Monday, August 19, 2013


Even though the weather here in the Shire 
has been more like late autumn  than mid-summer,
I didn't want August to slip away without writing about 
those perennial plants of summer: herbs.

There are many herbs that are less well known
than the kitchen herbs of rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano.
There are some with a long history of medicinal uses.
One of those is valerian (valeriana officinalis).

Valerian is a very pretty herb with lacy fronds 
that resemble celery leaves:

It has beautiful flowers that bloom from long stalks:

Valerian root tea has been used for centuries to calm anxiety
and to alleviate insomnia because of its sedative effect.
At different times in history, it's also been used to treat epilepsy and migraine.
And some accounts say it is as attractive to cats as catnip is.
In her book A Modern Herbal, Mrs. Margaret Grieve 
remarks that valerian was also used as a perfume and a spice.

However, before you go out and surround your house with valerian,
you may want to consider what else Mrs. Grieve said about it:
it is powerfully attractive to rats and was once used in Europe to bait rat traps.
Grieve says it is so appealing to rats, 
sources suggest that the Pied Piper  used valerian roots hidden in his clothes 
to lure the rats from the German town of Hamelin.

So there you have it: a beautiful herb that attracts vermin.
A good thing its roots quiet anxiety.

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