Valerian has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal effects. The earliest recorded reference has been found in texts dating back to 460 B.C. in which its unpleasant smell was described as “phu”.
During the age of Hippocrates, and the birth of Western Medicine, Valerian was used as a common treatment for a variety of ailments, all of which tended to focus around problems with either the urinary or digestive tract – although it was viewed by many as a cure-all and general health booster.
Before it was commonly known as Valerian, this herb was traditionally known as Nard. Although the origin of its name is still debated, it is general consensus that it is derived from the Latin word meaning “good health”. However, other believe it got its name due to the frequency of its use for medical purposes by Valarius, a politician of the era.
Valerian has also gone by another name in centuries past. Known as Amantilla by the Anglo-Saxons, it was often used as a sedative and social calmer. Old recipes describe giving aggressive or fighting men in order to create instant peace. Although used for this practical reason, Valerian was also commonly used as a spice, and a frequent ingredient in salads.
This calming effect of Valerian has also been harnessed throughout recent history right up to present day. For example, it was often given to soldiers during World War I in order to calm nerves and anxiety. Today the use of Valerian is seen much in the same light it always has been. As a sedative, social calmer and a potential fix for cramps and problems in the gut.