The interesting thing about this plant is that the flowers have a wonderfully delicate appearance, as well as an unmistakably sweet aroma... but the roots are another matter. They are very pungent smelling. Personally, I love the scent of them, but many people don't.
Cats love the smell of valerian and find it quite intoxicating. It is useful stuffed inside cat toys... which is what I will do with the roots I dig this fall. They make great gifts for friends of cats.
History and folklore say that the word comes from the Latin word "valere," from which the common name of this plant originated, and means "to be strong or healthy." It may also refer to the healing applications of the plant or it may refer to its strong odor. The ancient Greeks called this plant "Phu" (like phew!). It was believed that this plant had the properties of turning anything bad into good.
If anyone has an interest, here is an in depth report on the virtues of this lovely plant, Valeriana officinalis,
My disclaimer on the use of herbs for the purpose of medicines: Although this plant is used widely in Europe as an anti-anxiety and a sleep enducing herb, I do not promote or encourage its use without consulting a professional.