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Valerian : for Sleep and Relaxation

Updated: Mar 15

Valerian is a medicinal plant known for its soothing and relaxing properties, making it a common remedy for insomnia. However, beyond sleep, it offers many other benefits we are eager to share with you!

Valerian Medicinal Plant

Botanical Portrait

Valerian is a perennial herbaceous plant from the Caprifoliaceae family. Native to Europe and Central Asia, it now grows in temperate zones of North America, in damp and shaded areas of most of our regions. The stem can reach 2 meters in height, and its small pink-white flowers are grouped in corymbs, usually blooming from May to August, depending on the area. 

Valerian Table

Different Species

In Quebec, there are three species of valerian

  1. Valeriana officinalis (Common Valerian): The most widespread, it grows in sunny places, often near gardens. Its root has sedative and antispasmodic properties and is used to soothe insomnia, anxiety, migraine, and aid digestion.

  2. Valeriana uliginosa (Marsh Valerian): Grows in damp places, bogs, and cedar groves, mainly in the Matapedia Valley and Gaspésie.

  3. Valeriana septentrionalis (Northern Valerian): Found in Anticosti and Gaspésie.

Valerian has been used since antiquity for its medicinal properties. More recently, it was even used during World War I in Europe to treat nerve shocks in soldiers.

Cultivation and Harvest

At La Fée des Bois Apothecary, we cultivate Valeriana officinalis, as Mariane says: "it's the last plant I would harvest in the wild, given its close resemblance to the most toxic plant of all: hemlock. Our region has wild hemlock that grows in valerian's preferred environment; hence, I always tell people it's a plant to cultivate."

We grow it in a beautiful plot, but we no longer need to start it from seedlings, as it now reseeds itself year after year. Like all perennial roots, we harvest them by hand in the fall, taking care to choose mature plants.

And our sheep love valerian leaves when we put them in the plots to control seeding! We do this once the flowers have faded, so the seeds don't mature. It's a really ecological and productive way to practice responsible farming!

Valerian Medicinal Plant


Valerian is an ally for promoting peaceful sleep, reducing anxiety, and relieving muscle tension. It is analgesic, antispasmodic, sedative, carminative, and can be diuretic at high doses. It doesn't act on one particular organ but affects muscles, nerves, and human body tissues.

Its main affinity is with the nervous system (peripheral and central), helping to switch the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode.

It's one of the first plants we think of for sleep disorders. Combined with other plants, like hops, its effectiveness can be increased to ensure a peaceful and restorative night's sleep.

Its antispasmodic/analgic action affects the body's smooth and skeletal muscles, causing muscle relaxation and reducing cramps and tension. This is mainly due to its influence on the nerves innervating the muscles. This antispasmodic action can be applied in various ways: in the respiratory system for spasmodic coughs, tension in the urinary tract due to kidney stones, menstrual spasms, digestive spasms, etc.

As mentioned earlier, valerian's antispasmodic, relaxing, and aromatic virtues also promote digestion by relaxing tensions, allowing blood to circulate to the gastrointestinal tract organs. It's truly a superb remedy for all kinds of "intestinal" disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, gastric reflux; especially when these issues are exacerbated by stress. Truly, valerian should be THE plant to take if you suffer from digestive problems!

The paradox with valerian: in small doses, some people may be cerebrally/mentally stimulated by this plant! So be aware, especially if you take it (alone) in the evening in small doses for restorative sleep: if you find your head ablaze with ideas and upcoming projects, you may need to increase your dose, or simply abstain!

Valerian in the Kitchen

Unfortunately, we have no recipe ideas to suggest here with valerian, but we still found some information on the subject :

  • Some of our ancestors flavored their soup with valerian;

  • In some regions of Asia, its flowers are used as spices;

  • The food industry uses its essential oil and extract to add flavor to some food products and beverages.


Consult an herbalist or naturopath before taking during pregnancy and for breastfeeding women, babies, and young children ;

  • In high doses, it can promote drowsiness, even a feeling of depression;

  • Avoid driving or engaging in activities requiring vigilance & focus after taking it;

  • The effects of valerian could add to those of other sedative plants such as hops, chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower. They could also add to those of medications such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and all hypnotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers;

  • Finally, be aware that valerian can interfere with the absorption of iron.

Uses and Dosage 

There are several ways to use valerian, but it is primarily taken as a mother tincture or glycerite (for children) medicinally. Why? Because in decoction, the smell is rather unpleasant for some! Moreover, plants that induce sleep are better taken as tinctures, as teas promote nocturnal urination. The same goes for intense digestive system cramps or menstrual cramps, or other sharp pains. You want fast action: no time to make a tea, let alone a decoction, especially since we're talking about roots here!


De plus, certaines sources précisent que les valépotriates présents dans la valériane sont considérés comme les parties stimulantes et dispersantes de la plante. Une infusion à peine chaude, tempérée ou froide est recommandée plutôt qu’une décoction, car ce constituant se dégrade lorsqu’il est chauffé ou séché. Lorsque ces valépotriates sont inactifs, les effets sédatifs etAdditionally, some sources specify that the valepotriates in valerian are considered stimulating and dispersing parts of the plant. A barely warm, tempered, or cold infusion is recommended rather than a decoction, as this constituent degrades when heated or dried. When these valepotriates are inactive, sedative and depressive effects are more pronounced. Hence the importance of using valerian root in its freshest form, meaning a tincture made with FRESH AND NOT DRIED plant for optimal effect.

If you're taking it for sleep, taking it 30 minutes before bedtime is suggested.

  • Strong infusion : 3 to 10 grams of rhizomes and roots per day, dried or fresh, in a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 10 to 15 minutes covered. Filter and drink. Repeat up to 5 times a day.

  • Mother tincture : 2 to 8 ml per day. The dosage will vary depending on the reasons for consumption. A normal dose is 1 to 2 ml. To combat insomnia, it's taken only once a day about 30 minutes before sleep. For digestive trouble, like an intense episode of irritable bowel syndrome, it's taken 2 to 4 times a day. In case of pain following an accident, 4 to 6 times a day.

  • Glycerite : 2 to 15 ml per day


Our herbal products using valerian

At La Fée des Bois Apothecary, we offer a single product from this plant: The Insomnia Mother Tincture. But stay tuned, as the valerian mother tincture will be available shortly!

And know that our mother tinctures are always made on the same day of the plant harvest, so with the fresh plant. Mariane processes everything in a food processor to properly extract the active principles! This procedure is used by some herbalists, but it's not necessarily common.

For now, our valerian is found in the remarkable Insomnia complex. It's formulated to help you relax for deep and restorative sleep. The three selected plants (valerian, hops, and lemon balm) are excellent sedatives, anxiolytics, nerve tonics, which will also provide a sedative antispasmodic effect, helping to soothe the nervous system, relax muscles, and reduce pain if necessary. This complex also has several other functions/properties; for more details, please consult its page on our online store:

Mariane's Advice



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