Wild valerian in Wiltshire, May 2019.

Wild valerian in Wiltshire, May 2019.


Latin: Valeriana officinalis L.

Synonyms: All-heal, setwall, amantilla, great wild valerian.

Botanical Description:

  • Single grooved cylindrical, hollow and hairy stems arise from the root stock and reach 1m-130cm, branching into right angled pairs of flowering stems.

  • Leaves appear in pairs composed of pinnate lance like segments and are varied in width, but up to 10cm in length. Deeply veined and with margins indented with teeth.

  • Flowers arranged in cymes terminating each stalk.

Parts used: Root (Radix).


  • Valepotriates – valtrate, didrovaltrate

    • Break down rapidly into inactive compounds (producing the distinctive odour of valerian preparations as a byproduct of this process).

  • Volatile oil – including valerinic acid.

  • Alkaloids – valerine, actinidine, valerianine, chatinine.

  • Flavonoids.

  • Also: sterols / tannins / choline.

Red valerian at Herbal Haven Farm, April 2019.

Red valerian at Herbal Haven Farm, April 2019.


  • Sedative / hypnotic via action on benzodiazepine rec.

  • Relaxing nervine

  • Mild anodyne / antispasmodic

  • Also: hypotensive / heart tonic / antibiotic


  • Insomnia – getting to sleep and prolonging time asleep.

  • Relaxing in nervous conditions – action found to be comparable to diazepam.

  • Muscle relaxant for heart palpitations, spasmodic cough and in cystitis.

  • Protective against nerve damage associated with Parkinson's.


  • May potentiate the effect if diazepam and temazepam d/t action on benzodiazepine receptors.

  • Rare cases of hepatotoxicity.


  • Thought to be the 'spikenard' mentioned in the bible.