Valerian Root to Relax & Destress

Like humans, every dog is capable of experiencing anxiety. You’ve probably got a mental checklist of your dog’s stressors– overexcited children clamoring to pet her, the looming vacuum, road trips. You also know how to keep her out of those uncomfortable situations. 

Unfortunately, some situations that may stress out a worried whisker-toter—like thunder or vet visits are unavoidable. 

But this is where valerian shines. Used in combination with other complementary herbs, it’s a pivotal piece of a natural solution for your anxious pup. 

On The Agenda

What Is Valerian

A flowering plant native to parts of Asia and Europe, Valerian is a favorite herb in the Traditional Chinese Medicine family. 

This herb was put to use all the way back in ancient Greece—Hippocrates, the Greek doctor who became the namesake for the Hippocratic Oath, often prescribed it to treat insomnia.

Centuries ago, valerian’s white, pink flower buds were even used to make perfume (although when the flower is dried, it’s said to smell like sweaty gym socks. Pungent. Stinkyyyy, even).

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Where It Comes From

Valerian is native to Asia and Europe. It’s considered a garden plant, but it happily sprouts in damp grasslands, riverbanks, meadows, and woodlands. It’s a resilient plant that grows quite easily, thriving even in cold conditions. 

How It Works

Valerian root is a powerful force for good when it comes to your dog’s anxious brain. Valerian is known for its ability to “move Qi especially in the heart and calm the spirit.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the ‘Heart’ is the store of the ‘Mind’ or what basically is referred to as someone’s vitality or mental faculties. 

From a Western perspective, the seed’s calming and sedative properties are attributed to the combination of compounds found in the seed. 

Both perspectives are communicating the same thing– that the herb is credited with calming and sedative properties.

Anti-Anxiety

From a Western perspective, the calming effects come from compounds and a few antioxidants that promote more quality zZz’s. The compounds communicate with a chemical messenger in your tail-wagger’s brain dedicated to processing threats, fears, and stress. 

Think of it like a little herb messenger telling your pup’s brain to take a chill pill. So, if your dog’s brain is shouting that there’s danger ahead, this is the part of the brain that valerian root speaks to (and tells to calm down). 

From a TCM perspective, the herb enters organs like the stomach, liver, and most importantly, the heart, which houses what we see as our emotional and mental faculties. It moves Qi in the heart and calms the spirit to put the mind (heart ‘shen’) at ease.

Relaxing Properties

The antioxidants hesperidia and linarin found in valerian root are known to have relaxing and anxiety-easing effects. Just to double down on the whole “take a chill pill” idea. 

History doesn’t lie: the ancient Greeks were doin’ it right using valerian for insomnia. The herb’s mildly sedating effects promoted relaxation and sleep for those shepherds that had trouble counting sheep at night.

Fusing Herbs to Unlock their Potential

Like most Chinese herbs, valerian root works best when used in tandem with other complementary herbs—specifically, herbs that enhance its own calming and mild sedating effects, like passionflower. 

How Dr. B Uses It

Dr. Bessent uses valerian in combination with other fast-acting, complementary herbs. She developed a safe and effective formula to promote a more calm and restful state in pups with occasional anxiety. 

Anxiety affects humans much the same way it affects our pets. It can be a normal, healthy emotion that, even when we try not to let it, it can often get the best of us. 

It’s our pet’s way of coping with stress, and oftentimes, it’s only situational—when going to the vet, or even the car ride itself, when dropped at boarding for the weekend, or because of the quaking booms of fireworks.

But when these out-of-the-norm experiences do happen, or your dog’s routine is shaken up, these quick-acting herbs are a natural way to keep their worried mind at ease. 

Being prepared with July 3rd chews, you can offer a natural, synergistic combination of herbs to promote a sense of relief in your anxious dog’s mind, helping them feel more like themselves in any challenging situation. 

It’s solace for every pet parent – quick-acting relief without the long-standing, drowsy effects when you need a temporary solution for your anxious dog. 

For dogs with daily, unending anxiety, it’s a different approach– one that utilizes the long-term calming herbs of Calm Shen to balance emotional highs and lows. 

How do you know if your dog’s anxiety is normal, occasional behavior? Check out our anxiety guide to learn more.

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Dr. Chris Besent

Dr. Chris Besent

Chris Bessent, DVM, MSOM, Dipl. OM, L.Ac. has over thirty years of experience in veterinary medicine including certificates in veterinary acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic and veterinary Chinese herbology. Imbued with Eastern philosophy and the knowledge that food is the foundation of health, Dr. Bessent also received her degree in veterinary nutrition and began to formulate recipes fit for a carnivore from nothing but whole foods. Currently, she divides her time between the Simple Food Project and Herbsmith, both of which are owned and operated out of her facilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Kayla Behling - Writer

Kayla Behling - Writer

Kayla is the Content Editor for Herbsmith. She has a cat named Professor Cat-Faced Meowmers, who goes by Kitty, and a goof of a dog, named Duck. She stays busy biking trails, playing board games, and searching for the next best craft beer.

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