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Valerian, or the common garden Heliotrope has been used as a tranquilizer for over a thousand years. The plant is a hardy perennial and can easily be grown in the garden for one's own use. The medicinal part of the plant is the root.

Valerian is referred to as an “herbal valium,” and for a good reason. Valerian’s medicinal qualities have a similarity to Valium. Although Valerian root has an unpleasant smell, it holds a prominent position as one of nature’s best herbal tranquilizers and muscle relaxants.

Valerian is especially good to take during times of stress, anxiety, tension, hysteria, and over-excitability. It also should be the herb of choice if you’ve stretched your adrenals to the limit, and when you feel nervous anxiety, are erratic, your mind is racing, or you’re feeling paranoid. Valerian is also useful if your hands are shaking, you feel heart palpitations, have indigestion, and muscle twitches.

Besides its muscle relaxing capabilities, Valerian helps to relax an overactive brain, so it is an effective sedative for insomnia. And insomnia brought on by traveling is also helped by Valerian. Always check with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.

The best way to take Valerian is in the form of an herbal extract made from the fresh root. In the fresh form the root contains nutrients that help feed the nervous system, while helping you relax at the same time. Dried Valerian root is available in herbal shops, along with capsule and extract forms. It is very important to follow recommended dosages for Valerian, because it can have a stimulating effect if you take too much of it. And never take Valerian along with conventional tranquilizers or sedatives, because the combination may have added effects.

Valerian, from the Latin “valere,” means “to be well.” Valerian's chemical substance is the active ingredient in more than 100 sleep aids, and it has been approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

To grow your own Valerian, sow the seeds near the surface of a flat containing rich soil. Keep them moist continually. Germinates in 10-15 days. Allow the seedling to grow several sets of true leaves before transplanting to the garden at 1 foot spacing. The seedlings are frost hardy. Give them a side-dressing of compost rich manure and phosphorus. The flowers don’t appear until the second year. It will reach a height of 5 feet, and you can grow it in full sun or partial shade. The roots can be harvested in the fall of the second year’s growth.

Valerian truly is Nature’s “valium.”