In the Agni Yoga publications of Helena Ivanovna Roerich (1879-1955) is the use of valerian often promoted. Here we shall contemplate towards the plausibility of 'valerian' having reference to the plant jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) instead of valerian (Valeriana officinalis).
Before setting course towards 'valerian' having reference to jatamansi in Agni Yoga mention must be made of the argument why 'valerian' there simply refers to valerian and not to any other plant. This argument says that the name used is simply 'valerian' and not 'jatamansi'. Helena Roerich's works were written originally in Russian and translated from there into English. Now as in English language a distinction is made between valerian and jatamansi with the words 'valerian' and 'spikenard' so does the Russian language know such a distinction too. In Russian the words 'valeriana' ('валерiана'), 'būlderyаn' ('бyлдырьянъ') and 'maun' ('mаyнъ') are used to refer to valerian1 and 'laynda' ('лaъендa'), 'ipdyskiy' ('ипдѣйckiй') and 'nard' ('нардъ') to refer to spikenard2. And in the Russian publications of Agni Yoga only the word 'valerian(a)' is used. So it can be fairly argued that if Roerich had wished to refer to spikenard she would have chosen her word of reference differently.
It must be noted however that outside the Himalaya region, where jatamansi has its habitat,3 even up to the present day there is much confusion in reference to jatamansi.4 Often jatamansi is confused with tagara or the Indian valerian (Valeriana wallichii) which shares jatamansi's Himalayan habitat.5 And in the past jatamansi was classified under the genus of Valeriana as 'Valeriana jatamansi'. It is this confusion of jatamansi with Indian valerian that has given it the name 'false valerian'.
One may oppose that the valerian referred to in Agni Yoga must be the European or true valerian (Valeriana officinalis) since jatamansi and tagara are not indigenous to Russia. However Helena Roerich and her husband Nicolas (1874-1947) traveled much in the Himalaya's, which was also the place where their Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute was established.6 Much reference to the Himalaya's is made in the Agni Yoga teachings. Not in the last place because the Himalaya's are considered by Helena Roerich as the place of residence of the Himalaya masters (or saints)7 from whom she received her teachings telepathically8. Two important points must be noted here. The first is that Roerich received the Agni Yoga teachings telepathically and that the Russian in which she wrote these teachings is not necessarily the most primal language of the teachings and the second is that the Agni Yoga teachings originate from the Himalaya's. The Russian 'valeriana' then may very well be a convenient (or confused, given the above information) Russian translation for the plant that is recommended in Agni Yoga. And this plant may also very well be growing in the Himalaya mountains from which the teachings originate.
That the Agni Yoga teachings find in the Himalaya's a more primal origin than in Russia is not the only pointer towards 'valerian' not referring to European valerian. Another pointer is found in the context in which 'valerian' is used. 'Valerian' is often advised together with musk (of the musk deer) and cedar tar.9 Now the combination of musk (of the musk deer) and cedar tar is to be obtained primarily in the Himalaya regions since the musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) has its habitat there together with a species of cedar tree (Cedrus deodara).10, 11 It is then in the line of expectancy that the 'valerian' mentioned in one breath with the other two is found in that same Himalaya region. This probability is enhanced to a likeliness when we consider the statement that 'valerian' is used in ayurvedic medicine.12 For European valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is not used in this Indian based medicine.
When after considering the above the likeliness of 'valerian' not referring to European valerian is accepted still the two possibilities lay open for it to refer to Indian valerian or to jatamansi. For both plants are used in ayurveda.13 To come to a judgment about to which of these two plants is referred we may compare the qualities of 'valerian' as described in Agni Yoga with those as described in ayurveda. In Agni Yoga 'valerian' is said to keep the respiration pure,14 restore energy,15, 16 calm agitation and promote serenity,17, 18 renew the nerve centres,19 kindle and sustain the fires,20, 21 protect against 'the fiery sickness', cancer and other fiery ailments,22, 23 and finally it is considered to be a tonic and life-giver to be used for prevention of many diseases.24, 25, 26 In corresponding qualities in ayurveda both jatamansi and Indian valerian can follow up to a certain extend. Both work on the respiration, are calmative, restore nerves, and also kindle fire (be it according to ayurveda primarily the fire of digestion).27 The major difference between jatamansi and Indian valerian however is that jatamansi is considered to be sattvik and Indian valerian tamasik. Sattva is of the nature of lightness and rhythm and tamas of darkness and inertia,28, 29 and thus is jatamansi conductive for meditation and spiritual aspiration and valerian obstructive for this.30 This places jatamansi then in the position of being the best candidate for being the plant of reference in usage of the name 'valerian' in Agni Yoga. For the teachings of Agni Yoga are meant for the spiritual uplifting of humanity31 and the tamasik quality as found in Indian valerian is refuted.32 The mentioned increase of awareness that jatamansi brings about then can be interpreted as the increase of psychic energy in Agni Yoga.33 And also is jatamansi the only of the two ayurvedic plants to be mentioned as being a tonic, as it is also in Agni Yoga.
Also two language related hints of 'valerian' in Agni Yoga referring to jatamansi can be mentioned here. The first hint can be found in jatamansi being in English (among other names) called 'muskroot'.34 Jatamansi has a musky scent, very likely corresponding to musky properties. And musk is one other panacea being praised in Agni Yoga.35 The second hint can be found in the etymology of 'jatamansi'. In an earlier contemplation with jatamansi as subject it was found that etymologically the plant is closely related to the (matted haired) yogi's and ascetics of the Himalaya.36 And this connects well to the idea of Himalayan masters advising spiritual aspirants to use this plant.
Taking all of the above in consideration it may be concluded that it is very plausible that 'valerian' in Agni Yoga refers not to European valerian (Valeriana officinalis), also not to Indian valerian (Valeriana wallichii), but to jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi). May an increased awareness and psychic energy help us to the right insight into the actual reference of 'valeriana' in Agni Yoga.