Blue Vervain is used in natural skin care products for its astringent properties. Vervain has been useful to herbal healers for many centuries of recorded history, both in Europe and in North America, yet there is a dearth of human studies with this herb.
Vervain’s healing properties are attributed primarily to its bitter and stimulating effect on the liver and other organs, as well as its relaxing effect on the nervous system.
Vervain is useful in many diseases as a pain reliever and natural tranquilizer, an expectorant used to treat chronic bronchitis, and an antirheumatic used to relive joint pain. Herbalists consider vervain especially helpful when depression is related to chronic illness. As an added benefit, it can help to heal any damage that has occurred to the liver.
Other Names by Which Blue Vervain is known: Verbain, false verbain, wild hyssop, simpler’s-joy, ironweed. American blue vervain, Blue Vervain, Herb of Grace, Herbe Sacrée, Herba veneris, Swamp Verbena, and Wild Vervain.
What is Blue Vervain? Blue Vervain is a rather rough, finely haired herb that has an erect, straight, four-sided stem, four to seven feet high, usually branched above, with broadly lance-shaped sharply toothed leaves.
The small, usually blue, flowers are densely clustered in numerous slender spikes two to six inches long. Vervain is found in moist fields, meadows, and waste places from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and Florida, Nebraska, and Arizona.
Blue Vervain is edible and medicinal. Vervain had many uses in Native American culture as food and medicine. The seeds are edible when roasted and are ground into a powder and used as a picole (an Indian flour).
The leaves and roots of Blue Vervain are a valuable alternative medicine. Blue Vervain can possible cause miscarriage, prevent diarrhea, as an analgesics, to kill parasitic worms, prevent the recurrence of diseases such as malaria, is an astringent to stop bleeding and discharge of fluids, causes excess sweat, causes vomiting, expectorant, sedative, tonic, vermifuge, and helps healing of wounds.
It is useful in intermittent fevers, and ulcers. As a medicinal poultice, blue vervain is good for headache and rheumatism relief. An infusion of the plant increases lactation, and is used for female obstructions, after pains, and can be taken as a female tonic.
The infusion is used to help pass kidney stones and for infections of the bladder or taken for colds and coughs.
It is also useful for insomnia and other nervous conditions. Recent medical research has detected the presents of adenosine, aucubin, beta-carotene, caffeic-acid, citral, hastatoside, lupeol, ursolic-acid, verbenalin, verbenin, and other chemical constituents in this plant which prove these uses to be valid, but much more research needs to be done on this herb and its constituents. It may prove to be useful in treating many cancers and other diseases.
Blue Vervain flowers bloom from June to September. Gather entire plant just before flowers open, dry for later herb use. Gather after flowers fade and dry to loosen the seeds for roasting.
There are no known side effects or drug interactions associated with Blue Vervain,
Pregnant and Nursing women should not take this.
In England the Common Vervain is found growing by roadsides and in sunny pastures. It is a perennial bearing many small, pale-lilac flowers. The leaves are opposite, and cut into toothed lobes. The plant has no perfume, and is slightly bitter and astringent in taste. The name Vervain is derived from the Celtic ferfaen, from fer (to drive away) and faen (a stone), as the plant was much used for affections of the bladder, especially calculus. Another derivation is given by some authors from Herba veneris, because of the aphrodisiac qualities attributed to it by the Ancients. Priests used it for sacrifices, and hence the name Herba Sacra.
The name Verbena was the classical Roman name for ‘altar-plants’ in general, and for this species in particular. The druids included it in their lustral water, and magicians and sorcerers employed it largely. It was used in various rites and incantations, and by ambassadors in making leagues. Bruised, it was worn round the neck as a charm against headaches, and also against snake and other venomous bites as well as for general good luck. It was thought to be good for the sight. Its virtues in all these directions may be due to the legend of its discovery on the Mount of Calvary, where it staunched the wounds of the crucified Saviour. Hence, it is crossed and blessed with a commemorative verse when it is gathered. It must be picked before flowering, and dried promptly.
The plant appears to contain peculiar tannin, but it has not yet been properly analyzed. It is recommended in upwards of thirty complaints, being astringent, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, etc. It is said to be useful in intermittent fevers, ulcers, ophthalmia, pleurisy, etc., and to be a good galactogogue. It is still used as a febrifuge in autumn fevers.
