Valerian: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on valerian

Valerian officinalis, is an herbaceous perennial of the Valerianaceae family.

The plant typically reaches heights of 3-5 feet, and sometimes as high as 6 feet, though less frequently. Valerian's distinctive attributes include a clump of deeply lobed basal foliage from which rise tall, slender, sparsely-leaved stems. In the summer months of June and July these stems are topped by highly fragrant blossoms. These salverform flowers, present in white to pale pink and are in branched panicles (cymes to 2-4" wide).

Leaves are odd-pinnate, with each leaf having 7-10 pairs of toothed, lance-shaped leaflets. The entire plant is redolent: leaves are aromatic when bruised; and roots also have a strong scent. Both valerian root and valerian leaves are a cat attractant similar to catnip.

common names & nomenclature
Genus name comes from the Latin valere, meaning "to be strong and healthy", though other accounts say its moniker was derived from the personal name Valerius.

Also known as:
valerian, garden valerian, garden heliotrope, all-heal

Valerian, the phu plant
Valerian: Where in the World
habitat and range for valerian

Valerian officinalis is native to Europe and parts of Asia and has been introduced into North America.

Valerian: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting valerian

Valerian typically grows in damp locations, but also can be found in drier areas. It often is established along roads or in fields in full to part sun.

The valerian plant grows in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils. The plant prefers rich loams.

Propagate Valerian officianlis by seed or division in the spring. The plant spreads easily via rhizomes and often freely self-seeds. As the plant can be invasive—deadhead spent flowers to prevent self-seeding.

Valerian roots are harvested in the fall of their second year and cut to dry, may be ground into a powder as well.

Store dried valerian root pieces and powdered valerian root in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.