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:
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.
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:
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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!