Katie's Letter -

The power of plants which we must respect as well as enjoy

RED VALERIAN is a favourite plant of mine, which was introduced to Beechgrove Herb Garden about 10 years ago, when I was given a few roots from a friend. It has, since then spawned hundreds of cheerful offspring in all corners of the garden. It grows anywhere – its seeds floating on the breeze until they find crannies in walls, gravel or brick paths, where they can establish their habitats. They are hardly categorised as a herb although the leaves can be used as a vegetable and in France the roots are used in soups. Despite their lack of medicinal properties, I love having them around for their beauty and audacity.

WHITE VALERIAN on the other hand has been traditionally valued for its powerful medicinal applications. It was first recognised in the sixteenth century for its anti-depressant and anti spasmodic properties. Consequently it was used for troublesome medical situations, such as hysteria, St. Vitus dance, vertigo, epilepsy, migraine, palpitations and nervous stomach cramps. However, it was recognised that large and frequent doses should be avoided because they were counterproductive.

THESE 2 VALERIANS are very different and clearly illustrate that valuable medicinal herbs have to be treated with the utmost respect and prescribed only by a professionally trained herbalist. The same applies to essential oils, which should only be used medicinally by a professionally trained aromatherapist. The plants must be respected and used with discretion and knowledge in SKIN CARE as well as herbalism and aromatherapy.

It is my belief, however, that the very presence of the beautiful, and aromatic plants that live around us in our gardens can bring joy to our spirits just by being there. That is why I celebrate the Red Valerian every year from April to October.

Katie May