April 29, 2013

Grounding + Centering with Valerian. These little roots offer us so much more than sleep.

Valeriana officinalis whole plant. April 26, 2013

Today, more harvesting of Valerian roots!

These stinky, perfumey, tiny roots take a while to gather, but, are pleasant to be around none the less. 

The ground has been very moist this week, so aside from the mud sticking between the roots, it has been a very easy harvest. 

It has been so nice to be digging in the dirt again. 

One of my most favorite sensations in the world is how tingly my hands and feet feel once they are covered by a dry coat of mineral rich mud after a day in the garden.

It made me so happy to harvest Valerian first this season. 

It is the first plant we have harvested by hand togther at school, and that holds great meaning to me, as Valerian was the first herbal medicine that I consciously experimented with as an insomniac ridden teenager!

What has been most wonderful are all the little observations I have been able to make about Valerians growing habitat and how that affects the nature of the plant itself. 

Healing, Health, Nurtients...It's all in the Soil

For instance, the roots I dug up from moist/shadey soil grew in thick communities and clusters. They smell stronger, have a more golden hue than those in dry soil, and have a larger radius of roots that resemble nerve endings. 

The roots in dry/sunny soil tend to be more leggy, carrot shaped and paler in color. They have a "greener" smell, which lacks the characteristc Valerian stink. This makes me think that these plants are not as medicinally viable.

The roots in sunny moist/soil are nice and stinky, but, not quite as bushy as the moist/shade. Their root systems tend to grow straight down, and they are easy to pull up, which is a bonus. 

All in all, I feel that moisture is the most important factor, followed by shade when harvesting Valerian. 

Plants Can be GreatTeachers. They Speak in Metaphors on Healing and in Life.

Though these may seem like insignificant details to some, they are like a beautiful puzzle to me in discovering how to identify the most healthy plant habitats. 

This helps me to understand the use of the plant, as well as how to grow it. It is way too much fun. 

How this Post May Help You

I wanted to share some of the many uses for Valerian with you. Particularly for those of you who may experience anxiety and stress. 

This post weaves a few clinical and spiritual applications for the roots of this plant and  concludes with instructions on how to make a simple massage oil for your grounding meditation with Valerian. 

I hope you enjoy!

The Other Side of Valerian

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a well known herbal medicine that is often used to help individuals with insomnia to obtain a deep sleeping state. 

However, there is another side to Valerian for some! 

A small percentage responds to Valerian's typically sleepy and dopey demeanor with somewhat of an opposite effect. 

I have found the effect not to be energizing for these non-sleepy Valerian folks, but, grounding and calming. 

Valerian is known to dull the senses a bit and for those who are already overly active, it may be just enough to encourage a balanced state of calm. A slight dulling can actually help some to feel more alert, aware, and present in their body and, therefore focused. 

These roots have a dreamy softness that allows an overactive mind to slow down and smell the stinky Valerian. 

Because of this, Valerian can be used as an inspiring aid for such individuals in conscious meditation. 

Keeping it in the Family with Cousin Spikenard
An Equally Beautiful, Stinky, Perfumey Plant Relative to Love...

The roots of its cousin, Spikenard (Nardostachys jatsamansi), is a blessed sedative that can also induce vivid dreams. The essential oil is blue-green in color and it is equally, if not more pungent in scent than Valerian!

It is one of my favorite essential oils to work with. Though, at first, it made me think of a blend of stinky feet and chocolate. I hear all kinds of interesting interpretations for this one during aromatherapy consultations. But, eventually, to me, the oil became fruity, chocolaty, deep, grounding, and sensual.

Avoiding a Valerian Hangover

Valeriana officinalis Aerial Parts. April 26, 2013. NSBM
Something else I have seen with Valerian is a dull, heavy headache that is present the morning after taking it for sleep. 

Though, this does not happen in everyone, so no fear! 

Like any other plant medicine, try it in small doses to begin with. This allows space for you to decide if it is the right herb for you! 

Different plants, in different forms (ex: tea, tincture, essential oil) work for different people. 

And, as always, you want to make sure you find quality resources, otherwise, you offer no justice to the true powers of herbal medicine. 

Valerian Roots For Anxiety

These roots can also be used for anxiety. I think that Valerian's ability to ground and focus can help center individuals who have a difficult time staying within their own frame of mind. 

These are the folks that have a hard time turning a thought or idea into action due to potential over-awareness and distraction by what is outside of themselves. 

Valerian is also known to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, a physiological affect that may induce the anti-anxiety and sedating effects. 

Valerian Root for Cramping, Gas + Indigestion

It is considered a carminitive plant. This means it is warming in the belly, helps to dispel gas and improve digestion. It is also considered to be an anti-spasmodic, which means it stops spasms and often with that cramping. Therefore, this can be an excellent addition to a calming oil to massage for a cramping and gassy belly.

Valerian Root and Our Energy Centers

In terms of our energy centers, or nerve plexus, Valerian makes a nice oil to assist in the area of the Solar Plexus in general. 

