Valeriana musings.

On alt.folklore.herbs in Sep96,

by Howie Brounstein

Photo: Valeriana officinalis 10. I was told by an herbalist friend of mine that the ingedient in valerian which induces sleep is not water-soluble, so making a tea of it would do nothing for sleep....not to mention the fact that Valerian root (which is where the sleep stuff is) is notoriously odorous - I think it smells like sweaty socks from a gym locker, personally : ) So if you take it - and I know nothing about the toxicity or the build up of it in the liver, I would take it in a capsule form which are readily available. It didn't do much for me, tho, I had to take about four of them to help me sleep. YMMV, Consult a professional herbalist or homeopathic physician.

Funny, just last month I was sitting round the campfire with a group of students. We had spent the day digging Valeriana sitchensis, dodging helicopters carrying water to the fires burning around the area, botanizing, and other herbal-type stuff. Most of the roots were to be washed in the river the next day, but some of it we washed after dinner, chopped and ran through a hand crank wheatgrass juicer, and made some fresh Valerian juice. While the guest speakers talked of Valeriana chemistry, we tasted the fresh juice. The results, not unexpected as I do this every year, was that everyone felt the smell, the taste of the Valeriana, throughout their bodies. As one student starts renaming the constellations to reflect teapots, tincture presses, and popular herbalists, I think of how complex herbs really are, the closer we look, the less we know. Some folks were strongly stimulated, others quieted. Valerian acts differently on different people, depending on dosage and personal constitution.

I beg to differ opinions with your herbalist friend. The water extract of valerian is unquestionably effective, from years of first-hand experience. In fact, I believe fresh root tea to be the most effective way to ingest Valerian. But, there are constituents that boil away at relatively low temperatures. If you boil the valerian root, as you generally do with roots, than you loose much of the effect but leave most of the smell. This is probably why your friend has heard that Valeriana tea in useless.

Therefore, steep your valerian root in luke warm water for a day.

I grind the fresh root in a blender, cover it with water to form a mush, let sit a day, squeeze it through some muslin cloth, and voila (or should I say Valeriana) --- musky earthy tea fit for the heartiest of taste buds. But a small cup will impart a strong sensation throughout the body.

And, to top it all off, current research trends indicate that the main active constituent is not what it used to be. In fact, even though valerian chemistry is one of the more studied, the experts are no longer sure what the active ingredient is. Another reason to use the WHOLE PLANT, not some extract from dead material standardized to a certain percentage of some possibly active ingredient, ignoring the other constituents, destroying any possibility of natural synergistic effects from the WHOLE PLANT'S complex of chemicals, perhaps even filtering out truly important components.

I personally do not like dried valerian, and will always go with fresh root, or fresh root tincture if the fresh root is unavailable. They differ chemically, but the choice is indeed personal.

Howie Brounstein
"It's easy to harvest wild plants, the hard part is not harvesting."