A member of the Verbenaceae family, vervain (Verbena officinalis) is an herb that’s known for its multiple uses, potential capabilities and variety of names, such as:1
✓ Common or European vervain
✓ Enchanter’s plant
✓ Herb of grace
✓ Ma bian cao
✓ Simpler’s joy
Vervain was first brought from Europe to North America, and is also abundant in North Africa, China and Japan.2 It’s a perennial plant that grows between 1 to 3 feet, with simple opposing leaves and thin and stiff stems.3 During the summer, pink, purple, white or blue flowers appear, with each flower having five petals and sitting on top of delicate spikes.4
Other vervain plant varieties like blue vervain (Verbena hastate), white vervain (Verbena urticifolia), hoary vervain (Verbena stricta)5 or MacDougal verbena (Verbena macdougalii) can be used for herbal remedies, too.6 Vervain may seem like it’s just visually appealing, but there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye. Continue reading to learn more about vervain’s positive impacts on your health and the various uses this plant is known for.
Health Benefits of Vervain
Compounds in vervain may numb certain areas and stop pain from registering in those nerves.
✓ Anti-inflammatory: Complementing the plant’s analgesic properties, vervain may help reduce swelling and inflammation.
✓ Anti-spasmodic: Vervain may help reduce muscle spasms.
✓ Astringent: Tannins in vervain can be a natural remedy to help ease skin infections,9 as well as bleeding gums, halitosis, mouth ulcers and tonsillitis.
✓ Diuretic: Vervain helps with diarrhea relief and prevention by encouraging release of urine, excess water, salts and fat from the body.
It can assist in breaking down and eliminating kidney stones.
✓ Anti-parasitic: Vervain can help kill, expel and prevent growth of intestinal worms and other intestinal parasites.
✓ Expectorant: This herb aids in eliminating mucus and phlegm that build up in the respiratory tract.
✓ Alleviating common women’s health concerns: Vervain aids with lessening menstrual cramping and encouraging lactation of breastmilk and stimulating uterus contraction.
✓ Enhancing mood: A cup of vervain tea can ease anxiety and stress by soothing the nervous system and inducing calmness and relaxation.
✓ Maintaining a healthy gut: Drinking vervain can be useful in helping alleviate cramps, bloating and flatulence.
✓ Boosting oral health
✓ Stimulating appetite and helping with digestion (when used as a liver tonic)
✓ Restoring parasympathetic nervous system health
✓ Healing sprains
Common Uses of Vervain You Need to Know
Vervain leaves and flowers are often collected mid-summer when the plant is in full bloom. These can be incorporated into an infusion, tincture, poultice or ointment, although vervain is most notable for its medicinal capabilities that can help relieve these conditions:12,13
✓ Intermittent fevers
✓ Sore throat
✓ Chest congestion
✓ Scrofula (a form of tuberculosis)
✓ Pleurisy (an inflammation of the pleura or the moist and double-layered membrane surrounding the lungs and lines of the rib cage)
✓ Kidney stones
✓ Nervous tension
Traditionally, vervain was used to treat snake bites, nervous disorders, headaches, pain in certain parts of the reproductive system and throat tumors. In China, vervain was utilized experimentally to aid in treating malaria, blood flukes, coughs and inflammation.14
When used as poultice or ointment, vervain can help heal bruises, insect bites, eczema and other skin disorders. Chewing the plant’s roots was also believed to strengthen teeth and gums. Vervain is also popularly used as an aphrodisiac that can help stimulate sexual arousal.15
Many powerful civilizations considered vervain as a sacred plant. The Romans, well aware of vervain’s therapeutic properties, used it to help treat various disorders,16 as did the Egyptians and Persians. In fact, Egyptian legend tells that the vervain plant sprung when the goddess Isis shed tears to mourn the death of another god, Osiris.17
Vervain was called “herba sacra” by the Romans, and “hierobotane” or “holy plant” by the Greeks. They both used vervain to brush temple altars and sanitize homes. Vervain’s generic name Verbena, which means “leafy branch,” is an allusion to this practice.18,19 Lastly, vervain is connected to a very important chapter in Christian faith. The herb was said to have stopped the bleeding of Jesus Christ’s wounds when he was crucified in Calvary. This is probably why vervain is also called the “herb-of-the-cross.” 20
How to Grow Vervain
Vervain is often found growing along the edges of roads and in meadows. The plant grows best in well-drained soil and under full sun.21 Although vervain could also grow under partial sun,22 there’s a higher risk for powdery mildew disease, insect attacks and little flowering, which could translate to more work for you.23
You can start growing vervain through transplants or seeds. The only caveat about planting with vervain seeds is the month-long germination time.24
When planting seed indoors under grow lights, do so around six to eight weeks before the last frost date. If planting outside, place vervain in compost-amended beds after the threat of frost has subsided (particularly during the late summer or early fall25), and make sure there is a 10-inch gap between plants.26
Vervain requires little additional fertilizer apart from spring compost. Once the soil is dry, water the plants to encourage flowering during hot periods. Do not forget to deadhead (removing faded or dead flowers from plants27) as well — it’s another way to encourage blooming. Plus, if you see that the plants become leggy, you might want to cut back the vines by one-third to stimulate side branching and flowering.
How to Make Vervain Tea
A good way to reap some of vervain’s health benefits is by making vervain tea. The tea-making process is similar to that of making an infusion.30
- 1 teaspoon of dried vervain or 3 teaspoons of freshly crushed herb per glass of water
1. Boil water and pour it onto the herb in another container.
2. Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. If you want to make the tea sweeter, try adding raw honey or grass-fed milk. If the weather outside is warm, you might need to make a fresh batch every day, although you can also refrigerate the tea, which can be good for up to a week.
When consuming vervain tea, use caution as it can trigger allergic reactions and/or unexpected side effects.31 If taken in excess, vervain can cause vomiting.32 Large doses can also paralyze the central nervous system and potentially cause stupor and seizures. Avoid taking vervain if you’re using blood thinners like Coumadin, since it can prompt unwanted side effects or change the medicine’s effect.33
Pregnant women must avoid vervain because it can stimulate contractions.34 Nursing and pregnant women, and children under 2 years old must avoid this herb as much as possible. For older children, make sure to use the correct dosage, which must be based on the child’s weight. Meanwhile, people over 65 years old who want to take vervain must begin with a low dose, and only increase it when necessary.35