The Solar Plexus is found in the belly and is associated with embracing one's own sense of power, confidence, individuality, and gut instincts. 

The calming, grounding, and centering qualities of Valerian allow the mental space needed to calm an anxious over-thinker. 

It allows the worrier to take a deep breath, chill out and look inward. This can create a space and inention in appreciation of their gifts, uniqueness, and sense of "I am". 

So much of confidence is seeing and believing. 

A Journey Inward 

The deep musky scent of Valerian calls us to sit within our core selves and restore our energetic preserves.

The restorative aspect of Valerian medicine welcomes for many an opportunity to enjoy a deep and restful sleep. 

Restoration occurs on so many levels while we sleep and dream. This occurs through our subconscious in dream state, within our body systems as with cellular repair and within the resting of our conscoius minds. 

Our dreams alone can be very healing, whether we recall them or not and healthy sound sleep is vital to our health. 

A Simple Valerian Meditation Oil For Home {for the non-sleepy}

A topical dilution of the essential oil may be a nice way of working with the plant during meditation. Although, be ready to get sleepy just in case you are on the snoozing side of Valerian!

Blending Your Valerian Meditation and Massage Oil

I would suggest using about 12-24 drops of the essential oil per every one ounce of carrier oil of your choice. This ratio of essential oils to carrier oil will make a 2-4% dilution (approximately), which is appropriate for massage oil. 

Some people choose to apply a dilution of essential oils to their feet as a means of application, which I personally love!

 If you apply this meditation oil to your feet cover them with a pair of cozy socks. This will not only help to keep you warm as your heart and breath rate slows, but, will help the oils to absorb into your skin (as opposed to your floor). 

Choosing Your Carrier Oil

Choosing your carrier oil can be as simple as opening up your kitchen cupboards. If you do not own fancier carrier oils such as apricot, jojoba, or grape seed, be comforted knowing that olive oil works just fine. The residual olive oil may stain clothing, and may absorb into the skin more slowly, but, you will still feel the effects. 

You don't have to invest in an entire apothecary to experiment with herbs safely. However, since olive oil goes rancid fairly quickly, you may decide to begin with a smaller amount than one ounce. (ex: 1/4 ounce of oil and 3 drop of essential oil still equals 2%).

Your Meditation with Valerian

You may already have a meditation practice in mind. What I share here is simply a suggestion for those of you who would like some guidance in incorporating essential oils into your meditation practice. 

I think first and foremost, it is important to listen to what your heart, body, mind, spirit and soul says.

So, if you come up with a meditation variation that feels really good to you, follow that instinct. Of course within reason...If your body tells you to drink the essential oil, you really shouldn't do that...obviously. 

Also, feel free to make this conscious application of Valerian as sacred or clinical as it speaks to you.

 If you are on the more clinical side, just stick with the basics, you definitely don't have to be as woo-woo as the next person to use herbs just as effectively. 

Comfort and use of herbs according to your true nature is key.

Another Delicious Option: Diffusing Oils

You may prefer to diffuse the essential oil in the air. An essential oil blend can completely change the mood of a room. It can be as drastic and effective as lighting in my mind and is a very simple way to shift gears throughout the day whether at home or work.

How to Diffuse Oils With What You Already Have in Your Kitchen

In case you are not familiar, one can diffuse essential oils through a candle diffuser, or by placing a few drops in a pan of steaming water on the stove. 

How to Diffuse Oils Via Steamy Pan of H20

Fill a sauce pan with about four inches of water on medium and cover with a lid. Once the steam gets going, remove the lid and put the heat on simmer (low is usually fine). Start by placing 3-4 drops of pure essential oil into the pan. If you feel you would like a stronger evaporation, work your way up to 7-8 drops.

You can refresh the steam and essential oils as the water simmers on low, or, you can bring the steamy pan of water in a room with you. 

If you keep it on the stove, be sure to keep an eye on the water level to prevent burning of pans. 

Lamp Ring Diffusers

In the 1990's and early 2000's earthen lamp rings were a very popular option way to diffuse essential oils. 

These lightweight clay rings were placed on top of light bulbs to warm and diffuse the essential oils. I have seen a few around here of there, but, not all that very often. They can't be difficult to conjure up. 

I kind of love this method for those who already plan to have a light on. It is very convenient and hassle free. 

An Anointing Meditation With Essential Oils 

First, prepare your essential oil dilution and create a sacred space for meditation. Some people like to create their oils ahead of time, on New or Full Moons depending on what energies most resonate with them. 

If you have a sacred space outdoors, go there, and leave your socks at home! 

There is nothing better than grounding with your bare feet actually touching the cool, moist dirt of the Earth. You may find that your feet begin to tingle after a while, buzzing with aliveness and a familiarity of what it was like to be a barefoot human.

