Photo by Karen Bergeron
Other Names: Abscess Root, Blue Bells, Jacob's Ladder,
Creeping Jacob's Ladder, False Jacob's Ladder, Greek Valerian, Onechte Jacobsladder,
Polemonie Fausse, Sweatroot
A perennial native herb
found growing in rich woods, damp ground and along shady river banks in Eastern N. America
from New York to Minnesota, south to Kansas and Georgia. Cultivation: Greek Valerian is
easily cultivated from seed or root division, it prefers moist, well drained, sandy soil
in a shady position. It has slender, creeping roots, and can multiply very quickly. The
stems are multiple as many as 10 to one plant they are branched and grow to 12 inches
high. Leaves form a rosette at the base, and grow in alternate pairs on the stem, they are
pinnate with six to eight opposite pairs of leaflets. The nodding, blue to purple flowers
grow in loose, terminal clusters. Greek Valerian flowers bloom from March to
May. Gather roots in fall, whole plants in spring. Dry for later herb use. The flowers are
edible, taste good in salad.
Greek Valerian is used in alternative
medicine, the roots are alterative, astringent, diaphoretic, expectorant and pectoral, and
can be taken as an infusion with water or as a medicinal tincture with alcohol, in the
treatment of coughs, colds, bronchitis, laryngitis, tuberculosis, feverish and
inflammatory diseases, including abscess and skin conditions. A decoction of the whole
plant is used as a hair rinse. The plant is rarely used in herbalism today.
Formerly used internally in the treatment of a
wide range of conditions ranging from headaches to fevers and epilepsy-Culpepper says of
- 'It is under Mercury, and is alexipharmic, sudorific, and
cephalic, and useful in malignant fevers and pestilential distempers; it helps in nervous
complaints, headaches, trembling, palpitations of the heart, vapours, etc. It is good in
hysteric cases, and epilepsies have been cured by the use of this herb.'
Because Greek Valerian has a smell that attracts cats it was
believed by witch hunters to be planted only by witches for the pleasure of their
familiars. It was also used for the bites of venomous snakes and insects.
Infusion: Add 1 tsp. dried root to 1 cup water steep for 10
min. take in tbls. doses throughout the day, for coughs, colds, congestion.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen
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