As a poultice it is good in headache, earneuralgia, rheumatism, etc. In this form it colours the skin a fine red, giving rise to the idea that it had the power of drawing the blood outside. A decoction of 2 OZ. to a quart, taken in the course of one day, is said to be a good medicine in purgings, easing pain in the bowels. It is often applied externally for piles. It is used in homoeopathy.
Verbena Jamaicensis (JAMAICA VERVAIN) grows in Jamaica, Barbados, and other West Indian islands, bearing violet flowers. The juice is used in dropsy and for children as an anthelmintic and cooling cathartic. The negroes use it as an emmenagogue, and for sore and inflamed eyes. As a poultice, with wheat-flour, the bruised leaves are used for swelling of the spleen, and for hard tumours at their commencement.
The leaves are usually opposite, simple, and in many species hairy, often densely so. The flowers are small, with five petals, and borne in dense spikes. Typically some shade of blue, they may also be white, pink, or purple, especially in cultivars. The genus can be divided into a diploid North American and a polyploid South American lineage, both with a base chromosome number of seven. The European species is derived from the North American lineage. It seems that verbena as well as the related mock vervains (Glandularia) evolved from the assemblage provisionally treated under the genus name Junellia; both other genera were usually included in the Verbenaceae until the 1990s.
Intergeneric chloroplast gene transfer by an undetermined mechanism – though probably not hybridization – has occurred at least twice from vervains to Glandularia, between the ancestors of the present-day South American lineages and once more recently, between V. orcuttiana or V. hastata and G. bipinnatifida. In addition, several species of verbena are of natural hybrid origin; the well-known garden vervain has an entirely muddy history. The relationships of this close-knit group are therefore hard to resolve with standard methods of computational phylogenetics.
Some species, hybrids and cultivars of verbena are used as ornamental plants. They are drought-resistant, tolerating full to partial sun, and enjoy well-drained, average soils. Plants are usually grown from seed. Some species and hybrids are not hardy and are treated as half-hardy annuals in bedding schemes.
They are valued in butterfly gardening in suitable climates, attracting Lepidoptera such as the Hummingbird hawk-moth, Chocolate albatross, or the Pipevine swallowtail, and also hummingbirds, especially V. officinalis, which is also grown as a honey plant.
The hybrid cultivars ‘Silver Anne and ‘Sissinghurst’ have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
For some verbena pathogens, see List of verbena diseases. Cultivated verbenas are sometimes parasitized by Sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and spread this pest to other crops.
Verbena has longstanding use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as an herbal tea. Nicholas Culpeper’s 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses. Among other effects, it may act as a galactagogue (promotes lactation) and possibly sex steroid analogue. The plants are also sometimes used as abortifacient. Verbena has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However according to Cancer Research UK, “there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer”.
The essential oil of various species – mainly common vervain – is traded as Spanish verbena oil. Considered inferior to oil of Lemon verbena in perfumery, it is of some commercial importance for herbalism and it seems to be a promising source of medical compounds. Verveine, the famous green liqueur from the region of Le Puy-en-Velay (France) is flavored with these vervains.
Verbena has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called “tears of Isis” in ancient Egypt, and later on “Juno’s tears”. In ancient Greece it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that V. officinalis was used to staunch Jesus’ wounds after his removal from the cross. It was consequently called “holy herb” or (e.g. in Wales) “Devil’s bane”.
Vervain flowers are engraved on cimaruta, Italian anti-stregheria charms. In the 1870 The History and Practice of Magic by “Paul Christian” (Jean Baptiste Pitois) it is employed in the preparation of a mandragora charm. The book also describes its antiseptic capabilities and use as a protection against spells.
While common vervain is not native to North America, it has been introduced there and for example the Pawnee have adopted it as an entheogen enhancer and in oneiromancy (dream divination), much as Calea zacatechichi is used in Mexico.
The generic name is the Latin term for a plant sacred to the ancient Romans Pliny the Elder describes verbena presented on Jupiter altars; it is not entirely clear if this referred to a verbena rather than the general term for prime sacrificial herbs.