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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Valerian: Folklore, Healing & Magical Attributes

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Garden valerian (Valeriana officinalis), or garden heliotrope (no relation to heliotrope) is native to Eastern Europe. It is a pretty plant with long, graceful leaf stalks topped with white or light-colored flower head sometimes tinged with pink or a fleshy color.

A single 3-4 foot tall stem emerges from the root and compound leaves clasp the stem. At the top of the stem one or two flower stalks topped with cymes will appear and bloom from mid to late summer.

The flowers smell sweet, sometimes cloyingly, and the rest of the plant, when crushed, gives off the smell of sweaty socks.

New plants will grow from shoots where they touch the ground.

Other Names:
all-heal, amantilla, capon’s tail, cat’s valerian, fu, garden heliotrope, garden valerian, genicularis, marinella, phu, setwall, St George’s Herb, terdina, theriacardia, van, vandal root, wenderot


It has a rich history rooted in ancient folklore, earning it the nickname “all-heal” for its versatile medicinal properties.

Harvesting valerian roots in the fall, when their medicinal potency is at its peak, involves careful drying and storage to retain their healing attributes.

Valerian finds household use as a natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia, with its calming effects being particularly effective in promoting restful sleep.

Valerian has been employed for centuries in magical practices, believed to possess powers of protection, love enhancement, and dream work, making it a staple in the realm of mysticism.

History and Folklore

The Latin valere from whence the common name of this plant originated means “to be strong or healthy” and it may refer to the healing applications of the plant or it may refer to its strong odor. Indeed the ancient Greeks called this plant “Phu” (like phew!).

Love and AttractionValerian has long been associated with love and is believed to possess magical properties that can attract romantic partners or enhance existing relationships
ProtectionIn folklore, Valerian was used as a protective herb to ward off evil spirits, negative energies, and bad luck
Sleep and Dream MagickValerian is often used in rituals and potions for promoting deep sleep, inducing dreams, and enhancing dream recall
Purification and CleansingValerian was sometimes used in purification rituals to cleanse spaces, objects, or individuals from negative influences
Table 1: Folklore and Legends

It was believed that this plant had the properties of turning anything bad into good.


Valerian is happy in most situations provided it has fertile, weed-free soil and enjoys partial sun. It is best grown from shoots or by division as seeds do not germinate reliably. You should not allow valerian to dry out.

If you are growing to harvest the root later, cutting off the flowers as they appear is best.

Harvesting & Storage

Harvest valerian roots in autumn of its second or third year after the leaves have died back. Wash them and then dry them quickly and put in the oven at 120 degrees until they are brittle. Store in an airtight container.

Household Use

Cats love the smell of Valerian and find it quite intoxicating. It is useful stuffed inside cat toys.

Healing Attributes

Valerian has a sedative action useful against insomnia, anxiety, and stress. It is also used to treat gastrointestinal pain and irritable bowel.

Healing PropertiesDescription
Anxiety and Stress ReliefValerian is well-known for its calming and relaxing effects, making it a popular herbal remedy for anxiety, stress, and nervousness
Sleep DisordersThe herb is commonly used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders due to its sedative properties
Headaches and MigrainesValerian is sometimes used to alleviate headaches and migraines, especially those caused by tension or stress
Digestive DisordersValerian has been used to soothe digestive issues such as indigestion, cramps, and irritable bowel syndrome
Table 2: Healing Properties

However, valerian is reported to be a mutagen so it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Magical Use

Valerian root is associated with the planet Jupiter and the element of water. It is also useful in Samhain and Yule celebration rituals.

Valerian root is useful in spells related to ending guilt and negative self-talk and developing self-acceptance. It is also useful in animal magic, especially cat magic and evoking animal spirits.

Magical UsesDescription
Love Spells and CharmsValerian is often included in love spells, charms, and potions to enhance love, attraction, and passion
Protection and WardingValerian can be used in protective spells and rituals to create a barrier against negative energies, hexes, and psychic attacks
Dream Work and DivinationThe herb is believed to enhance psychic abilities and is commonly used in dream work, divination, and spirit communication practices
Ritual OfferingsValerian flowers or leaves are sometimes used as offerings in rituals and ceremonies to honor deities or spirits associated with love, sleep, or divination
Table 3: Magical Uses

Also, for turning bad situations around to one’s advantage and finding the positive in a seemingly negative situation.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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