English Name: valerian root
Pharmaceutical Name: Radix et Rhizoma Valerianae
Medica Category: Shen Calming Herbs
Properties: Xie Cao enters the Heart and Liver channels; it is bitter and sweet in nature and neutral in temperature.
The Chinese Herb Xie Cao is the dried root and rhizome of valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a native of Europe and West Asia that has escaped cultivation and become naturalized in cooler climes with abundant rainfall. The plant itself grows to approximately 2-4 ft. high and blooms with clumps of scented, white-pinkish flowers. Valerian roots have been used for hundreds of years in various Western folk medicinal traditions as a sleep aid/sedative (although it has been reported in some people Valerian has the opposite effect—so always start with low doses and work up); its uses in TCM, discussed below, are similar.
Xie Cao tranquilizes the shen and can be used clinically in cases of insomnia, emotional distress, and excessive worrying.
Xie Cao relieves spasms and pain associated with Liver qi stagnation to include such clinical presentations as muscle tightness and spasms, stomach cramps, and pre-menstrual syndrome.
Xie Cao may have a sedative effect and cause drowsiness. Exercise caution when operating heavy machinery while ingesting this herb; furthermore, Xie Cao potentiates the sedative effects of barbiturates and other categories of drugs that induce sedation (such as antihistamines, narcotic analgesics, benzodiazepines, and others).