Saturday, June 15, 2013

Valerian weed

From the start of our time here, I'd noticed a pretty weed in a couple of spots around the yard.  The glossy, but unfamiliar green leaves made me think that it was probably an ornamental.  Given the chance, deer would chomp off the flower heads, which made me suspect maybe it was a native plant.  But lately I'd also noticed that it was starting to spread, so I enlisted my sister (who's good with wildflowers) to identify it for me in case it was some invasive that I'd regret allowing to get established.  

It turned out to be Valerian - one of the great herbs of the ancients.

By the time of Hippocrates it was already well known as a cure for insomnia and depression - a status that modern science has validated in its turn.  The foul smelling root is dried, ground and made into infusions -- (or in modern times placed into less-foul-smelling capsules).

It's also valued by gardeners as a source of phosphorous for the compost heap, since the plant draws up and concentrates the mineral in its tissues.

I may dig up and dry some roots as a way of getting my herbal apothecary's toolkit underway once again - (if only to see if it's as bad smelling as reputed).  We used to keep a medicine cabinet of herbs when we lived in San Diego, but got out of the habit when we moved away.  And I guess I'll also make a point of throwing the leaves and stems into the compost along with all the nitrogen-rich vetch the garden's been generating.  I'm sure the garden soil can use the help.

longhorn beetle on valerian flower


  1. Oh, it stinks pretty badly. I don't mind it anymore; I often use Valerian since I'm a chronic insomniac. The dried roots get very hard and impossible to break, so cut them into usable lengths before drying. You are very lucky to have some in your yard.

    1. Nice to hear from you Aimee, especially since your own blog has fallen so silent! Neither Monica and I really suffer from insomnia regularly, but we could always have our sleep improved.

  2. Hello again! Yes, my blog has fallen silent, because I haven't any time to write. We are back from our year in Mexico and came home, unfortunately, to a bad renter situation and a thoroughly trashed house. We've been absorbed in the tasks of cleaning, repairing, and painting. And, alas, taking the tenant to court for unpaid rent and bills. I hate to do that, but he owes far more money than I can afford to chalk up to experience. Within a month we will be back on the farm, and then I will take up writing again on the old new to farm life blog. Thanks!