Valerian is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe and different parts of Asia, but it’s also been introduced to North America. Valerian is a natural and safe herbal option for dogs.
Sometimes called garden valerian, garden heliotrope and all-heal, the valerian we’re talking about today, is not the same as what you’re likely to find in gardens. That type is known as red valerian, but it is actually a different species.
Valerian blooms from May to July and is found in soils with a considerable degree of moisture retention. As mentioned, there are several native species in North America now – most are found in the western portions of the continent, but it has also shown up in New England.
It is renowned as a safe and gentle herbal treatment that does not alter the brain like alcohol or pharmaceutical sedatives and it has nothing to do with Valium (diazepam), a drug that has literally no chemical relationship to valerian.
The fall root is the part of the herb that is used in forming treatment options. Sometimes the upper parts of the plant are used, but they provide a weaker form of medicine and do not have the more potent effects of the fall root.
- Valerian is a top choice for herbalists when it comes to prescribing sedatives.It is used to calm anxiety in dogs and also can relax the body in cases of physical pain. Herbalists have prescribed valerian in cases where dogs have fears of thunderstorms, for instance, because its calming effects help mitigate the anxiety. As you might imagine, a little valerian can also help calm down shaky dogs on trips to the vet or other unsavory places. Schnauzerama.org shares dosage recommendations here for calming your dog on road trips or simple trips to the vet. Dosage for anxiety: If using powder form, 4mg per pound, or if using the human liquid tincture, 1/4 for smaller dogs, 1/2 for medium sized dogs and the full dose for larger dogs. Directions for making tea with fresh or dried Valarian root: Boil one cup of water and add to one teaspoon of dried (or 1 tablespoon fresh) Valerian Root. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so before using.
- It is sometimes used to help reduce the severity and frequency of seizures in epileptic animals.
- If you are using valerian as a sedative, it is most effective in small doses over the course of several days. You should use doses several times a day, especially in anticipation of a high anxiety event like the aforementioned trip to the vet. Dogs should be treated with five drops of tincture three or four times a day starting about three days prior to the anxiety event.
- Can be used as a treatment for upset stomachs and spastic colons. In these instances, you should use a smaller dosage (0.25 to 0.5 milliliters of tincture for every 30 pounds of dog with a frequency of two to three times a day). A larger dose may lead to vomiting.
As mentioned, you need to be careful with the dosage when using valerian as a treatment for upset stomachs. Because of its soap-like consistency, it may cause some adverse reactions in dogs. This is not always the case, but there are reasons to be cautious.
Also, it does have the opposite effect in some dogs (and humans) when it’s used as a calming agent and a sedative. Some dogs (and humans) actually experience valerian as a stimulant.
*I’ve read that you not suddenly stop valerian; instead you should slowly wean your dog off the herb.
Reasons to Use
It is important to remember that valerian is as safe a sedative as you’re going to get for your dog. It is available through most herbal retailers and you can also purchase the plants in many nurseries. For dogs with anxiety issues or to mitigate the effects of high anxiety events, it’s definitely a nice option to have in your medicine cabinet.
References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, www.schnauzerama.org/anxiety