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This plant is native to Europe but was readily cultivated in North America in the early 19th century. Every eclectic medical text consulted listed this plant as a “cerebral stimulant” when used as a simple or single herb administration. The preparation of the fluid extract from the rhizome was official in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1820-1936 and in the National Formulary from 1888-1946. It is still used to promote healthy sleep in many European Countries, North America, and The Soviet Union and is included in the World Health Organizations monographs on herbs as well as the German Comission E Monographs.


There have been numerous human clinical trials conducted on Valerian and many have shown positive results to support a normal restful nights sleep. It is sold as an over the counter medicine in many European countries. More research is needed to determine the exact mechanism of Valerian’s therapeutic effects.

Uses of Valerian


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

The plant contains constituents called valepotriates, isovaltrates, and isovaleric acids known collectively as Valerenic Acids.

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

It should be noted that in some people Valerian in large doses (over 1 gram of extract) acts differently, in fact occasionally has the opposite desired effect and may cause agitation.

Additional Resources

Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. John M. Scudder, MD 1870.

King’s American Dispensatory by Harvey Wickes Felter, MD and John Uri Lloyd, Phr.M. Ph.D. 1898.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy by Finley Ellingwood MD; 1922.

Native American Ethnobotany, Moerman DE, Portalnd, OR 1998. Timber Press.

Leathwood PD, Chauffard F, Heck E, Munoz-Box R. Aqueous extract of valerian root improves sleep qualities in man. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 1982 Jul; 17(1) 65-71.

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