According to my trusty copy of Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin may have used more than music in luring the rats out of town. Legend suggests that he also employed valerian, an herb known to both intoxicate cats and attract rats. However he did it, in ridding the village of Hamelin of its rats, the Pied Piper certainly calmed its citizens."
Valerian is widely known for its tranquilizing effects in humans, and has also been used historically to tone the stomach, combat flatulence, suppress muscle spasms, and even cure the plague. (But if valerian attracts rats and rats carry the plague. . . there seems to be a cycle here.)
I am most interested in valerian for its possible effectiveness in treating menstrual cramps, anxiety, and in assisting a busy mind in quieting down and giving in to sleep. Since valerian is an antispasmodic, it helps relax smooth muscle tissue, like that of the uterus and therefore may subdue cramping. Of course, it might also make you a bit sleepy so it's best if you are in a place where napping isn't frowned upon. HerbalEd.org suggests taking 1 teaspoon of valerian tincture every three to four hours for the treatment of menstrual cramps. Valerian contains two compounds (valepotriates and valeric acid) that are capable of binding to the same brain receptors as Valium and has been used with some success at treating anxiety disorders.
I only have experience taking it before bed to ease the sometimes difficult process of falling asleep and it works wonders for me. I am interested in taking it for other reasons, namely to treat anxiety. Chicago is a big, loud, tree-less place and can at times transform me into a ball of nerves. And on top of being a country mouse in the City of Broad Shoulders, there is the added pressure and stress of being in my thesis year of graduate school. But not to worry, I just made my very own valerian root tincture to help balance all this out!
You can find a more detailed recipe of how to make an herbal tincture in my earlier post here. And as always, please be careful and educate yourself when taking herbs and making medicinal tinctures. I am just a hobbyist, always seek medical advice from a trained professional and use common sense.
Valerian Tincture Recipe:
You will need a large wide-mouth jar (about a quart), 4 ounces valerian root, cheese cloth, a fine mesh strainer, and enough 100 to 150 proof vodka or spirits (I used 151 proof spirits) to top off the jar.
1. Fill pint jar half full with valerian root, then fill to top with 100 proof vodka or spirits.
2. Stir mixture, cap, label and shake daily for one week. Then let sit for about a month in a dark place.
3. Strain mixture through cheese cloth by tightly squeezing the cloth to remove as much liquid as possible into a clean jar. Be sure to label with the name of the herb and the date. This recipe will yield about two cups of finished tincture. Sweet dreams, lovelies!