Herbs in History: Valerian


Valeriana officinalis L.


By Alain Touwaide & Emanuela Appetiti | July 2023

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Forgotten Uses

Valeriana officinalis L.

Illustration 1: Valeriana officinalis L.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis L., Caprifoliaceae, syn. Valerianaceae) does not need to be presented (Illustration 1). It is well established in the world of medicinal plants as a tranquilizer, particularly for patients affected with nervous overstrain. In internal use, it induces sleep and improves sleep quality, reduces blood pressure, alleviates dysmenorrhea, treats cramps, and reduces hypertension, in addition to having a positive effect on rheumatism, migraine, and colic. And it is credited with alleviating anxiety and depression. In external use, it is beneficial in the treatment of eczema, ulcers, and minor injuries.

The reputation of Valerian as a sedative cannot be better illustrated than by the claim according to which its very name was borrowed to create the modern sedative Valium. The apparent similarity of the names supplanted the real origin of Valium’s appellation, which refers, instead, to the Latin salute Vale used with a broad range of meanings, from Safe travel to Sleep well.

Whereas modern historiography about Valerian most often starts with the Renaissance, especially Gerard’s Herbal of 1597 and 1633with the rare exception of some supposed attestation in the Arabic World around the year 1000—and repeats that the use of the plant was limited to its calming activity, a deeper search into the ancient literature brings to light a great wealth of earlier information and therapeutic indications that have remained overlooked.

The fact is that botanico-medical literature from its most ancient forms to not so long ago is structured as a set of entries, each of which is about a plant and is identified by the name of that plant. And no entry entitled Valerian appears before mid-16th century, which justifies why histories of Valerian usually start with that-time information. A closer look at earlier, pre-mid-16th-century literature reveals that Valerian is present in that literature, where, however, it appears under other names than the contemporary one and is confused with other plants, being in a certain sense hidden in plain sight. The question is to uncover Valerian and to clarify confusions.

The Sources of All Problems

These problems result from the defining characteristics of Valerian: its botanical structure, its organoleptic characteristics, and its trade.

Regarding botany, Valerian is characterized in several of its species by a short, branched root that forms a bunch of small radicels. This is particularly the case in a species that played an important role in the history of the plant, Valeriana saliunca All., typical of the Alps and the central Appennines corresponding to parts of current France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

The second significant characteristic of Valerian is its scent, particularly of the root. This fragrance is such that the root is burnt as an incense in religious ceremonies in India. As we shall see, the root was used as early as antiquity in the confection of perfumes and also in household management, to perfume garments and to preserve them against insects of all kinds. Strangely, this scent is said to attract cats and dogs and to kill rats, instead.

The third factor that complicated Valerian’s history is trade. Several of the species used in perfumery, medicine, animal husbandry, and alimentation in the past were not native to the Mediterranean or Western Europe, but  were exotic, coming from as far as India and the Himalayas, even though V. saliunca All. is typical of the Alps and the Appennines as we have seen. The form under which the Ancients knew Valerian was not the entire plant fresh, but only the root in dried form. With its rootlets it was seen and identified as a spike, particularly if this small bunch was turned upside down.

Based on the shape and structure of the root and the fact that only that part was known, Valerian in the form of a drug made of its bunch of fibrous roots was named stachus in ancient Greek and spica in classical Latin, both meaning spike. These two terms appear in Pre-Renaissance treatises and allow to compile a documentary corpus related to Valerian larger than the one traditionally consulted in research. At the same time, they also contribute to explain confusions with plants characterized by a spike and used for similar purposes as Lavender (Lavandula spp.), the inflorescence of which forms some sort of spike, particularly in such species as L. stoechas L.

Nardostachys jatamansi (D.Don) DC

Illustration 2: Nardostachys jatamansi (D.Don) DC.

Going further, the characteristics of Valerian as a drug closely correspond to those of another plant not native to the Mediterranean and traded from afar: Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi (D.Don) DC.), known in the Ancient World under the name nardos in Greek and nardus in Latin. Whereas Spikenard can be now found in China (South-East Gansu, South Qinghai, West Sichuan, Xizang, North Yunnan), Bhutan, India, and Nepal (Flora of China 19 [2011]: 661-671), it is considered to be native to the Himalayas, Kashmir, and Bhutan (Illustration 2).  Because of this close similarity, Valerian was considered as a species of the same genus as Spikenard in Antiquity.

