VALERIAN 507 is one of the nine Biodynamic preparations.
Rudolf Steiner described the Valerian 507 preparation very briefly at the end of Lecture Five of his Agriculture Course, almost as an afterthought (Rudolf Steiner, 1993, p104).
Steiner advised to “press the blossoms from the valerian plant, Valeriana officinalis, and greatly dilute the extract with warm water. The extraction can be done at any time and can then be stored. If this diluted valerian juice is applied to the manure [compost pile] in a very fine manner, it will stimulate the manure to relate in the right way to the substance we call phosphorus.”
By activating phosphorus, the Valerian 507 preparation acts like a switch, turning on the “light” which catalyses the crystallized fertility of the finished compost into making beneficial etheric formative forces available for crops. In anthroposophical medicine which Steiner developed for humans, a plant’s fruit or flowers serve the metabolic system, and thus our ability to will (Hugh Courtney, 3/1993). So when Steiner describes valerian’s ability to stimulate the phosphate activity in the soil, the remedial effect of phosphorus on crops is to strengthen their ego potential.
Making the Valerian 507 Compost Preparation
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial herb (Valerianaceae family) native to Eurasia. It produces its tiny white flowers in early summer. These are intensely perfumed, appear in clusters and open individually over a period of time. About two weeks after the first flowers have opened the first few petals drop off. This is the sign to start picking, when about half of the blossoms on a given flower head have opened. Wait too long it will be too late: the flowers will quickly turn to seed.
Picking them around summer solstice is ideal but the exact time will depend on the weather [and how far one is from the Equator as this influences flowering time].
Try to pick when an ascending moon stands in an air/light-flower constellation: Acquarius in the northern hemisphere, Libra in the southern hemisphere, and Gemini in either hemisphere.
This will provide flowers capable of producing an extract with a much greater capacity to age in bottle.
Leave some flowers for the insects.
Pick the flowers by snipping off all of the stem but leave the pod (the calyx) holding the flowers in place and intact. This makes it easier to handle the small clusterbuds of flowers.
Different ways to extract the juice from the flowers
There are three ways to extract the juice from the flowers: by pressing them and squeezing the juice out (10), or by infusing either pressed flowers (2) or fresh (unpressed) flowers in water (3).
1) Extracting the juice by pressing the flowers & squeezing the juice out
Pressing the juice out of the flowers is easiest if the flowers are either finely chopped, briefly ground in a hand-grinder, or bruised a handful at a time using a pestle and mortar. The chopped, bruised or ground pulp can then be placed in the toe end of a nylon stocking, twisting it up tightly and then squeezing the package in a vice to extract a green or coffee-coloured juice which can be bottled. If flowers are in short supply wet them with a little water which makes extraction by chopping, grinding or bruising easier.
The key thing is to work quickly to stop the juice from browning. Those who make their valerian extract using this method store it directly in bottles which either have the caps not quite screwed on, or in bottles sealed with a fermenting cap so air cannot get in but any gases released by an acid fermentation in the juice over a period of about six weeks can escape. This simple method suits those with limited access to valerian and a small garden. The danger is the liquid can develop a mould over summer and thus before it is used either in autumn on the compost pile, or as an anti-frost spray the following spring.
2) Infusing flowers which have been pressed in water
This is a similar if slightly more refined version of the method described immediately above. Bruise the flowers lightly in a pestle and mortar and put the pulp into a jar and dilute this with four parts water, then stir.
Use water which has been exposed to the light of the sun – rain water or snowmelt, rather than well water. Distilled water is also fine but ideally expose this to the sun too for a week or so before using it. Boiled but cooled drinking water will do in the absence of distilled water. Leave the filled jar on a sunny windowsill for a week to ten days. During the first few days a fermentation will take place. This dies down after about a week. Then the mixture is pressed or strained through muslin. The solids can be thrown onto the compost heap. The liquid is run into sterilised 20-50ml bottles. Pour the liquid into the bottles to the very top, then screw the lid on. Store in a dark place with and even temperature. The extract can store for years.
