another post with various herbal tea recipes for insomnia.

Have you ever taken Valerian for medicine?  This is probably my most commonly used herb in our home. I use it for pain relief for headaches and minor aches and pains as well as for my husband’s insomnia.

If you are looking to own some ASAP or you are not interested in growing any, you can buy valerian root at most local health stores or online (like this).

 

How to Grow Valerian:

valerianb**Valerian is an easy plant to grow in any garden. It is a perennial, except for the fact that you have to harvest your plant in order to use the roots for medicinal purposes.

**Due to the fact that you need to dig it up for the roots if you want its’ medicinal qualities, you should plant this beautiful herb in a carefully selected location so that you can dig it up easily.

**It is best in zones 4-7, though it is really an easy going plant and you can try it with much success in other zones.

**This is a very unique plant: the roots and plant itself often smells terrible to humans, but the flowers themselves have a light, fragrant scent to them.

 

Position:

**Valerian prefers a large range from full sun to light shade. It will grow up to 4 feet tall, so keep that in mind for the placement of your plant.

**Give your plant moist, well-drained loam soil or compost-rich soil, although it will grow in most conditions.

 

Propagation:

**Valerian can be propagated very easily by seed (like these). You can either transplant your small plants outdoors in late spring OR you can sow the seeds directly in the soil in the early spring.

**For more plants that you can start growing outdoors in early spring, check out this list.

 

Maintenance:

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**Do not let your Valerian plant get dried out. Give it moderate to heavy watering. Mulch will help you keep the moisture levels from getting too low.

**Valerian will self-seed if not maintained. It is up to you if you want it to self-seed. On the one hand, you will get more Valerian next year. On the other hand, you do not have control over where the seeds land and grow. To prevent self-seeding, cut back the plant after it flowers in the summer.

**You CAN grow Valerian in a container, but it needs to be a large enough container for the root system of this plant. Make sure the container’s soil does not dry out. This is a good option for a container that can be big and self-watering.

**Warning: Cats LOVE Valerian, some say they love it more than they love catnip! Make sure your Valerian plants do not get damaged close to the roots, because if the cats smell the roots, they will roll over the plant until it is crushed.

 

Harvesting:

**You harvest Valerian either in the Fall of the first year OR the Spring of the second year. It is nice that there is a choice in this, since you can decide which one works best for your schedule, or harvest some in the Fall and some in the Spring.

**For harvesting, I like to wait until the ground is moist from a rainfall, because it makes the ground soft and it is easier to dig up the roots without losing or damaging them. Gently dig up the plant, digging up as much of the roots as possible. Chop off the flowers/leaves and bring your roots to a sink (outdoor or indoor).

**Gently rinse off the roots until you get all the dirt off of them. Some people do not like the smell of the roots (I don’t mind them, but I am a bit weird about what smells I like). You might want to open windows or use an outdoor sink and possibly wear gloves if you really hate the smell.

**After the roots are cleaned, pat them dry, and then stick them in your preheated oven (at 200 degrees Fahrenheit). Leave the door of your oven slightly ajar, and check on the roots every 15 minutes or so until they are dried. 

**Once the roots are dried, you can either store them whole, chopped them up roughly, or grind them into a fine powder. It depends how you plan on using them. I like to chop them up into small-ish pieces to use for teas and decoctions. Some people like to grind them into a powder and take them in capsule form (like these).

 

Do YOU use or grow Valerian? 

**I would love to know how many other people grow and use Valerian like I do. Please leave a comment below and tell me if you use it and/or grow it.

**Otherwise, did you learn something new about how to grow and use valerian? I’d love to hear from you, too!

How to Grow and Use Valerian

 

 

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. SS Parker

    Having heard so much about Valerian root, I was lucky to be able to buy it in a Middle Eastern grocery shop. The smell as people say is not really so bad! The roots are singular pieces, with root fibres. I tried to use a mortar & pestle to pound it. I am not sure if the residue before the flower root can get smashed, is part of the soil or?
    How best should I make it into powder? Should I wash and dry the roots? I really need advice and help. Thanks
    I want to use the powder to sprinkle on the food of my 2 cats for calming and relaxing them as the resident cat is very agitated due to my adopting another kitty, he’s aggressive and I want to use a holistic approach

    1. thehomesteadgarden

      I gently wash the roots to get rid of the dirt and then I dry the cleaned roots in the oven. Put herbs in an oven with the door open, on low heat, like less than 180 Fahrenheit, for approx. 2-4 hours. You’ll know if the roots are properly dry for storage if you can easily break them. Then store them in a glass jar, out of direct light. I bought a coffee bean grinder that I use only for grinding herbs for making herbal powders. I personally prefer the mortar and pestle if it just needs to be broken up but not an herbal powder. Hope that helps!

  2. Jessica Harvey-Grayson

    I was looking to find out more about the qualities of Valerian after having some in a tea to help sleep. After moving the tea into a jar, my cat got a whiff and whoosh! I have never seen him so high and then so calm, and he eats my cat mint daily. Realllly potent does the cat, he’s snoozing next to me. Your advice on growing was very helpful, and I’ll look to get some, thank you!

  3. Wendy

    Great info, thank you! My Valerian is in the second year, I was looking for info on when to harvest and discovered your page.

  4. Carmela

    I am growing 5 Valerian plants this year for people! I run a small business and wanted to grow these for others and myself to encapsulate them and so far the 4 in the ground are doing great but the one in a pot is already shot up and flowered and it’s only been growing for 4months from a small sprout!! That one will be ready to harvest according to this information by this Fall. However.. I plan to grow it larger for much longer. I was told these plants need need need to be in the ground and growing well for up to 8 years until removing them for harvest!

  5. Brenda

    I harvest the leaves, dry them and make a infused tea..I find that they have the same effects as the root..so rather then killing off the plant I would just use the leaves instead..

    1. thehomesteadgarden

      Awesome! I’ll have to read up on using valerian leaves. Never thought of doing that!

  6. Aca

    I have grown and used Valerian for years, now. I make a tincture, along with Chamomile, the flowers from Russian Tarragon, and the leaves from Rose Yarrow after it flowers. All together this makes a ‘sleepy time’ tincture. I usually only use it once a week, if that often. You may find it will work 2 to 3 times a week; however, for me, I find that it does not work as well. It seems you become ‘used’ to it or develop a tolerance to this.

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