This confusion contributes to further expanding the range of terms we can use to search for Valerian in the ancient texts and allows us to add the terms nardos/nardus to the list of keys when exploring the ancient documentation. Through these two terms, we also reach another phytonym identified in the ancient documentation as a synonym of nardos/nardus: saliougka/saliunca.

If we return to the ancient corpus on medical botany and screen it armed with these terms, we bring to light a substantial amount of information about Valerian that was thus far unsuspected.

Going to the Root

Screening the ancient Mediterranean botanical and medico-botanical literature, we do not trace Valerian before the Father of Botany, Theophrastus (ca. 371-ca. 287 BCE). When analyzing aromatic plants in his Historia Plantarum (Inquiry into Plants), Theophrastus mentions (9.7.4) a small root (the term is significant) growing in Thrace (the part of Greece north of the Aegean Sea) with a light and pleasant smell that recalls Spikenard. For distribution reasons, this cannot be a species of Spikenard, but should be a species of Valerian, specifically one typical of the Balkan region, possibly V. pontica (Lipsky) Christenh. & Byng, found now in southern Bulgaria.

In the 1st century CE, we find a plant with a similar distribution in Dioscorides, De materia medica, under the name fou (1.11). This plant is said to be from the region of Pontos (that is, the Black Sea) and to be Wild Spikenard. Its root is described as a bunch of intertwined radicels, yellowish, with a good scent similar to that of Spikenard, with a heavy touch, however. Although the plant is identified as a species of Spikenard in Dioscorides’ text, it should be a Valerian because of the distribution and might very well be the same as the one briefly described by Theophrastus.

Leonhard Fuchs, Historia stirpium, Basel: Isengrin, 1542, p. 890: Pseudonardus mas, Spica Nardi.

Illustration 3: Leonhard Fuchs, Historia stirpium, Basel: Isengrin, 1542, p. 890: Pseudonardus mas, Spica Nardi

With the same Dioscorides, we have a more complete description of the genus nardos (De materia medica 1.7) comprising at least three species explicitly identified as such, and characterized by their geographical distribution, however unclear this might be for some species.

Of the two major species, one is identified as Indian and the other as Syrian, being explicitly said that they do not come from these regions, but because they grow on the slopes of a mountain, one of which is oriented toward Syria and the other toward India. Bearing in mind the native distribution of Spikenard (the Himalayas), it might be that this reference to a mountain is in fact to the Himalayas, which is incorrectly located here, however, as being West of India rather than East. In that case, the slope oriented toward Syria would refer to India and the other to the inner Himalayas. The Syrian species of nardos could be Valerian (perhaps such species as V. hardwickii Wall., possibly also including V. jatamansi Jones typical of the Himalayas, Kashmir, and Bhutan), and Dioscorides’ Indian species could be Spikenard. This identification is all the more probable because a variety of the Indian species is said to be called gangitis in a reference to the Ganges, which does actually rise from the Western Himalayas. Furthermore, whereas the Indian species is described as having several spikes, with abundant intertwined radicels, the Syrian one, instead, is characterized by a small spike in a differentiation that might well reflect the typical roots of Spikenard and Valerian, respectively.

Another species is characterized as Celtic by Dioscorides (De materia medica 1.8) as it grows in the Alps behind Ligurai. Iy is called saliougka by local populations. It grows also in Istria. It is a small shrub harvested with its roots in bundles as a handful. It is traditionally identified as Valeriana saliunca All., native indeed to the Alps and the Central Appennine, even though it has now a larger distribution as we have noted. The Istrian population briefly mentioned here might refer to a local variety not necessarily corresponding to a current species. It should not be neglected, however, as it might have been the source of the name of the genus as we shall see.

Pietro Andrea Mattioli, Commentarii in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei, De medica materia ... Venetiis: apud Vincentium Valgrisium, 1554 p. 23

Illustration 4: Pietro Andrea Mattioli, Commentarii in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei, De medica materia ... Venetiis: apud Vincentium Valgrisium, 1554 p. 23

Finally, Dioscorides mentions a species typical of Cilicia (in the southeast of current Turkey) and Syria (which, in this case, does correspond to current Syria). This species might not correspond to one currently identified as such.

