Herb of the Day for September 19th is Valerian

Herb of the Day



Medicinal Uses: One of natures most effective herbal tranquilizers. The roots are used for nervous tension, anxiety and insomnia. A powerful root for the nerves, valerian should not be taken for longer than a few weeks, as it can become addictive. It helps cure depression when taken once or twice. It is a good sedative for such conditions as neuralgia, hypochondria, insomnia, and nervous tension. It also appears to have real benefits in cases of sciatica, multiple sclerosis, shingles, and peripheral neuropathy, including numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the extremities.                        
The tea is strengthening to the eyesight, especially when problems are due to weakness in the optic nerve. Valerian has been used as an anticonvulsant in epilepsy. It slightly slows the heart and thus is a good remedy for palpitations. Simmer two teaspoons of the root in a pint of water for twenty minutes, and take one-fourth cup, cold, four times a day. The tincture may be taken twenty drops in water, three times a day.      
The root is simmered with licorice, raisins, and anise seeds to make a cough sedative. The scent is very attractive to rats and is used to bait traps. Valerian is a warm and spicy herb that has a stimulating effect on the brain as well as being a sedative. If a person has a hot constitution it will be especially stimulating and may negate the calming and sedative quality. A hot constitution is one that is prone to constipation, dryness, redness in the eyes and skin and a warm body temperature (a cold constitution has the opposite qualities).                                                                             
Valerian is useful as a digestive aid, is helpful in cases of gas, diarrhea, and cramps, and alleviates the pain of ulcers. In the respiratory tract, it is believed to be of benefit in reducing the discomfort of asthma attacks. Valerian is used for irritability, mild spasmodic affections, epilepsy, migraine headaches, croup, hysteria, vertigo, nervous cough, delirium, neuralgia, muscle cramps, colic, panic attacks, emotional stress, PMS, menstrual cramps, despondency, insomnia. A marvelous remedy for fevers. Will often clear a cold overnight. Good for expelling phlegm from throat and chest. Will expel worms when everything else fails. Excellent for shortness of breath and wheezing. Tea can be used as an enema for pinworms and tape worms and externally as a wash for sores, wounds, chronic skin diseases, and pimples. Combines with with lemon balm, hops, passion flower and scullcap.

Valerian produces depression when taken over a longer period. Valerian is best suited to individuals with cold, nervous conditions. Those with heated conditions can experience opposite (stimulant) effects. Valerian may increase the effects of anti-anxiety medications or painkillers. It may also react with antiepileptic drugs. Valerian is contraindicated in pregnant and breast feeding women.

Magickal uses: Powdered valerian may be used as a substitute for graveyard dust to repel unwanted presences. Valerian is added to the chalice as an herb of peace. Valerian is a frequent ingredient in love and harmony spells and potions, including spells for sexual love. It is used to aspurge the ritual space and in incense for purification. Even though this is a rather foul smelling herb it is hung in the home as protection from lightning and the Greeks used sprigs of it at windows to keep evil out. For protection from evil and magick, use Valerian in sachets, amulets, or talismans and carry it with you. To prevent unwanted visitors, sprinkle powdered herb on your front stoop and say their name. For eliminating troubles, write the trouble on parchment paper, then burn and mix the ashes with powdered herb, then bury. Sachets placed around the home help protect the home from lightening strikes.    
Being an herb of peace, place some in the vicinity of a quarreling couple. Add it to love sachets and it is said if a woman wears a sprig of it, it will cause men to “follow her like children.” It will also help insomnia by placing it in the pillow. A few leaves placed in the shoes protect against colds and flu.                                                                              
To find out if your love is reciprocated, bend a plant in the direction of their home.  If the plant continues to grow in that direction, you are loved in return.  Growing the plant on your property ensures harmony with your spouse.          
Valerian stalks can be dried and soaked in tallow or oil, then used as a torch for spells and rituals.  The torch can then be used to light sacred fires.  Meditation in the light of a torch improves clarity for a given situation. Valerian is ruled by Venus and its Element is Water.

