I had something of a valerian-related Eureka moment last night! I finished typing the previous post yesterday evening and thought I'd just have a quick check of my email before signing off the computer. And there in my inbox was Susun Weed's weekly ezine, and one of the things she talks about this week is ... drum roll, wait for it ... using the flowers instead of the root for making valerian tincture!
How's about that for 'coincidence'? For me, personally, there's no such thing as coincidence on this scale - I truly believe (and have always found) that if you put stuff out there in the Universe, it will respond .. you will recieve what you need. So all those years I was letting valerian happily set up shop in the garden and thinking hmmmm, I'm not sure why I'm giving it space because I can't use it, and now I can keep it and love it and use it.
If you're interested you should go read Susun's information for yourself but the upshot is that tincture made from valerian root, which is probably the strongest and best known herbal sedative, unfortunately has the opposite effect in a certain proportion of the people who try taking it, stimulating rather than sedating them. I've seen that proportion given as anything from a tenth to a third - so its significant, and I guess you don't know if that's you until you give it a go. Apparently, the flowers give a much gentler effect and have been used successfully by people who were stimulated by the root.
So there I was this morning, snippers in hand, trug at the ready, harvesting those sweet-scented blooms to make my own tincture. I find there is nothing quite like picking and processing a herb to really get to know it. You get the feel and fragrance of the plant as you handle it, and really see the little details closeup. You get to see what the flowers look like just before and just after their best and learn how to tell when they're coming or going. You get to see what busy little creatures like to live, work and play in the plant. I met some rather impressive tiny spiders this morning, so completely green as to be invisible when sat on a floret. And a couple of ants farming aphids and a teensy tiny little beetley thing. By-the-by, with chives it was earwigs (be warned, potential scone-makers!!). So anyway, its not something to do if you've got a bus to catch, but though it took a while to pick the flowers from the heads it felt like time well spent.
Making the tincture is easy, you just fill the jar up to the top with herb and then fill it up to the top (again) with vodka. Then you label it and leave it for six weeks before straining it. Just one thing to mention, a tip which I wished I worked out a bit sooner(!) .. you can't tell really how much herb you're going to end up with, and you do need to fill the jar right to the top with herb. So collect glass jars of all sizes, not just jam jars - its a good idea to keep pesto jars, dried herb and spice jars etc and even those little mini individual portion jam jars that everyone buys each other in gift sets at Christmas. That way you won't kill yourself trying to collect enough plant and also, for general home use, how much of the medicine will you actually need in a year?
So the little bottle in the middle is the Valerian Flower Tincture made this morning, to the left is a little pot of rose petals in oil (will post about that soon) and to the right the Chive Blossom Vinegar I was telling you about the other day here. So now we wait .. I will be really interested to see how effective it is. Sleeping has never been a problem for me thus far in life, I'm one of those lucky souls who falls asleep the instant my head hits the pillow. And any slight excitement before bedtime can easily be sorted out with a mug of Ovaltine and ten minutes engrossed in a novel to switch my brain off from the day and any outstanding mental to-do list. But I've noticed of late a few nights around the same time each month I am lying there unable to sleep for some reason. This is highly annoying if its actually a night where the little'un sleeps through, as you can well imagine! Its always when I'm experiencing other symptoms of hormonal upheaval, so perhaps is a sign of things to come given my age.. so what a helpful thing to have in the cupboard. I'll keep you posted!
I know you guys that visit Earth and Tree often will already know this, but I just want to remind anyone interested in these posts to:
Please be sure you have the right plant before you use it
Consult a professional herbalist and/or doctor for health problems
Find books giving full instructions for making and taking home remedies safely
** I'm not a qualified herbalist .. what I do here is share my enthusiasm and experiences in the hope that others might get excited too and find resources for learning more and getting started**