Without systematically browsing all the literature from Antiquity to the Renaissance, suffice to say that a better distinction and knowledge of Spikenard and Valerian was not established until the late Renaissance. The scholars and scientists of that time who were translating and commenting on ancient medico-botanical treatises or were using them for their own works, were struggling to distinguish the plants amalgamated under the name of nardos/nardus with their several species, in addition to fou and saliunca. Otto Brunfels (1488-1534) author of an herbal published in 1530 considered to be the first modern one, did not include nardos/nardus in this work. Coming shortly after, the French Jean Ruel (1474-1537) who translated first Diocorides from Greek into Latin (1516) and further compiled a Historia stirpium (Research on plants) published in 1536, limited himself to expanding on Dioscorides’ text, without clarifying the identity of the plant designed by the term nardum. The next significant herbal, that of Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566), published in 1542 under the same title as that of Ruel, followed suit (Illustration 3), as did also the Italian Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501-1578), who first translated Dioscorides’ treatise into Italian (1544) and then into Latin (1554), with a commentary and illustrations. As the image of nardum represented as some sort of bushy conifer identified as Spica nardi (Spike of nard) makes it plain (Illustration 4), Mattioli did not know Spikenard and could not, by way of consequence, distinguish Valerian and Spikenard in spite of his repeated claims to have correctly identified many, if not most of the plants described in Dioscorides, De materia medica.

Rembert Dodoens, Cruydeboeck ... Antwerpen: Jan vander Loe:  1554, p. 375

Illustration 5: Rembert Dodoens, Cruydeboeck ... Antwerpen: Jan vander Loe:  1554, p. 375

In 1554—that is, the exact year of the first edition of Mattioli’s abundant commentary on Dioscorides—Valerian was first distinguished as a species in its own right. The term Valeriana appeared in the Cruydeboeck (Book of Herbs) compiled by Rembert Dodoens (1516/1517-1585), a Belgian physician and herbalist (Illustration 5) Interestingly, this chapter on Valeriana offers mostly the same information as in previous works, that is, a translation of, and commentary on, the chapters on nardos/nardus in classical literature. The fact is that Dodoens added new information collected from herbalists and apothecarists, and also resulting from his own experience. In the specific case of this chapter, he provided the names under which the plant was known in his time. About Valeriana domestica, he specified that this is the name of the plant used “in officinis”, that is, in the apothecaries.

The genus Valerian was not defined until the two Bauhin brothers, Caspar (1560-1624) and Johann (1606-1685), however. In their Pinax Theatri Botanici published in 1623 by Caspar, they translated previous botanico-medical work into systematic botanical taxonomy, including by defining two genera Nardus (p. 13) and Valeriana (pp. 164-165), even though they included Nardus species under Valeriana (species mountain, Cretan, Celtic and Apulian under the title Nardus Montana & Celtica).

An Efficacious Bunch of Rootlets

The indications of Valerian require precise investigation, as they are as abundant as varied, going beyond the now traditional uses as sedative with its different applications.

Interestingly, nardos first appeared in medicine well before than in botany. Nardos can be found, indeed, in two of the most ancient treatises ascribed—but not by—Hippocrates (460-between 351-and 350 BCE), both dating to mid-5th century BCE: Nature of Women and Diseases of Women. It is used in a gynecological fumigation and in a medicine for oral use in a post-partum mixture aimed to help eliminate the chorion. Given the confusion above between Spikenard and Valerian, it might be that this first attestation includes Valerian.

In Dioscorides (1.7), nardos is considered in general terms to be warming, desiccative and diuretic. For this reason it is indicated to stop diarrhea in oral administration, and feminine discharges and other suppurations in external application.
More specifically, it acts on the digestive system administered with cold water, helping in cases of nausea, heartburn, flatulence and hepatic, icteric and nephritic patients. In gynecology, it treats uterine swellings when boiled in water and administered in the form of topical (vaginal) vaporous inhalation. In ophthalmology, it is active against purulent blepharitis, tonifies the eyelashes, which it makes grow, and enters in the composition of specific remedies made with other ingredients (1.103). In dermatology, it is mixed with garlic to make a paste applied on the scalp to treat alopecia (2.152) and, in bodily hygiene, it is used as a powder against excessive sweating. Also, it contributes to the making of venom antidotes.