Properties: Calmative, antispasmodic, nerve tonic, nervine, sedative, anodyne, and carminative, aromatic, emmenagogue. Contains active components are called valepotriates. Valerianic, formic and acetic acids, essential oils, resin, starch, a glucoside, and 2 alkaloids (chatrine and valerianine).

Growth: Valerian is a tall perennial herb found in damp, elevated areas and grasslands. It consists of a long stem (3-5 feet in length) with pointed dark green leaves. It blooms in the summertime, with small, fragrant flowers (white, light purple or pink) that can reach four inches in diameter. A native of damp woods, roadsides, and riversides.

Harvest in the fall. Do not boil the root.

To obtain the maximum benefit take 1 tbsp. of fresh juice daily. The latter is often prescribed as a cure for insomnia, where its great value is that it calms the mind without having a narcotic effect. Non-addictive.

Drying roots is different from drying leaves. Roots should be dried at a high temperature, such as 120 degrees F. until the roots are brittle. If they are rubber-like, they should be dried longer. Store roots after drying to keep free from moisture.

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. root in 1 pt. boiling water. Take cold, 1 cup per day, or when going to bed.

Cold extract: use 2 tsp. roots with 1 cup water; let stand for 24 hours and strain. Take 1/2 to 1 cup when going to bed.

Tincture: take 20 drops on sugar or in water, 3 times a day.
Author: Crick



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Making Your Own Infused Oils



Active plant ingredients can be extracted in oil for external use in massage oils, creams, and ointments. Infused oils will last for up to a year if kept in a cool, dark place, but they are more potent when fresh, so it’s best to make small amounts frequently. The hot method is suitable for leafy herbs such as comfrey, chickweed, stinging nettle, cleavers, bladderwrack, and rosemary.


  1. Put the oil (500 ml sunflower or cold pressed olive oil) and the herb (250g dried herb) into a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a double boiler and heat gently for about 3 hours.
  2. Strain the mixture through a muslin bag or a jelly bag.
  3. Pour the oil into storage bottles, using a funnel if necessary.



This method of making an infused oil is suitable for flowers such as calendula, st. john’s wort and chamomile. It is a slow process, the flowers and oil are packed into a jar and left for several weeks, after which the once-infused oil is used again with fresh herb to extract as much active plant ingredient as possible. Cold infused oils are used in massage oils or as the basis for creams, salves, or ointments.



  1. Pack a large jar tightly with the herb and cover completely with oil (safflower or wheat germ oil work good for this). Put the lid on and leave on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse for 3 weeks.
  2. Pour the mixture into a jelly bag fitted with string or rubber band to the rim of a jug.
  3. Squeeze the oil through the bag. Repeat steps 1 an 2 with new herb and the once-infused oil. After 3 more weeks strain once more and pour into storage bottles, using a funnel if necessary. Store for up to a year in a cool place away from direct light.



Joelle’s Sacred Grove


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Making Your Own Ointments & Salves



Ointments contain oils or fats, but no water. Unlike creams, they do not blend with the skin, but form a separate layer over it. They are suitable where the skin is already weak or soft, or where some protection is needed from additional moisture, as in diaper rash. Ointments were once made from animal fats, but petroleum jelly or paraffin wax is suitable. Infused oils may be used instead of the herb itself.

Parts Used: All parts of the plant (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: Use 500 g petroleum jelly or soft paraffin wax and 60 g dried or 150 g fresh herb.
Standard Application: Rub a little into the affected part 2-3 times a day. Storage: Store in sterilized, airtight, dark jars, for 3-4 months in a cool place.

  1. Melt the jelly or wax in a bowl over a pan of boiling water or in a double boiler. Add the herbs and heat for 2 hours or until the herbs are crisp. Do not allow the pan to boil dry.
  2. Pour the mixture into a jelly bag fitted with string or an elastic band to the rim of a jug, or else use a muslin bag and a winepress.
  3. If using a jelly bag wear rubber gloves, since the mixture is hot. Squeeze the mixture through the jelly bag into the jug.
  4. Quickly pour the strained mixture, while still warm and melted, into jars





Herbs that are useful for skin conditions (such as comfrey, lavender, calendula, pine needles, aloes, elecampane root, burdock, and elderflowers) can be made into salves. The ideal time to make a salve is summer, when the herbs are fresh and abundant, but dried herbs may be used as well. Green walnut hulls and whole, smashed horse chestnuts may be added to the basic mix for their skin-healing and painkilling virtues.

