Growing Valerian: a Natural Sleep Aid
Valerian Roots make a gentle sleepy tea
If you occasionally have trouble sleeping, then a mild sedative like Valerian can help. The roots of the plant when dried and made into a tea can gently bring you your zzz’s without the need of less natural medication. The way it works is by gradually making you sleepy and it can even improve your quality of sleep. Best of all, there’s no drowsiness in the morning like you’d have with conventional sleeping pills.
Valerian for better sleep
Valerian is also non-habit-forming which is a good thing if you have irregular sleep patterns. Valerian as a medicinal compound is made out of the second year roots of the Valerian plant so it’s 100% natural and requires no other additives. It is easier to sip if you blend it with better tasting herbs — chamomile, passion flower, and lemon balm are great choices. If you’d like to buy the dried herb instead of growing it, you can Get Valerian online.
Cats go crazy for Valerian
Valerian has a second use that might surprise you. Its pungent scent is irresistible to most cats and they’ll go absolutely mad for it! It causes cats to start drooling and rolling around until they’re properly silly. If you have a cat that isn’t keen on catnip (it does happen) it’s good to know that Valerian can have the same effect on them.
Feeding your kitty a little bit before taking them into stressful situations, such as trips to the vet or cattery, can be especially helpful to both pet and pet owner.
On Growing Valerian
Valerian can be easily started off by seeds which is how I started off. I sowed them in spring and left them in the seed tray until they had true leaves. Afterwards I potted them into large modules and let them grow until they were about three inches tall before planting them outside.
That first year the Valerian plants grew leaves about 2.5 feet in height and some of these leaves even stayed around through the winter (zone 9). They regrew this year sending up new leaves and tall flower spikes with beautifully scented flowers. You can increase the medicinal strength of the Valerian root by removing the flower stalks but I left them on for the bees.
2017 update: I’ve been growing Valerian for six years now and can add that it does well in both clay soil and lighter soil. I’ve given it the occasional mulch of composted manure but have left it to do it’s own thing most of the time. What you should be aware of is that in a good situation it can grow to five feet in height and needs staking. Otherwise you’ll find your plants knocked over by both the wind and their own weight.
You won’t need seed to propagate Valerian for years to come. The plants can send out runners that you can transplant elsewhere and you can also use root divisions to create more plants. In spring or autumn dig up the plant and chop it into a few pieces with leaf, crown, and roots attached. Replant and you’ll have more plants. Valerian also self seeds so you can transplant the volunteers if you wish.
Harvesting & Drying
Last week, and after nearly eighteen months of growth, I harvested two of my Valerian plants. They have long spindly roots that dig up easily but take a lot of cleaning. I can recommend spraying them with the hose to loosen any hard clumps of soil.
Scissors are a great way of cutting the roots off the plant and then give them another wash afterward. Next, cut them to about 1/4″ in length for drying. You can compost the rest of the plant or if there are enough roots attached, you can replant it for next year. I’ve tried it and it works, especially if you remove most of the leaves and cut the plant down to about 6-8″ in height.
Drying Valerian for Tea
There are at least two ways to dry Valerian. The first is to spread the pieces out on drying racks and to let them dry naturally in a dim and airy place in the home. A drying cupboard if you have one would be ideal but I’ve dried Valerian in my garage and it works fine too. It can take up to several weeks for them to dry this way — you know they’re dry when the pieces are dark and brittle.
The other way is to use a food dehydrator. Each model is different so follow the instructions that yours comes with as far as temperature and time. It’s likely that your Valerian roots will be fully dried within a day this way.
Preparing the Tea
To make a Valerian tea you prepare it as a decoction — basically you need to boil it. Place 2 tsp of the dried herb or 5 tsp of the fresh herb into four cups of boiling water. Boil for a minute then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let it seep for half an hour before straining out the liquid. Drink 2-3 cups before you want to go to sleep.
Dried Valerian available on Amazon: Frontier cut & sifted Valerian Root Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bag