Nardos enters in the composition of other remedies made of other materia medica for the treatment of various conditions. With Rosewort, it is useful against cephalalgy, applied on the temples with a piece of gauze soaked in a mixture of the plant and nardos (4.45). With Absinth in the form of wine (5.39), it is particularly good for the digestive system: good for the stomach, diuretic, for the hepatic, nephritic and icteric patients, those with a slow digestion, without appetite, and with a bad stomach; against intestinal tension, flatulence and round worms. This wine also acts against amenorrhea and the poisoning by the seeds of the typically Mediterranean Chamaileon (Cardopatium corymbosum (L.) Pers.). A wine is made of it (5.57) and nardos enters in the composition of an aromatic wine made of a great many other plants (5.54).
The Celtic nard (V. saliunca All.), is said to have the same properties as the Syrian species (1.8), being more diuretic, however, and better for the stomach. Administered with Wormwood in internal use, it is helpful in the treatment of liver inflammation, icteric patients, bloating, in addition to spleen, affections of the bladder and kidneys. With wine, it is the antidote of venoms. Generally, it is mixed in warming emollient creams, medicines, and unguents. With Wormwood it is indicated in internal use against flatulence and pain of the digestive system and the stomach pain (3.23)
The Thracian species of Theophrastus equated above to the Pontic one of Dioscorides is characterized as warming with a diuretic action in internal use, apparently as an infusion of its dry roots and also as a decoction. It treats lung conditions, is emmenagogue, and enters in the composition of antidotes.

Nardos enters in the composition of multi-ingredient flowery perfumes described by Dioscorides (1.57,1.58, and 1.63) and is the main ingredient of a perfume, the scent of which is further refined by adding Costus, Cinnamon, Myrrh, and Balsam (1.63). This perfume is used in medicine for its thinning properties (which is not weight loss, but the property of making bodily liquids thinner and thus more fluid), bitter, susceptible to be applied externally as an unguent, and warming. It enters in the composition of a perfumed cream principally made of small roses used by women to be applied on their neck, as a deodorant, and as a post-bathing bodily cream (1.91).
Finally, in cuisine, nardos is used to spice up a dish made of seashells (2.8) and to aromatize the fat of several animals used in the preparation of different meals (2.76).
In his Naturalis Historia (Natural History), Pliny (23/24-79 CE), a contemporary of Dioscorides, offers some similar information since both took their material from the same or similar sources. To that, however, Pliny added some data without equivalent in Dioscorides, including religious uses. Leaves of nardus, brought from India or beyond (which seems to refer to both Spikenard and Valerian), were delicately intertwined to make chaplets for the statues of gods (21.11), and saliunca was plaited in perfumed crowns worn by people (21.40) and sprinkled between clothes (21.43), echoing Dioscorides. The root of the wild species—of which he says that it has a particularly strong scent—entered in the composition of a perfume (21.29).
For medicinal uses, Pliny does not provide as large a number as did Dioscorides. He limits himself to mentioning that saliunca boiled in wine stops vomiting and restores the stomach (21.144). About wild nardus, he lists only seven indications, mostly for the digestive system: flatulence of the colon (administered with either water or wine), inflammation of the liver and the kidneys, patients with excessive production of bile and patients suffering of dropsy. In gynecology, he states that it stops hemorrhagic crises and, in toxicology, that it saves from snake bites with two drachms of wine (21.135).

