9 Oct 2010


The green leaves of valerian. Valeriana officinalis.
Two squirrels in the head disorder

As the physician states, valerian relaxes without the side effects of most drugs used to produce the same result. It won't make you feel drowsy or drugged. The muscles and the mind are just relaxed. There is a condition I call "two squirrels in the head disorder". One of its symptoms is that your mind starts racing nonstop from one stressful thought to the next when all you really want to do is fall asleep. It's like having two squirrels in your head chasing each other's tails.

Of course, this usually happens when you have something going on the next morning that is killer important, some sort of activity that required your being at your best. The more you can't sleep, the more you check the clock to see how much sleep you haven't had thus far. At this junction, if you hop out of bed and make yourself a cup of hot valerian tea, the squirrels will move on, and your mind will slow down enough for you to fall to sleep. If you are in the middle of a stressful period, three cups a day or one cup right before bedtime will help you through.

The Backyard Medicine Chest: An Herbal PrimerThe above quote is taken from a favourite, and easy to read, herbal book, The Backyard Medicine Chest - an herbal primer, by Douglas Schar. Valerian is described in the book as 'the Mother Teresa of the plant world for those suffering from stress'.
Herbalism can be confusing at first because many herbs have a range of beneficial ingredients, some of which can often be found in other herbs. But this book focuses on one common herb for each ailment, and gives an interesting discussion of it, with history, use and preparation.
Valerian flowers: The scent from valerian flowers is delightful, like a mild jasmine, and faintly musky. In the summer, as we walked past the plant, with its flowers at the top of eight-foot stalks, we wondered where the strangely pleasant smell was coming from.

Delightfully-scented white valerian flowers.
Valerian flowers are said to be good for cutting and displaying in the house where they add their delightful scent.

Valerian root: This is the part of the plant used to make valerian tea.

Washed valerian root.
Valerian root washed.

Dried valerian root.
Valerian root dried.

Valerian hot chocolate

GrowYourOwnDrugs(Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy Recipes for Natural Remedies and Beauty Fixes) [Hardcover](2010)byWongThere's a delicious-sounding recipe for valerian hot chocolate in James Wong's Grow Your Own Drugs.

To make 3 cups requires:

3 tbsp fresh valerian root
3 tbsp fresh lemon balm leaves
3 tsp fresh lavender leaves
6 leaves and 3 heads from fresh passion flowers
peel of 1.1/2 oranges
900 ml full-fat milk
50g dark chocolate (min 50% cocoa solids)
dash of vanilla extract

1. Chop the top and bottom from the fresh valerian root. Add the valerian, lemon balm, lavender, passion flowers, orange peel and milk to a pan and gently heat for 5-10 minutes. Strain.

2. Pour the infused milk back into the pan, then add the dark chocolate and vanilla extract and stir until melted. Drink at once.

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