Valeriana officinalisValerian, Velandswurt

FAVORITE USE(S): For stress reduction and inducing sleep

FAVORITE TIME(S): About thirty minutes before bed time

Valerian root is one of the most popular herbal supplements for helping to induce sleep on the market today.  Most anyone who has ever sought out a natural remedy to treat stress, insomnia, or anxiety is most likely well aware of valerian root.  It is well known for having strong sedating effects, as it contains alkaloids that increase GABA levels and are powerful sedatives.  I have been using valerian to help to treat occasional insomia since I was a college student, and am always sure to keep a container of it around for sleepless nights.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I actually sat down and did some research in to the history of valerian root.  What I found was pretty fascinating!  Valerian has been used for centuries by Germanic peoples as a ritual and healing plant.  It was used by the shamanic smith of German mythology, Wieland, to heal diseases.  The Germanic peoples also hung valerian herbage in their homes to ward off witches, evil spirits and devils.  In medieval Sweden, valerian was often placed in the wedding clothing of the groom in order to ward of envious elves.  In Iran, it is smoked and injected (!) for recreational purposes!

Valerian root is very sedating and calming, and always helps me to relax as fully as possible. Many people are interested in valerian root recreational uses, but unless you consider sleep recreational, I wouldn’t recommend it. The root can also be very helpful in cases of sore or tense muscles or headache pain.  However, excessive use can cause anxiety and insomnia, so be sure to only use appropriate doses.  Valerian root is an indespensible tool for dream work because it is marvelously relaxing and can help one to enter the dream state more quickly, deeply and fully.  If I take valerian root several nights in a row I notice an increase in vivid, memorable dreams, and blending it with other dreaming herbs produces a powerfully synergistic effect.  Whether you decide to work with valerian root alone or with other plants, it is sure to have a powerful effect on your dreaming experiences.

HOW TO PREPARE/RECIPE: Valerian root is widely available, and you will be sure to find it in any store that carries herbal supplements of any kind.  There are many different forms available, including capsules, extracts and the dried root matter itself.  The valerian capsules are the easiest form to work with, but I have found that fresh or recently dried valerian root is the most potent.  Just add 1 teaspoon of ground root powder to a cup of hot water and mix to create a sedating tea.

The root may also be extracted in to alcohol as a tincture – simply put 1-4 grams of fresh or dried valerian root in a high proof alcohol and let sit for at least one week.  A tea can be made by steeping the root matter in boiling water for 5-10 minutes.

Valerian root has very synergistic effects with other plant medicines, and it is in these mixtures that the true dreaming herb value of valerian comes out.  My favorite combination is valerian and kava kava tea, which produces beautiful dreams. Valerian mixed with hops in a tea is also a very potent sleeping potion that encourages vivid and lucid dreaming. Valerian root dreams may also appear when you are just working with the root on its own, but if you want to experience the full power of this herb on dreaming, it is best in combination.