Simmer herbs in good quality olive oil in a large pot. In a separate pot, melt and simmer three to four tablespoons of fresh beeswax (the beeswax should be of a golden color with a strong honey scent) per cup of oil. Put enough oil in the pot to cover the herbs. Simmer the herbs in the oil for about twenty minutes. When wax and oil reach the same temperature, pour in the wax. Strain and pour into clean jars. Tincture of benzoin may be added as a preservative (about one ounce per quart) while the salve is still liquid although it is not strictly necessary. The most important factor in controlling mold is to have immaculately clean and dry jars and utensils. Boiling followed by a thorough drying is all that is usually needed. Persons living in very hot and damp climates may wish to take the extra precautions of adding the tincture of benzoin.

Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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Making Your Own Creams



A cream is a mixture of water with fats or oils, which softens and blends with the skin. It can easily be made using emulsifying ointment (available from most pharmacies), which is a mixture of oils and waxes that blends with water or tinctures. Homemade creams will last for several months, but the shelf life is prolonged by storing the mixture in a cool pantry or refrigerator, or adding a few drops of benzoin tincture as a preservative. Creams made from organic oils and fats deteriorate more quickly. The method shown here is suitable for most herbs.

Parts Used: All parts of the plant (fresh or dried)
Standard Quantity: Use 150g emulsifying ointment, 70 ml glycerol, 80 ml water and 30g dried or 75 g fresh herb.
Standard Application: Rub a little into the affected part 2-3 times a day.
Storage: Store in sterilized, airtight, dark jars for up to 3 months in a cool place.

  1. Melt the emulsifying ointment in a double boiler or a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Pour in the glycerol and water and stir well. The mixture will solidify slightly when the liquid is added, so keep the bowl over the boiling water and stir to remelt it.
  2. Add the herb and stir well. Simmer for 3 hours, regularly adding more boiling water to the lower saucepan to prevent the pan from burning.
  3. Use a winepress or a jelly bag fitted to a jug, and strain the hot mixture as quickly as possible into a bowl. Stir the melted, strained cream constantly as it cools, to avoid separation. If it does start to separate, return it to the double boiler and reheat with an additional 10-20 g of emulsifying ointment.
  4. When the cream has set, use a small palette knife to fill storage jars. Put some cream around the edge of the jar first, and then fill the middle to avoid any air bubbles.


Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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Making Your Own Poultices


A poultice of bread or mashed potato soaked in herbal extract was once a favorite household remedy for minor injuries and ailments. Today, poultices are generally made with chopped fresh herbs. They are usually applied hot.

Parts Used: Whole plant (dried or fresh) chopped

Standard Quantity: Use sufficient herb to cover the area.

Standard Application: Apply the poultice every2-4 hours or more frequently if necessary.

  1. Boil the fresh herb, squeeze out any surplus liquid, and spread it on the affected area. Smooth oil on the skin first to prevent the herb from sticking.
  2. Apply gauze or cotton strips to hold the poultice in place. To protect against stains, clear plastic wrap may be wrapped around the gauze after the poultice has been applied.



Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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Making Your Own Tinctures


Tinctures are made by steeping the herb in a mixture of alcohol and water. They should be make individually, and then prepared tinctures may be combined as required. As well as extracting the plant’s active ingredients, the alcohol acts as a preservative, and tinctures will keep for up to two years. The liquid is usually composed of 25% alcohol and 75% water, but for some resinous herbs the amount of alcohol is increased to 45%. Commercially prepared tinctures use ethanol, but diluted spirits are suitable for home use: vodka is ideal since it does not contain additives, but rum helps disguise the flavor of less palatable herbs.

Parts Used: All parts of the plant (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: Use 200g dried or 600g fresh herb to 1 liter of alcohol/water mixture (25% alcohol and 75% water – e.g. dilute a 1 liter bottle of 75 proof vodka with 500 ml water).
Standard Dosage: Take 5 ml 3 times a day diluted in a little warm water. A small amount of honey or fruit juice can often improve the flavor.

