New to herbalism, some questions.

Earth_dudeSeptember 9, 2005

Hello, im to herbalism and new to this board,
I,ve allways believed that the earth had a lot of great things to offer to us and ive recently become interested in herbs, The type of herbs im particuallary interested in are relaxant herbs.
I read on this site that the best herb for relaxing is Valerian root, I was wondering if anyone could give me any info on this? How well does it really work and what is the best way to use it?
Also is this easily avaliable? Theres only one health food store near me and i hope they carry it, if not ill have to order some, so id also apreciate if anyone could tell me a good place to order some from?
Thanks for any info

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Valerian root works, it is usually easily available, and you can take it in capsules or as a tea.

However as with all herbs, there's a downside as well as an upside. Herbs are medicines which can be just as potent as more conventional medicine, and they shouldn't be mucked around with.

Warning: Unpleasant side-effects (headaches, muscular spasms, and palpitations) can occur with long-term use or with excessive doses. In extreme cases, it has been known to cause coma or even death. Poisoning may result if large amount of the tea are taken for more than 2-3 weeks. Do not boil the root. Consuming large amounts of valerian may cause headache, giddiness, blurred vision, restlessness, nausea. It can act as a narcotic in large doses and can become addictive. Seek expert advice before using, and use ONLY under expert supervision.

I strongly advise that you check with your doctor before beginning on any herb/drug-taking regime. It's best to treat the cause of the problem, rather than just a single symptom of it. In your case, you will need to establish why you need a relaxant, and which parts of your body (muscles perhaps?) you need to relax. Once you've established what your problem is, you can then begin to address it appropriately.

You may need to consider alternatives to putting substances in your body. If you need a relaxant to help you sleep, for instance, or are stressed out, some deep-breathing exercises, or some meditation, are just as relaxing in many cases as any herb/drug. A simple change in diet may make a difference, too.

Meantime, you could also try 'stopping to smell the roses'. Or lavender. Literally. Both are relaxants, and just smelling their perfume can reduce stress and help you relax before sleep. Lavender is the best-known herb for this. Just put a drop or two of lavender essential oil on your pillow, or on a handkerchief, and smell it whenever you think of it. Or burn some lavender incense or oil. If you have a tension headache, dap some of the oil on your temples. Or you can drink a cup of lavender tea.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 5:38PM
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Yeah... I think that relaxing shouldn't come out of a bottle or a herb... you kinda seem young... so... my advice, like Daisy's is to learn how to relax, it will be MUCH healthier for you, in the long run maybe lowering your blood pressure and giving you a better life. Taking valerian would do nothing else for you. Yoga breathing exercises help A LOT! :o) Meditation... all sorts of things you could do that would be of long term benefit... much better than popping a valerian pill...

    Bookmark   September 10, 2005 at 12:01PM
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I'm going to echo the above posters, and tell you that Valium sounds like Valerian for a reason...

psycho-active compounds are not something to play with.

raw plant matter is not something to be consumed without some idea of concentration, dosage, and ideally a 'minder' to help you guage effects (YOU may not feel strange, but a friend might notice you're swimming sideways, eh?)

'relaxant' is a misleading term at best...heat is the best natural relaxant.

there are natural sedatives, calmants, sleep aids, euphorics... and they come in degrees of availability, useability, effectiveness, and safety.

personally, I prefer Kava to Valerian. I prefer extracts to capsules, and I won't make a tincture/tisane/tea out of any plant I haven't been growing for several years...and I am leery of prescribing or recommending dosages to other people without knowing more about their body chemistry than THEY usually know (or are willing to admit)

you might be better off starting out with several months of research and some cautious experimenting-

and I would definately research yoga before I turned to drugs... the drugs that your own body produces are clean, safe, and easy to regulate, so training yourself TO produce your own pain-killers, muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills is always the best bet.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 1:41PM
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To the others on this board:LIGHTEN UP!!!!! Valerian is not that side effect intense. The bad taste and smell don't usually lend themselves to that much overuse. Meditation is good, so is exercise. To relax, you may try a pillow full of hops. On the subject of kava, the Polynesians bred kava for diferent effects over the course of several thousand years. Different cultivars have different uses, just as huskies are different than chihuahuas. Most haoles don't know this and pick up any kind thinking it will do the same thing.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 6:12PM
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Cacye... Did you READ any of the other posts? I think that maybe you are the one who needs to lighten up.... I just personally think that we are a nation who likes to pop pills for any little ills... never said nothing much about the side-affects.... I am thinking that maybe you need to do some deep breathing calming exercises. You seem a little edgy.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 8:53PM
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Valerian's Therapeutic Profile: a strong pain relieving safe
sedative herb for insomnia, anxiety, and depression, without narcotic side effects.

