Sitka Valerian
Valeriana sitchensis Bong.
Family: Valerianaceae, Valerian
Genus: Valeriana
Other names: American valerian
Nomenclature: sitchensis = of Sitka
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Poisonous plant

General: fibrous-rooted perennial from a stout, branched rhizome or stem base, mostly 30-120 cm tall, hairless or occasionally short-hairy.

Leaves: opposite in 2-5 pairs, the lowermost 1 or 2 pairs reduced, those next above stalked, pinnatifid, with enlarged end segment up to 10 cm long and 7 cm wide, the 1-4 pairs of side segments up to 7.5 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, rarely less than 1 cm wide. Upper leaves reduced, stalkless or almost so. The basal leaves when present similar to the larger stem leaves, sometimes undivided. Leaf segments mostly coarsely blunt-toothed to occasionally entire.

Flowers: numerous in compact top clusters 2.5-8 cm wide at flowering, expanded and becoming diffuse in fruit. Flowers ordinarily all bisexual. Corolla white, 4.5-7 mm long, hairless or short-hairy outside, the 5 lobes less than half as long as the somewhat humped tube. Stamens well protruding. The narrow calyx segments mostly 12-20. June-August.

Fruits: achenes, ribbed, hairless, mostly ovate or oblong-ovate, 3-6 mm long, about 2-2.5 mm wide, tipped with a tuft of feathery hairs.


Moist, open or wooded places at middle and upper altitudes in the mountains, often in wet meadows, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from Yukon and AK to WA, ID, n. CA.
Edible Uses

The root of sitka valerian is edible cooked. Having a strong flavor, it needs to be steamed for 24 hours. The seeds can be parched.

Medicinal Uses

Valerian is a well-known and frequently used medicinal herb that has a long and proven history of efficacy. It is noted especially for its effect as a tranquilizer and nerve stimulant and calming effect, particularly for those people suffering from nervous overstrain. Valerian has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries.
The root is antispasmodic, hypnotic, sedative, stimulant, urine-inducing, and has agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, and powerful agents that affect, strengthen, or calm the nerves. The active ingredients are called valepotriates, research has confirmed that these have a calming effect on agitated people, but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue. The roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in the autumn once the leaves have died down and are used fresh or dried. The fresh root is about 3 times as effective as roots dried at 40 C, while temperatures above 82 C destroy the active principle in the root. Use with caution, see the note on toxicity.

Poisonous Properties

The raw roots may be poisonous.

Other Uses

The dried root has been used as an incense.

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