botanical name: Valerianella locusta
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The common valerian is the best known plant of the family Valerianaceae, inside which are including more than 150 species. Its scientific name is Valeriana officinalis, a term that is indicating its importance as a medicinal plant.
Origins and history
Native to Europe, it can also be found in some regions of tropical South America and North America. Valerian, which can grow up to 180 cm in height, is covered with numerous white or pink flowers, gathered in corymbs. It grows a little everywhere, up to 1400 meters high, in humid places of the woods and meadows exposed shade; It blooms between April and June and it's also called catnip, and found the smell attracts cats. For this reason it's rare that it is used as a decorative plant in gardens.
It's perennial and characterized by an erect stem with grooves, deep green leaves composed (formed by a variable number of leaves of 11 to 19 cm) and roots particular smell. Once the pollination is accomplished by insects, in July appear the fruits of valerian: it's an achene from striated surface and that presents strange feathery bristles: the latter are a remnant of the small teeth of the flower calyx.
Nutritional properties and benefits
With its leaves you can prepare an herbal tea with sedative effects, especially suitable if you are nervous, angry or tense. In fact all varieties of valerian have medicinal properties as they contain flavonoids and alkaloids: among the first are important 6-metilapigenina, the linarina, and hesperidin, whereas the latter can not forget the Valerina (substance present only in this family), the catinina, the actinidina and alpha-pirrilchetone.
In addition, the plant has a high content of essential oils, related to acid valerenic, Valproic acid, to valerenolo and the iridoids, that diterpene compounds.
Also the roots have calming and sedative properties, which favor a peaceful sleep. In practice, the essential oils inhibit the enzyme animal for the metabolic degradation of GABA: in this way, induce sleep in humans. Also some alkaloids have this function, in addition to lowering blood pressure and in the intestine spasms. However, it's recommended not to administer valerian to nursing women, pregnant and children under 6 years.
The use of cornsalad in cooking
There are many different ways to use the valerian: the most common one involves the creation of an infusion. To prepare it must be diluted in a cup of boiling water a teaspoon of valerian root (2-3 grams per 150-200 ml) and assume about half an hour before bedtime. Because valerian root has a special flavor, you can enhance the taste of the infusion using a mix of plants.
If you would use the mother tincture of valerian, it's recommended to be diluted in a cup of half a teaspoon water or an entire teaspoon of extract depending on your level of insomnia: the dosage varies from 15 to 30 drops in practice. Also in this case it assumes the prepared 30 minutes before going to bed.
The valerian can also have an external use, as an essential oil for the bath, but may be employed in the form of fresh juice or salad.
For example, it can be served along with chopped oranges, lightly toasted pine nuts and goat cheese: it is a recipe that can be eaten is as an appetizer or light main or as a complete meal for a summer lunch. Alternatively, you can serve it with red beets or with nuts and raisins or as velvety.
The name "Valeriana" comes from the Latin "valere", a word that means "lush, strong", but also "feel good", in reference to its relaxing abilities. Already in ancient times many doctors and scholars commended as a medicinal plant: for Dioscorides was an antidote against poisons, and a diuretic, while according to Galen was a great decongestant.
Finally, in his treatise, Pliny indicated valerian as an analgesic. Because of its calming effects and because easily available, valerian was used in an extremely widespread during World War I to combat the effects of nervous exhaustion suffered by the soldiers after the long stay in the trenches and bombings.