(Non est vivere sed valere vita est – a Latin saying)
Valere in Latin means “to be well”. And that very same word is the root of valerian’s scientific name – it really does a very good job of describing it.
Valerian is a wild plant that loves high altitudes and sunshine. In ancient Rome, it was often used by Dioscorides, Nero’s military surgeon and an expert in medicinal herbs. In his work De materia medica, he described the use of over 1,000 natural substances and classified valerian as an aromatic herb. This collection is considered the foundation of all modern pharmacopoeias. Dioscorides is also known by his pioneering anaesthetic, a special wine made from opium and mandrake that he used for putting his patients to sleep before surgery. He used the Greek word anaesthesia meaning “without feeling” to describe the state of unconsciousness.
Another scientist from classical antiquity who held valerian in high regard is Galen from Pergamo who lived a century before Dioscorides. Galen was Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s personal physician. The Romans elevated medicine to a pragmatic level: this bellicose nation understood the importance of military medicine and Emperor August established a military medical academy. Valerian played an important role in treating the wounded; its use for similar purposes continued in the centuries that followed. Valerian tincture was used to treat soldiers for shell-shock syndrome in the First and Second World Wars. The plant’s essential oil and valerenic acid have sedative and anxiolytic effect, which makes it an ideal ingredient in treatments for irritability, anxiety, stress and insomnia.
Modern medicine and herbal medicine have also recognised the importance of this plant. The German Commission E (scientific advisory board of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices) has included valerian as a cure for insomnia, irritability and anxiety. Research has shown that valerian helps us fall asleep quicker and sleep better. It does not cause addiction; on the contrary, it is frequently used for patients who wish to wean themselves off synthetic tranquillisers.
Valerian has sedative, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant and antispasmodic effects. Simply put, it relieves aggression, tension headaches, muscle cramps, depression and anxiety. Its effects are extremely strong and therefore it has to be used very cautiously, in products prepared professionally and in tightly controlled laboratory conditions. If stored incorrectly, valerenic acid that gives this plant its characteristic smell may turn into isovaleric acid which is harmful. It is safest to procure valerian from officially authorised producers. This plant is so strong that it can reduce concentration and slow down our reflexes and hence it is not advisable to use it before driving or before operating machinery. It is also not advisable to use it in combination with synthetic tranquillisers, alcohol, during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Apart from having the power to calm and relax, valerian is also good for heart arrhythmias and the tightness of chest. It helps quit smoking and provides relief for sciatica, neuralgia, peripheral neuropathy, irritable bowel, abdominal cramps, menstrual pain, feelings of anxiety in menopause, and even hypochondria.
Valerian’s root and rhizome are used in herbal medicine; its flower has been used in the perfume industry because of its specific aroma. But valerian does not only have an effect on the people. It has a pheromone effect on cats who seem to be totally hypnotised in the presence of this plant. Cats usually eat it when they feel that they have some health problems.
Valerian has the best effect in combination with other plants. Hops and lemon balm are its closest fellow fighters in the natural and professionally produced Optima Forma herbal drops. This formula is the best ally of the modern man who is frequently exposed to stress. Optima Forma reduces the consequences of stress and depression, it strengthens memory, improves concentration, calms down the feelings of anxiety and mental exhaustion, while also revitalising our immune system. Optima Forma helps us fall asleep and sleep better. Optima Forma – for a life that’s bigger and better than just being alive.