The Arabic World

Following the transmission of scientific and medical knowledge clockwise around the Mediterranean, Valerian can be found in ibn Sina (980-1037 CE), best known in the West as Avicenna. In the Qanūn, we find it under different names, with three entries: nardeen (2.14-2), sunbul (2.15-41), and foo (2.17-3).
Nardeen is the adaptation of Greek nardos. No therapeutic information is included about it. This entry seems to be only lexicological in nature.
For sunbul, Avicenna merges the information provided by the Greek texts for fou and nardos, thus reproducing the confusion between Valerian (with at least two species) and Spikenard. After the translation of Dioscorides’ relevant entries into Arabic, Avicenna then lists the uses of the plant, proceeding by bodily parts or conditions, starting with the general consideration that sunbul is hot in the first degree and dry in the second according to the system created by Galen (129-after [?] 216 CE). As per the explanation that follows “it is an opener and dissolvent. The Indian variety has much astringency and less heat. Initially, its taste is hot, and becomes then hot and pungent”. In bodily hygiene, sunbul is pleasant and good for bodily cleaning and for preventing excessive transpiration. Externally, it dries the suppuration from wounds and ulcers and also dissolves pimples. For the head considered as a whole, it prevents catarrh and strengthens the brain. On the eyes, it grows eyelashes “if added to eyeliners” or if added to the eyelids with an eyeliner applicator in the form of a powder. For this specific application, nardos (Valerian) is stronger than fou (Spikenard). On the respiratory system, it “purifies the chest and lungs” and, on the cardiac system, it is beneficial against tachycardia. For the digestive system, it “prevents the pouring of substances [humors] into the stomach”. It also “opens the obstruction of the liver and stomach”, is beneficial against jaundice, stops nausea when drunk with cold water, and is good for the spleen administered with wine. For the urinary tract, all species are diuretic, particularly the Celtic one “because it is simpler and less astringent”. For women, it is good for the kidneys in topical (vaginal) vaporous inhalation. Administered in the same way for gynecological conditions, it is good against uterine inflammation and “excessive bleeding from the uterus” of which it is not specified whether it is abundant menstruation or hemorrhagic bleeding.
As for foo, its root is said to have a “warming effect” and to be good for “lateral pain” in the section of the entry about “organs of breathing and thorax”. On the excretory system, it is identified as a diuretic, and, in gynecology, it is emmenagogue, taken either dry or in decoction. It is stronger than Spikenard or Valerian, being equal to Celtic Spikenard.

In the West

In the Latin West, nardus and fu are mentioned in the formularies for compound medicines that abounded between Antiquity and the renewal of medicine thanks to the translation of Arabic medical treatises into Latin. Between 400 and 800 CE, nardus appears 108 times, with varieties identified by their origin as celtica (28 mentions), indica (30) or syriaca (31), and even a gallica one (from France, one attestation). Fu, as for it, is mentioned 29 times during the same period. However significant they might seem—giving the impression that oriental drugs were still traded in the Middle Ages, assuming that some of these attestations refer to Spikenard—, these numbers are not. Suffice to mention that, among rare, traded drugs, pepper is mentioned almost 1,000 times and such common materia medica as laurel and hellebore appear 300 and 200 times, respectively. A further confirmation of this is provided by the small treatise on medicinal plants De cultura hortorum or Hortulus (On Garden Cultivation or Small Garden [of Medicinal Plants], respectively) compiled by Walahfrid Strabo (807-849) in which neither Valerian nor Spikenard appear—the latter might be because it was an oriental drug, not cultivated in the West.
Sometimes around the year 1000, nardus is among the many herbs analyzed in versified form in De viribus herbarum (On the properties of plants) written in Latin by some Odon qualified as coming from Meung, on the Loire River, south-west of Orleans and Paris. Under the title spica (spike) (section 25), nardus is qualified as hot and dry at the first degree, with a great many indications, some repeated from the tradition and some new. Nardus is mostly recommended in internal use for the digestive and urinary systems, with a draught (the exact nature of which is not specified) said to relieve the liver and calm stomachache, whereas an apozema is credited with the property of cleaning the kidneys, helping the bladder, and producing urine. It is useful to icteric patients and stops the bad humours going from the head to the chest through the trachea. Also, it empties a stomach full of air and treats nausea. In gynecology, it reduces excessive menstruation and relaxes a contracted uterus when applied on the lower belly in external fomentation.  In ophthalmology, besides favouring the growth of eyelashes, it relieves irritated eyes if it is repeatedly applied in the form of a tepid fomentation. As many other plants, nardus is considered aphrodisiac if taken orally with wine.
From the continent, De viribus herbarum reached England where it was translated into Old English. Its section on nardus is entitled Valerian and the original text is sharply reduced to the general affirmation that “Valerian is of great virtue ... a portion of it finely ground is good and profitable to many medical conditions. Taken with wine, it treats fever”. Judging from other Old-English texts (Lacnunga and Peri didaxeon, both possibly of the 10th century), Valerian was known under that name in England and used in medicine, including in external use as an unguent and in internal use for patients with digestive troubles.
These references under the name of Valerian recall the use of the term in Dodoens and suggest a connection with the world of practitioners alluded to in the latter (“in officiis”). Valeria is indeed the name of a Roman province (Pannonia Valeria actually), which was created in 296 CE  by the Roman emperor Diocletian (242-311/312) and corresponded to parts of current Hungary and Croatia. The name was still used after the Fall of the Roman Empire (476 CE). Just as for Valeriana celtica or gallica, for example, this geographical name may have been used to designate a species, possibly V. pontica (Lipsky) Christenh. & Byng typical of the Balkans and possibly described as early as Theophrastus, as we have noted. This designation might date back to Late Antiquity, with an uninterrupted tradition among herbalists. If this etymology is correct, that claiming that Valerian/Valeriana derived from the Latin verb valere (“to be in good health”, and not “to be happy” as it has been claimed) might not be exact, however suggestive it might seem.