Storage: Store in dark glass bottles for up to 2 years

  1. Put the herb into a large jar and cover with the alcohol/water mixture. Seal the jar and store in a cool place for 2 weeks, shake the jar occasionally.
  2. Fit a muslin bag inside a winepress. Pour the mixture through.
  3. Press the mixture through the winepress into a jug. The residue can be added tot he garden compost heap.

Alcohol-reduced Tinctures
There are times when giving tinctures made from alcohol in a normal way is unsuitable, for example in pregnancy, in gastric or liver inflammation, or when treating children or recovered alcoholics. Adding a small amount (25-50 ml) of almost boiling water to the tincture dose (usually 5ml) in a cup and allowing it to cool effectively evaporates most of the alcohol, making it safe.


Tinctures can be made by grinding the leaves, roots, or other plant parts with a mortar and pestle (or a blender) and just barely covering them with high-quality vodka, whiskey, or grain alcohol (Everclear). After 21 days, add a small quantity of glycerin (about two tablespoons per pint) and about 10 percent per volume of spring water. Strain and store in amber glass airtight containers. Keep the herbal tinctures in a cool, dry place for up to five years.

The dose is generally twenty drops in a cup of herb tea or warm water four times a day. In acute or emergency situations the dose is given more frequently; in the case of labor pains, for example, it might be a dropperful every five minutes.

Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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Making Decoctions


The decoction method is used for tough plant materials, such as barks, berries, or roots, which need a more vigorous extraction than is possible using the infusion method. Decoction involves heating the plant material in cold water, bringing it to a boil and simmering for 20-40 minutes. Combinations of herbs can be mixed together, or herbs can be used singly. The standard quantity, which can be drunk hot or cold, is enough for three doses and should be make fresh each day. As with infusions, decoctions are frequently used as the basis of other remedies, such as syrups.

Parts Used: Barks, berries, roots (dried or fresh)

Standard Quantity: Add 30g dried or 60g fresh herb to 750 ml (approx 3 cups) of cold water. This reduces to approx 500 ml after simmering. If using a combination of herbs, be sure that the total weight of the mixture does not exceed this standard amount.

Standard Dosage: Take a teacup or wineglass dose 3 times daily. Repeat doses may be reheated. Honey or unrefined sugar may be used to sweeten each dose, or they may be flavored with a little lemon juice. Reduce the dose for children.

  1. Place the herb in a saucepan (do not use aluminum!) and pour in the cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 to 40 minutes, until the volume has been reduced by a third.
  3. Take the decoction off the heat and strain through a nylon or plastic sieve into a jug.
  4. Pour the decoction into a covered jar or pitcher and store in the refrigerator.


Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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Making Infusions


Infusions are a very simple and popular way of using herbs, infusions may be taken as remedies for specific ailments or just be enjoyed as relaxing or revitalizing teas. An infusion is made in a very similar way to tea, using fresh or dried herbs. The water should just have begun to boil, since vigorously boiling water disperses valuable volatile oils in the steam. Infusions can be made from a single herb or from a combination of herbs, and may be drunk hot or cold. It is best to make them fresh each day.

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, and most aerial parts (dried or fresh)

Standard Quantity: For most medicinal teas with a therapeutic action, add 25g dried or 75g (for best results use a kitchen scale to weigh the herbs) fresh herb to 500 ml (approx. 2 cups) water to make 3 doses. If using a combination of herbs, be sure that the total weight does not exceed the standard quantity.

Standard Dosage: Take a teacup or wineglass (approx. 2/3 cup) dose 3 times daily. Repeat doses may be reheated if desired. Add a little honey or unrefined sugar per dose to taste. Reduce the dose for children or the elderly.

  1. Warm a teapot with hot water. Add the fresh or dried herb.
  2. Pour on hot water that has just boiled. Cover the teapot with the lid and infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the infusion through a tea strainer.
  4. Take a dose, adding honey or a little unrefined sugar to taste. Strain the rest into a jug, cover and store in the refrigerator.


Joelle’s Sacred Grove

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