The ancient herb Hippocrates swore by

The ancient herb Hippocrates swore by

Valerian is nature’s sleep potion — or as close as we can get to one. Where has it been used? Why is it so effective? In case you haven’t realised by now, Three Spirit is on a mission to show you that whatever alcohol does for you, plants do better. Meet your new Nightcap.

Photo credit: Britannica

ingredients nightcap

What is valerian?

Valerian is a perennial plant that has been used for centuries for its calming and peaceful properties in its native Europe and Asia as a medicinal sleep aid, and still is today!

Latin name: Valeriana officinalis

Flavor: Pungent, fresh and caramel

Actives: Valerenic acid, iridoids

The benefits:

  1. Sleep health and insomnia relief
  2. Anxiety and stress management
  3. Boosting serotonin levels
  4. Serving as a relief for hot flashes associated with menopause
  5. Muscle relaxant


According to the American Botanical Council, valerian has a long history of medicinal use dating back to the era of the Greek physicians Hippocrates (circa 460-377 BCE) and Dioscorides (1st century CE) who prescribed it as a sleep aid. Who would have thought the Ancient Greeks had trouble sleeping, even without blue screen light and the 9 to 5! I suppose there were other life threatening stresses...

Like with many things, the Ancient Romans quite literally took a leaf out of the Greeks' book. Galen (circa 130-200 CE) was physician to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, portrayed here by Richard Harris in Gladiator.

Turns out being emperor is stressful, and Galen prescribed valerian to treat his insomnia. But it's not just for sleep! Throughout history valerian has been recorded as having many uses, from easing stress during the WW2 air raids in England to treating menstrual cramps in modern day.

    What's the science behind it? 

    So firstly, the dried root in valerian plant is responsible for its sedative effects, not the flower.

    Actives in valerian root slow the nerve receptors in the brain that react to stress, namely the GABA receptors. Valerian contains compounds called norepinephrine that interact with the GABA receptors, hindering its responses and essentially acting as a natural anti-anxiety relief.

    Studies have even found that when participants were administered valerian they experienced widespread improved sleep quality.

    Valerian root is also a natural sedative and antispasmodic. It can act as a powerful muscle relaxant which is why it's thought to aid in menstruation relief, calming the severe uterine muscle contractions experienced by some women during this time.

    What else is in Three Spirit's Nightcap?

    Valerian root is a delightful ancient herb in our Nightcap, but that's not all! With other plants like lemon balm and Hüll Melon hops, we've created a calming elixir that helps the mind and body to wind down. We find it fascinating that elements of nature, like the properties of plants can help us be happier, more well rested humans. You can read more below!

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