A Pre-Renaissance Sum

Back to the continent, the Tractatus de herbis (Treatise on Medicinal Plants) compiled in southern Italy sometimes in the 13th century, among other on the basis of the Latin translation of Arabic texts, devotes two long chapters to fu (179) and spica (417).
Fu, said to be also named valleriana, is considered as hot and dry at the second degree. Information is very precise: only its root is used; it is harvested during the Summer and dried in the sun, keeping its medicinal properties for three years.  Its indications are reduced and organized in 4 groups. For the urinary tract, fu is diuretic. Its decoction in wine in internal use is good against strangury and dysuria. Boiled with wine and applied on the chest, it provokes the same effect. For the digestive system, a decoction with wine, fennel seed or mastic with, also, the sap of some diuretic herb in internal use is good to ease digestion and relieve stomachache resulting from cold or flatulence. A decoction in water in internal use is efficacious against spleen and liver obstruction resulting from cold. For the respiratory system (pain in the chest), it is administered in internal use in the form of a decoction in wine with Arabic gum, fig sap or other lenitive herbs. In gynecology, a fomentation in external use with a decoction in water helps reduce discharges, as does also a suppository made of powder of fu, mixed with oil.

Nardus, identified by the term spica (spike) is described in great detail, with two species, spica nrardi and spica celtica. Generally, both are hot in the first degree and dry in the second. They have a stengthening property thanks to their aromatic and astringent taste, and a diuretic one because of their bitterness. Also an oil made of it is good against epilepsy, paralysis, arthritis and gout, in both internal or external use. Specific indications are grouped by major anatomical systems or specific medical conditions. For the cardiac and nervous system, it is good against cardialgy and syncope in internal use, with a mixture of wine and a decoction in rose water. Similarly, for fainting patients, it acts by applying it to their nostrils. Against catarrhs from cold, a powder of nardus boiled in oil or salty water, should be applied on the nose. This oil is also efficacious against deafness provoked by cold or by an infection of the ears after an inflammation. For the digestive system, a decoction in wine is administered in internal use to treat a cold stomach, indigestion, and occlusion of the spleen or liver due to cold humour. Against tenesmus due to cold humour, powder shaped as a suppository can be introduced into the anus. In oral hygiene, powder of nardus is applied on the teeth to treat gingival infection. In gynecology, powder of nardus in a piece of fabric in the form of a vaginal tampon should be boiled in oil or salty water and applied by the patients themselves to clean an infected uterus, provoke menstruation, and also facilitate conception.

Memory Loss

All these indications hint at a better familiarity with the plant referred to by the terms nardus and fu, which was more probably Valerian than Spikenard thanks to the greater availability of local species of Valerian as opposed to the rarity of Spikenard imported at great expense from the East. Such knowledge was probably gained through time by accumulating written data, assimilating practical experience in the field, and learning through trial and error.
Subsequently, this legacy was obscured by the Renaissance and even lost. The Fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 generated a massive arrival of scholars, books, and texts from Byzantium to the West. This renewed availability of the classics after centuries—from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the 15th century—led to a rejection of past knowledge and even of the whole past, defined from then on as Dark Ages. In the specific case here, this return to the classics brought back the literature in which Valerian and Spikenard were confused and required close scrutiny by the scientists and scholars of that time who were struggling, as we have seen, to properly understand the texts, perceive the confusion, identify the two species, and name them as necessary. And this was not achieved before mid-16th century, when Dodoens introduced the phytonym Valerian borrowed from the world of practitioners. This also explains why historiography usually claims that the history of Valerian started with the Renaissance herbals, particularly Gerard’s Herbal, loosing sight of all the Pre-Renaissance information in a significant loss of memory.


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