More than 150 species of valerian grow around the world. The valerian essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy is Valeriana officinalis, also called European valerian, although the plant also grows in Asia.
A valerian oil is also made from kesso root, a Japanese variety of Valeriana officinalis. The aroma of this oil is much drier and more woody than that of the European variety, according to The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Third Edition, Vol. 1.
Another essential oil is Indian valerian (Valeriana jatamansi), but the plant is endangered. The components of this oil are vastly different from those of European valerian, which is the focus of this profile.
Plant family: Valerianaceae
Production: Steam distilled from the rhizomes (roots) of the plant.
Aroma: Pungent, woody. Some people find it unpleasant to the point of calling the scent rotten or like stinky feet, although this aroma may be the result of a poor quality or old oil.
Perfume/Aromatic note: Base.
Is valerian safe to use during pregnancy? Probably not. Consult a professional.
Is valerian essential oil safe for children? Do not use with children under age 2 is the most common recommendation I found.
Main components of European valerian:
This oil has a long list of potential components, which vary depending on factors such as the plant's cultivar, age, and harvest time.
Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition
Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art: Studies have shown the oil decreases mental stress and relaxes the brain, muscles, and nervous system.
Aromatherapy for Dummies: The scent of valerian is sedating, making the oil useful for helping relieve nervous conditions, headaches, insomnia, muscle pain, and tension.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Valerian may help relieve insomnia, nervousness, stress, tension, tension headache, stress-induced migraine, muscle spasm and cramps, restlessness, restless legs, and pimples and acne.
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (updated edition): Use valerian to help relieve insomnia, nervous indigestion, migraine, restlessness, and tension.
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Third Edition, Vol. 1: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, valerian is helpful for relieving Yin deficiency conditions and calms the Shen. Symptoms of Yin deficiency include insomnia, night sweats, restlessness, and irritability. Agitated Shen may lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, palpitations, dizziness, or tinnitus. In Five Element theory, the oil helps cool the Fire element and balance the Earth element.
Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques: Use valerian for the second chakra to comfort emotions, for the fourth chakra to balance the heart center's emotional responses, and for the seventh chakra to increase love for the Divine.
The Portable Essential Oils: Valerian may help relieve anger, anxiety, fever, headaches, insomnia, muscle pain, PMS, restless leg syndrome, and tendinitis.
Blend ingredients. Stir salts into bath and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
Blend ingredients. Mix well into a full basin of warm water. Soak feet for about 15 minutes.
Source: Eden's Garden
Bedtime massage: Combine valerian essential oil with coconut oil for a sedating nighttime massage.
Bedtime Massage Blend
Pain Relief Massage
Headache relief: 2 drops lavender, 2 drops basil, and 2 drops valerian.
Anxiety relief: 2 drops Roman chamomile, 3 drops mandarin, and 3 drops valerian.
Insomnia relief: 2 drops mandarin, 3 drops geranium, and 3 drops valerian.
Emotional trauma and depression relief: 2 drops mandarin, 2 drops cypress, and 3 drops valerian.
Source: Base Formula
Blissful Diffuser Blend
Source: Young Living
Photo Credit: Lairich Rig / Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)