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If you dread going to bed because all you do is lie there and count millions of sheep, then you may find valerian to be dreamy. Its mild sedative properties offer a natural and safe approach to calmer nerves and a better night’s sleep.

To gain further appreciation of its health benefits, it is possible to study valerian (as well as other herbs) through the lens of herbal astrology. From this angle, we can better understand why this botanical remedy may be of value to health and well being.

Mercury Rules Valerian

Valerian is ruled by the planet Mercury, which governs the astrological signs of Gemini and Virgo. The planet Mercury embodies many of the qualities of its Roman god namesake, who is often referred to as the “messenger of the gods.” Therefore, Mercury reflects the essence of communication, the ability to intellectually bridge the gap that exists between separate entities in order to create a sense of connection and understanding. Its essential energy is very quick, and oftentimes restless, as its exuberant curiosity continues on a quest for input in order to “figure things out.”

In medical astrology, Mercury rules the body systems that function as messengers or conduits for communication. As such, it governs the central nervous system, the endocrine (hormonal) system and the respiratory system. As Mercury is associated with our mental attitudes, it can also be related to the nervousness, tension and stress.

Valerian and Sleep Disorders

Mercury-ruled valerian may calm the Mercurial restlessness of mind and body that is often associated with sleep disturbances. Clinical research has shown that valerian offers benefits to people who experience insomnia and other milder sleep disorders related to nervous conditions (this clinical application of valerian has been approved by the German Commission E).

Valerian benefits those who suffer from sleep disorders through its ability to reduce the time required to fall asleep (sleep latency) as well as improve sleep quality. In clinical research studies, valerian has been shown to be as effective as benzodiazapenes (i.e. Valium, Xanax) in reducing sleep latency. Valerian has also been shown to improve the quality of sleep through its ability to increase deep sleep, extend dreamtime and reduce the occurrence of nighttime awakenings.

Valerian and Mild Anxiety

As Mercury-ruled valerian has been shown to exert mild sedating effects on the Mercury-ruled central nervous system, it has also been shown to be of benefit in cases of mild anxiety. Traditional uses of valerian for anxiety and nervousness extend back throughout the centuries, with one of its noted historical uses being as a tonic to calm the nerves of citizens of Great Britain during World War I air raids. While valerian’s clinical application for mild anxiety is not listed as a therapeutic use by the Commission E, today many naturally-oriented health care practitioners have found that valerian’s sedative properties greatly help patients who experience this condition.

Valerian and Benzodiazapenes

While valerian is thought to affect the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazapenes, it may offer significant benefits over these pharmaceutical drugs. Valerian binds to these brain receptors in a much weaker manner, and therefore has not been found to be physiologically addictive or habit forming. Additionally, it does not create the groggy feeling of “morning hangover” or the impairment of performance frequently associated with these drugs.

How to Use Valerian

Valerian is available in a variety of forms, including tinctures, teas, capsules and tablets. For treatment of sleep disorders, many naturally-oriented healthcare practitioners recommend a dosage of 300-500 milligrams root extract (standardized to contain no less than 0.5 percent essential oils) or four to six milliliters alcohol-based tincture 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. If using valerian for mild anxiety, it is often recommended to also take it in the morning at a level equal to half the nighttime dosage. Oftentimes valerian can be found in combination formulas that also feature the herbs hops, passionflower and/or skullcap.

Adding valerian in tea or tincture form to a nighttime bath is another way to enjoy the relaxing effects that this herb imparts. Be aware that its odor is not one of its most revered qualities. Therefore, you may want to add some other fragrant herbs or essential oils (such as lavender, rose or geranium) to your bath as well.

Safety of Valerian

Valerian’s safety seems to be so well established that even the United States Pharmacopoeia has recognized it as safe. The Commission E does not list any contraindications for the use of valerian (not even for pregnancy or lactation).

It is important to always consult a licensed healthcare provider if you are thinking of using valerian or other dietary supplements to treat any health condition. Additionally, you should tell your healthcare provider about all of the dietary supplements that you are taking so that s/he can evaluate any potential drug-supplement interactions.

Editor’s note: The health information given in this article is not meant as a substitute for care from a qualified physician. This information is given for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. is not responsible for any mishaps that occur as a result of using this information.



Stephanie Gailing, MS, CN, is a Certified Nutritionist, astrologer and freelance natural health writer. She holds her Masters Degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, where she currently serves as adjunct faculty. Stephanie has been involved in the natural products industry for more than ten years, with experiences ranging from operating her own natural products retail store to serving as a marketing consultant for dietary supplement companies.

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For more information about Stephanie Gailing, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Stephanie Gailing:

  • Herbal Astrology: Cayenne   4/3/2003
  • Herbal Astrology: Bilberry   10/16/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Vitex   9/4/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Chamomile   8/7/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Licorice   7/24/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Horse Chestnut   7/10/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Feverfew   6/5/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Hawthorn   5/22/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Milk Thistle   5/8/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: St. John's Wort   4/10/2000
  • Herbal Astrology: Garlic   3/20/2000

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