Herb: Tobacco Root

Latin name: Valeriana obovata

Synonyms: Valeriana edulis

Family: Valerianaceae (Valerian Family)

Medicinal use of Tobacco Root:

The whole plant, but especially the root, is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The crushed root has been rubbed on parts affected by rheumatism, swollen bruises, painful bleeding cuts and wounds. The root has been used as a tapeworm medicine. Use with caution.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Open moist sites, moist meadows, ditches, swamps and prairies, sometimes on saline soils.

Edible parts of Tobacco Root:

Root - cooked. It requires a long steaming. The Indians would slow-bake it for about 2 days. A very strong and peculiar taste that is offensive to some people but agreeable to others. The root can be cooked and then dried and ground into a powder. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. Seed. No more details are given but the seeds of other members of this genus are parched and then eaten.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame and only just cover the seed because it requires light for germination. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out into their permanent positions in the summer if sufficient growth has been made. If the plants are too small to plant out, grow them on in the greenhouse or frame for their first winter and plant them out early in the following summer. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.

Cultivation of Tobacco Root:

Open moist sites, moist meadows, ditches, swamps and prairies, sometimes on saline soils.

Known hazards of Valeriana obovata:

The plant is considered to be poisonous raw.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.