“Eat Valerian and Pimpernel
And all of you will be Well”
Valerian was one of the first plants that we planted when we started the herb garden. Being one of the six compost preparation indicated by Rudolf Steiner and an important medicinal for the nervous system prompted us to invite her (for Valerian looks like a she!) to our garden. On the first year Valerian forms a rosette of varied leaves that are not very distinguish. To my surprise on the second year, when the plant was preparing to flower the leaves changed to what I later learned to recognize as the typical shape of Valerian leaves and the entire plant grew to be higher than me. The light pink flowers emanate a delicate aroma but as the season progress the scent become fruit like and by the end of the season resembles the smell of rotting fruits.
The Latin valere from whence the common name of this plant originated means “to be strong or healthy”. 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!).
Valerian was used in combination with crystals as a charm for Protection,or in a dream-pillow to ward off nightmares. It was believed that this plant had the properties of turning anything bad into good.
The fine meshed roots of Valerian, a prime nervine, are said to resemble the brain structure.
~Harris Ben (The complete herbal)
Valerian root has distinguish, strong, earthy smell. It is a remedy for anxiety and insomnia. Both typical for hypersensitive people that live beyond their skin and sense the emotional and social weather in their vicinity.
Wolfe Storl give a rather picture like description of the experience of using Valerian: “A tea of the dried root of Valerian has been given since ancient times to soothe and calm shaken nervous. It gives the feeling of lying on a mossy forest floor in mid-summer-what sounds like the breeze caressing the treetops is,in reality the streaming of one's blood that one hears in this relaxed state.”
Julia Graves mentions Valerian with the “Panther Medicine” because it entice cats. She writes: “They relax the smooth muscles, so that one can assume a feline like smoothness of movement and relaxation.”
Valerian is a potent herb that need to be approached and used with respect. It is not intended to be used more than a couple of weeks as tolerance might be developed. Valerian is a mild muscle relaxant and so is not recommended during pregnancy.
In mid July we will harvest the flowers of Valerian. We will immediately press them to obtain the fresh juice. Valerian is the only compost preparation that is not exposed to the solidifying process below the Earth; it remains instead a liquid dilution of the summer blossoming process above the Earth. The reason for that is that Valerian relates to Saturn the father of time, the reaper with the scythe as well as the sewer. In the macrocosm Saturn is the farthest visible planet from the Earth, it is the threshold to the spirit. The juice diluted in water is sprayed upon the compost pile to form a warming, protecting mantle.
As a compost preparation, Valerian regulates the phosphorus processes, “making it possible for the spiritual archetypes to work on the mass of materia” (Lievegoed, The Working of the Planets and the Life Processes in Man and the Earth, p. 31). The name phosphorous means “conveyor of light”. Plants need phosphorus in order to grow, as our brains need phosphorus for intelligence.
For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Jungian analyst Edward C. Whitmont likens the homeopathic remedy Phosphor to Lucifer. Drawing from Jung’s work on alchemy, Whitmont states, “The symbolic significance of light, as a transcendental force-principle represents the ‘inner spiritual man’, and the qualities of consciousness, wisdom, and intellect”
Rudolf Steiner describing the medicinal effect of phosphorus as strengthening the ego so it can take hold of the soul activity. In the plant world that enables the plant to produce seeds that again and again are true to its nature. Saturn the father of time desiccates the plants and lets them die off but also lets them form seeds. In alchemy, the base material of transformation, the alchemist himself, was called Saturn.
Valerian's warming quality makes it useful when we anticipate frost in May. Spraying young seedling in the garden or the flowering fruit tree will help protect them from the frost damage.
Valerian bring the warmth and the transformative qualities of Saturn, the birth place of the ego, to both medicine and to the compost pile. As a medication it subdue stress and anxiety. Given in the right dose and in preparation for the night it can help the conscious soul spirit to detach into sleep. In the compost Valerian is the switch that turns on the “light” which catalyzes the crystallized fertility of the finished compost into energy available for plants.