If indoors, you may like to take some time to clean and sweep the room to ensure fresh energy if that kind of thing makes a difference to you. You can light a candle, welcome in sunlight, moonlight, or a breeze from your window. 

If you aren't blessed with the sounds of birds and crickets, encourage a quiet retreat with soft music or ear plugs. I love the white noise that is created from ear plugs, and try to keep a pair handy at most times just in case.

Anointing Specific Points on Your Body With Intention

Once centered, sit or lay in a place where you will be comfortable in your body for an extended period of time. The length of your meditation, whether you set a gentle timer or organically let the time flow by, is up to you. 

Once settled, apply a small amount of your diluted oil of Valerian on two places, the first I suggest being your feet. 

Massaging your feet is grounding all in itself. 

Applying essential oils to the feet as a means for medicine to enter the blood stream is very effective, particularly those that are indicated for the heart, as it is the most direct route!

The secondary areas of applications for this meditation are your temples (softening to the mind), center of forehead (focusing), your wrists (affirming), your heart (relative to emotions and heart center), or behind your ears. 

Rooting Yourself into the Earth with Valerian

Once you have applied your oils, take a few deep belly breathes. 

Allow the inhalation of fresh air to fill your lungs. 



Keep with this breathing pattern at a pace that feels most comfortable for you until you naturally begin to breathe more deeply into your meditation. 

Although this meditation may take you to a deeper state of awareness and calm, ultimately, the practice is a sacred way to get to meet your plant medicines. 

When you are out of meditation, you may feel lighter in mind, more focused and ready to follow through with actions that may otherwise be hindered by excessive thought and worry.

You can Ask for Guidance and Clarity 

I suggest you ask for clarity on a particular situation before this meditation if you feel it is something you seek. 

It amazes me what communication can come forth when meeting the subconscious half way through a mindfulness based Earth meditation.

A common, but, powerful meditation is one where you visualize and feel your feet rooting into the earth.

 You may already have a much loved rooting meditation, and if you do, follow the sequence that works best for you. 

I suggest that you read through this meditation, as well as the Journey through Valerian below as to strengthen your connection and visualisation with the plant. Also, this will leave some space for you to make it more your own. 

Begin by physically standing or visualizing you stand with your feet firmly settled into the soft, moist, green and black earth...

Look around you. What do you see? Hear? Smell? 

You may see vibrant shades of moss, mottled leaves in copper red and brown, gnarly roots from neighboring trees... and as you stand there, feel how soft, yet, strong the energy of the Earth is.

Know that you are supported and cared for. Know that you are very much a part of this place and that you belong. Know that you have always belonged, now, you just have to remember. 

As you inhale through your nose, feel your feet drawing in energy from the earth, up through your legs. 

As your breath lifts, Earth energy streams through you. 

It nourishes your entire body; all the way up to your shoulders, arms, neck face, and even above the crown of your head. 

As you exhale out your mouth, allow your body to soften from head to toe. Again, feel the nurturing, but, supportive strength of the Earth. 

Allow the lower half of your body to relax with this exhale; allow your hips, your knees, belly and toes to rest. 

You may even like to puff up your cheeks with like a balloon and let the air go all at once.

On your next inhale imagine how your feet and legs are similar to roots, and how your spine is much like the stem of a plant that grows from the ground. 

Above the crown of your head floats a flower. This flower allows your entire body to soak up the warm, golden light of the Sun. 

Feel the light of the sun moving through your belly, down through your feet and into your roots. 

Notice how this breath work and visualisation allows you to sit confidently within your belly, lifting your chest, opening your shoulders. 

With your exhale, ever more powerfully feel your feet rooting into the Earth and feel your bodies’ aliveness. 

A Journey into The Earth with Valerian

Take a look at the leaves, roots, and stems depicted of Valerian in the photos above.

They are beautiful in stature and they are also wild and whimsical. 

The leaves are opposite in form and speak of balance. 

The shapes of the leaves are deeply lobed. As they taper down into their root body, they become streamline and smooth. 

Below these little stems is conjuncture of root concentration. 

This is the state you begin to enter as you set your intention, your anointment and your first breathes into your meditation. 

The roots do not burrow very deep into the earth in general. Although, the very healthy roots really allow their roots to spread out wide and thick. 

When well nourished, Valerian Roots know how to take their space. 

This to me seems like a really nice mantra for people who experience anxiety that is reflective of the needs of people around them instead of themselves. 

If this is your kind of person, this meditation may be just right for you. 

I would love to hear how things go for you on your journey with getting to know how you and Valerian work together. 

Remember that Spikenard  is a lovely and magical alternative as a deep sedative. Another root oil that I like to use for sleep is Vetiver, but, that is for another time!

And a Few Open Ended Curiosities....

* Could Valerian be helpful for particular individuals with ADD or ADHD due to its calm, but focused reaction to some?

* Being that Valerian appears to dull the senses, could highly sensitized individuals, such as people with Autism find some relief from the sedating effects? 

No comments:

Post a Comment