It is also an effective antispasmodic and healant to the nervous system.

I have personally never had a problem using valerian with long time use. I prefer my valerian from extract (homemade

As for Kava, depending on quality of the herb, can cause nervousness in some people.

Wild Carrot has some great value's for the nervous system, but that depends on where your getting your information from. Some site's say it's good and others say it bad.

Blue Vervain is also helpful for tension, I prefer mine fresh picked and I just chew on the stalk, it is very bitter. With that said, I'm helping my liver at the same time while chewing it.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 9:59PM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

My husband has adult hyperactivity and suffers from anxiety. Since I convinced him to switch from perscription meds to valerian root he has been much happier.

As for all of the side effects mentioned above I would really like to see your sources. I am not asking this to be catty or snide - I sincerely would like to read more about it. I did intensive research before I started him on this and I was not able to find all of the negative side effects that are mentioned here. I do not want to encourage him to keep taking it if it can cause all of the problems that you mentioned. I also take it occasionally myself.

As far as wether or not it works - yes it does. He had a crushed spine several years ago and spent time in a wheelchair and was forced to learn a new occupation. Fortuneatly he was able to walk again and can now do just about everything he used to do but still suffers from depression, anxiety and adult hyperactivity.

A soy protien and B complex shake every morning and valerian root 4-5 mornings has REALLY helped. We get capsules from a health food store - I don't grow it yet but I am planning on it.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 12:20AM
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america has a cultral bias against sedation and mellowness as opposed to aggression and over stimulation valerian IS A SALAD GREEN thats wat it iz coffee on the other hand is an addictive psychostimulant.valerian and kava should b taken every day 4 mental health and functioning and anxiety by everybody 2 years old 79 years old watever

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 7:10PM
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Use of kava in children is not a good idea. Side effects seem to be most prominent in people taking large doses over a long period. Cases of severe liver damage have been reported.

Valerian, like any other sleep aid, has the potential to cause dependence and other problems. More info here.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 9:06PM
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Just want to comment on yoga and breathing exercise -- whether you choose to take supplements or not. There is good reason for yoga to be associated with tranquility. Anecdotally :), I began following a yoga podcast a few months ago, simply for the allure of a short session of stretching which cost me nothing and didn't require travel time or an infringemet on my schedule. Within a few weeks of 20 minute sessions, 2-3 weekly, I discovered that my severe anxiety was no longer severe, that little things weren't such a bother, that my stress headaches had diminished, and that my breathing, during physical activity or at work, was deeper and healthier, without any conscious effort. I danced for many years, and since abandoning the physicality, discipline, and creativity of dance, nothing else has had such a tremendous impact on my personal well-being.

Even if you are considering medication, yoga (properly and carefully performed) can have a wonderful effect. For safety's sake, if you haven't done anything like yoga, dance, etc. before, please try an in-person class first, as improper alignment is not good for your body.

(Yogamazing is the podcast mentioned and is free through iTunes. The website might have more information:

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 12:42AM
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Valerian and Valium are NOT related to each other! They do, however, work in similar ways in the brain, though Valerian is milder than Valium, and (according to some) not quite as addictive.

Why not try something a little less risky? Like catnip, lemon balm or chamomile?

I also agree with Thorndncr about the Yoga. It's definitely worth a go. You could also consider meditation (which might be covered if you start yoga classes). My son, who has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (with accompanying sleep problems) for 20 years or so, started attending meditation classes at a local Buddhist Temple a couple of months ago - and he says it really is very helpful. Because of his wonky immune system, he has to be very careful about what he puts into his body.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 7:38AM
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