Although Valerian root is used to cure a number of different physical and psychological ailments, it is also excellent at stimulating lucid dreams.
Before we look at its potential as a dream herb, let’s take a brief look at its history.
The history of Valerian
Valerian root has been used to reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep for thousands of years.
Its use as a sedative is well established, however, many people don’t realise that it can also be used as a dream herb because it can enhance dream recall as well as making dreams more vivid.
Valerian root has been used a curative herb since time immemorial. Its first recorded use in Europe was by none other than Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine. The Greeks used Valerian root to treat digestive complaints as well as urinary tract infections and liver problems.
For much of the 1800s, Valerian root was used as the herb par excellence for curing mania, hysteria and general anxiety problems in the United States and Europe. Its superior anaesthetizing effects lead to its reputation as being “the valium of the 1800s.”
History of Valerian Root in China
Although it is a Western herb, Valerian root has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is one of the most prevalent non-Chinese herbs used in TCM. Valerian root was bought to China by western traders and has since been included in the TCM materia medica.
While western practitioners tend to prescribe Valerian root as a sleep aid, in China it is considered to be a spirit-quieting medicine with a blood moving action. Its nature and flavour are documented as being acrid, sweet and warm and its channel energies are the heart and liver.
It is used to nourish the heart, quiet the spirit, alleviate insomnia. It is viewed as a heart-opening and heart nourishing herb that is used in tandem with other herbs that quiet the mind and focus one’s attention on the heart centre.
It is also used to treat menstrual problems, amenorrhea, swelling and generalised body pains.
The reason that the Chinese were so ready to adopt Valerian into their medicinal system is because of the belief that Kuan Yin resides in this herb. Kuan (earth) Yin (the spiritual energy that ebbs and flows).
The spiritual properties attributed to Valerian are gentle healing powers, reconciliation between loved ones, promoting feelings of love and devotion and easing pain and loneliness.
Interesting Facts about Valerian Root
- The word Valerian comes from the Latin “valere”, which means to feel good or “to be well.”
- There are approximately 250 different varieties of Valerian and it was used as a spice by the Anglo Saxons
- In British folk culture, it was believed that sprinkling Valerian on your front doorstep would deter unwanted visitors and creates more harmonious relationships within the family unit
- An Anglo Saxon recipe from the 1500s claimed that Valerian could be used to stop wars and bring peace to all who drank it
- For people who practice ancient Druid religions and Wicca, Valerian is seen as a feminine plant that resonates to the energy of earth and water (feminine elements) and to the planets Venus and Mercury
- In Medieval Sweden, a sprig of Valerian was worn under the bridegroom’s clothes so that elves did not bring bad luck to the marriage
Where else is the plant used?
Valerian root also has a long history of usage in India and is used in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine).
From an ayurvedic perspective it is thought to have a bitter, pungent, sweet, astringent/heating taste. Its energy “heats” rather than cools the body, which makes it similar to its properties as recorded in TCM.
It affects the plasma, muscle, marrow and nerves and strengthens the nervous, respiratory and digestive systems. It is used as a nervine, antispasmodic, sedative and carminative.
Its indications are insomnia, hysteria, delirium, neuralgia, convulsions, coughs, dysmenorrhea, palpitatations, chronic skin diseases and migraines.
So what parallels can we draw from the historical and medical uses of valerian root as a powerful dream herb?
To summarise, Valerian root was used to treat mania, hysteria and insomnia in Europe. In China and India it is considered a “heating” (as opposed to “cooling”) herb that is used for nervous disorders to quiet the senses. When we consider all this it is no wonder valerian root is such an effective dream herb.
Think about it: It calms and quiets the mind so that it becomes a “blank canvas,” making it more receptive to hooking into subtle impressions that exist at subconscious and unconscious levels of awareness.
It is “heating” and “energetic” which means that once the valerian root has worked on quieting our minds and bodies, we can turn our focus inwards.
Once we turn our attention inwards we can benefit from its so-called “energising” properties, which cast colourful and vivid impressions on the mind.
Valerian as a Dream Herb for lucid dreaming
Valerian profoundly improves dream recall, which, as any lucid dreamer knows, is the first step we need to take in achieving lucidity in dreams.
Once you are able to remember your dreams on a daily basis, you are able to go one step further by becoming conscious while you are in the dream state.
Valerian’s ability to make our dreams more vivid (and more bizarre!) is one of the reasons it is easier to recall dreams when we work with Valerian. The wackier our dreams, the easier it is to realise we are dreaming, which makes it much easier to have a lucid dream.
It should be noted that while Valerian is great at aiding in dream recall and enhancing dream content (i.e. making dreams vivid and strange), it is best taken in tandem with other more powerful dream herbs.
What is the best Valerian Supplement for lucid dreaming?
It is important to understand the role of active ingredients when we think about taking a dream herb.
For example, the active ingredient in Valerian is valerenic acid and when we are looking to promote dream recall we can choose to either supplement with “straight” Valerian or with a special dream mixture that contains Valerian along with other plants.
If you want to take pure Valerian, you are going to have to take a relatively high dose and so it is important to look for a supplement that contains at least 450-600mg of valerenic acid for it to be effective. If taking Valerian liquid extract, look for a brand that boasts 4:1 strength ratio (a valerenic content of around 0.8%).
Valerian’s potential as a dream herb lies in its ability to enhance dream recall and dream vividness rather than total dream lucidity.
If you are looking for a supplement that will take your dreams from tame to off-the-charts, then you should consider buying a supplement that contains Valerian as part of its admixture rather than as its key player.
If this is the case then you should look for a supplement that contains 140mg of valerian. So that means that if you wish to achieve total lucidity, it is best to take Valerian in tandem with other dream herbs that contain AChE inhibitors.