2) Infusing flowers which have not been pressed in water
This method works best by picking and processing the flowers in the evening when it is cooler than in the morning, and when there is less risk of the juice oxidising. The flowers are processed that same evening for the same reason.
Although flowers picked in the morning yield more juice those picked in the evening give a more concentrated and more perfumed juice. Stuff the flowers using a funnel and stick into glass bottles which can be sealed with a cork: a 150ml bottle for upto 30g of flowers, a 300ml bottle for 30-60g of flowers and a 600ml bottle for 60–120g of flowers. Once the flowers are inserted add water until the bottle is full, but leave an air space below the cork. Tie the cork down with twine to prevent it from popping out. Then hang the bottle that same evening in a sunny position in a tree and leave it there for three days.
Ideally the flowers will produce a liquid with a clear yellow-amber colour. If the colour is green and turbid this is still nearly as good. After three days take the bottle down from the tree. Then drain the bottle’s contents into a fresh container using an old stocking as a filter. The solids which do collect in the stocking can also be pressed so the liquid they hold is not lost. Combine this with the larger volume of free run juice.
Store the freshly expressed liquid concentrate in squat 200ml jars in a box in a cool place. Storing it in smaller vials is risky because the juice will ferment for a few weeks. Impurities in the juice can be strained out using filter paper circles and a funnel but this must be done with care and speed to avoid oxidising the juice or exposing it to too much light. The aim is that within a few weeks of midsummer the liquid has a transparent greeny-yellow rather than brown colour, is stable with no signs of fermentation and smells just as the picked flowers did, but with more depth and ripeness. Keep the juice in 200ml bottles sealed with cork. Leave a small air gap between the cork and the liquid. Lay the bottles on their side to keep the cork wet to prevent shrinking. The liquid will keep for years if well stored and should keep its scent.
Using the Valerian 507 Compost Preparation
When using valerian either on a compost pile or as a garden spray standard practice is to dilute one part liquid concentrate with 19 parts water. For those who trust their eyes and noses rather than empirical measures the final liquid will have a pale but noticabley yellow-green tinge and will have an intense floral small without being oppressively musky. Stir (dynamise) the valerian liquid concentrate in warm rainwater at slightly warmer than blood temperature for 10-20 minutes. It can then be sprayed over the compost pile, or garden using a backsprayer or it can be flicked over using one’s fingers or a small brush (this is recommended for the CPP pit). A large bucket of water will be enough for most compost piles, a smaller bucket for a CPP pit, and as much as you think you’ll need for your garden depending on its size. For the compost pile it is a good idea to spray half the recommended volume over the pile and pour the other half in a hole made in the side of the compost heap, in the same way as for the five solid compost preparations 502–506.
Usually the valerian compost preparation is sprayed on and poured into the compost as soon as a new pile is made. Often this is just before the pile is covered with straw if the pile has been completed as winter approaches. However if for any reason only the five solid compost preparations 502-506 and not the valerian were inserted into the pile when it was built it is still fine to pour in /spray on the valerian later. In this case it is best to wait until after the pile of raw uncomposted material has fully transformed into finished, humus-rich compost. The valerian preparation is like a light switch, which helps activate the other compost prepations. Valerian added to compost whilst it is being made helps the other five compost preparations to do their job. Valerian added to compost after it has been made helps the job the other five compost preparations have already done – infusing the compost in a way which enlivens the soil and whatever grows there – when they are moved from their temporary home in the dark of the compost pile to their permanent home in the dark soil of the garden. This is why the valerian preparation 507 is so versatile and can be sprayed both directly on the soil, or on plants, as a liquid extract to bring a brightening, warming effect to the soil.
Hugh Courtney, ‘Biodynamic Preparations’, Applied Biodynamics 3/1993, p.3-4
Rudolf Steiner., Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture (USA, 1993) trans. by C. Creeger and M. Gardner, p.104