Sitka Valerian

Plant Use(es):Food, Medicinal, Pipe Mix

Flowers - Photo by

Flowers – Photo by W. Siegmund

Scientific name: Valeriana sitchensis Bong.

Family name: Valerianaceae (valerian family)


This perennial herb grows stems from a stout rhizome with fibrous roots.  Short hairy leaves grow in sets of pairs on opposite sides of the stem. Flowers are white or pink and grow in a flat-topped cluster.  Height: 30-120 cm tall.


Valerian was used as an antispasmodic and hypotensive, skin softener, flavoring in beverages and desserts, to relieve anxiety and to promote sleep. A decoction of roots was taken for diarrhea, for shadow on your lung or as a cold remedy. A bitter infusion of roots was used as another method for preparing a cold remedy.  Pounded roots were rubbed on rheumatism and used for swelling, sore muscles, or as a tapeworm medicine.  A decoction of roots, leaves, stems and flowers could be taken for ulcers, stomach trouble or influenza.  Chewed leaves put on cuts and bruises.  Cooked root was eaten for food, but warning: raw roots may be poisonous.

General disclaimer: It is recommended that individuals seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally. The University of British Columbia is not responsible for any adverse effects that might result from the use of this plant.


Dried roots were used as incense.  Leaves were mixed with other plant leaves for smoking, and sometimes added with tobacco as flavouring.

Aromatic plants, including sitka valerian, were used to increase the success of hunting and fishing, and thus increase survival.  The whole plant could be prepared as a decoction.  The hunter/fisher would drink the solution as a tea, and wash himself and his equipment with it.  The strong smell of the plant masked the human scent and was believed to make the animals more approachable.


  • In the fall, roots have a higher medicinal potency.
  • WARNING: raw roots may be poisonous


Found in moist streambanks, meadows, coniferous forests and avalanche tracks, at moderate to high elevations, 1500-3000m. Not found in the lowland.  Usually found in dense colonies.



For more information on sitka valerian, visit E-Flora BC:


Montana Plant Life. (2013). Sitka Valerian, Valeriana sitchensis Bong. Retrieved from

Turner, Nancy J. (2008). The Importance of Aromatic Plants and Mushrooms in Traditional Foods and Medicines of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America. International Symposium of Aromatherapy & Medicinal Plants, Grasse, France. Retrieved from

Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson and M. Terry Thompson et al. (1990). Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. (2008). General Technical Report 513 part e, pg 15-16.  Retrieved from

Photo credits

Siegmund, W. (2008). Valeriana sitchensis 9770.JPG. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Siegmund, W. (2008). Valeriana sitchensis 9785.JPG. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons


Link to e-flora

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