Herbs & Plants

Greek Valerian

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Botanical Name: Polemonium reptans
Family: Polemoniaceae
Other Names: Abscess Root, Blue Bells, Jacob’s Ladder, Creeping Jacob’s Ladder, False Jacob’s Ladder, Greek Valerian, Onechte Jacobsladder, Polemonie Fausse, Sweatroot

Habitat: Greek Valerian is a Subshrub, grows in moist low or rocky woods, at the bases of bluffs and slopes, along wooded streams and in ravines and valleys. Jacob’s Ladder or Greek Valerian grows wild from New York to Minnesota, south to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Description: Polemonium reptans has attractive leaves and clusters of beautiful small 1/2 inch wide pale blue bell shaped flowers.Each of the Greek valerian flowers has five petals that are united to form a bell-shaped corolla with flared lobes, and has five stamens and one pistil.


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A perennial native herb found growing in rich woods, damp ground and along shady river banks in Eastern N. America from New York to Minnesota, south to Kansas and Georgia. Cultivation: Greek Valerian is easily cultivated from seed or root division, it prefers moist, well drained, sandy soil in a shady position. It has slender, creeping roots, and can multiply very quickly. The stems are multiple as many as 10 to one plant they are branched and grow to 12 inches high. Leaves form a rosette at the base, and grow in alternate pairs on the stem, they are pinnate with six to eight opposite pairs of leaflets. The nodding, blue to purple flowers grow in loose, terminal clusters. Greek Valerian flowers bloom from March to May. Gather roots in fall, whole plants in spring. Dry for later herb use. The flowers are edible, taste good in salad.

Medicinal Uses: Greek Valerian roots have been used for kidney troubles and as a diuretic. It is used in alternative medicine, the roots are alterative, astringent, diaphoretic, expectorant and pectoral, and can be taken as an infusion with water or as a medicinal tincture with alcohol, in the treatment of coughs, colds, bronchitis, laryngitis, tuberculosis, feverish and inflammatory diseases, including abscess and skin conditions. A decoction of the whole plant is used as a hair rinse. The plant is rarely used in herbalism today.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a safe and effective natural sedative, calms both mind and body. Clinical research demonstrates that standardized Valerian extract effectively relieves anxiety-related insomnia and suggests that Valerian extract may be comparable to some prescription anti-anxiety drugs for relieving anxiety. Unlike many drugs, however, Valerian is not addictive or habit-forming when taken in recommended doses.

Formerly used internally in the treatment of a wide range of conditions ranging from headaches to fevers and epilepsy-Culpepper says of it:

‘It is under Mercury, and is alexipharmic, sudorific, and cephalic, and useful in malignant fevers and pestilential distempers; it helps in nervous complaints, headaches, trembling, palpitations of the heart, vapours, etc. It is good in hysteric cases, and epilepsies have been cured by the use of this herb.’
Because Greek Valerian has a smell that attracts cats it was believed by witch hunters to be planted only by witches for the pleasure of their familiars. It was also used for the bites of venomous snakes and insects.

Infusion: Add 1 tsp. dried root to 1 cup water steep for 10 min. take in tbls. doses throughout the day, for coughs, colds, congestion.


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