Vervain is a tall, scruffy perennial herb to around 1m tall. It has opposite lobed leaves and terminal spikes of lavender flowers over a long period in summer and autumn. The leaves are not aromatic and the flowers are not perfumed. It has a bitter taste.
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Herb-of-the-cross, Wild Hyssop, Simpler’s Joy, Ma Bian Cao
Pigeons Grass, Verbena, Vervain, Indian hyssop and Purvain
ORIGIN: The Mediterranean
Vervain needs a sunny, well-drained location and good soil. Seeds can be sown in spring. The plants are often found on roadsides and in disturbed sites. It has weed potential, so do not plant it in sensitive areas and prevent it from self-seeding by removing all flower heads for drying or disposal before they can set seed.
The ancient Romans held all species of the vervain in admiration and used the ‘sacred’ herb to sanitize their homes and temples. In addition, they knew several therapeutic advantages of the herb and used it to treat numerous disorders. Incidentally, despite its multi-purpose use, the vervain is a commonly growing herb that does not appear to be different from many other plants. In ancient times, remedies prepared with the herb were often used to cure snakebite and diarrhea. At the same time, the root of vervain was chewed by people with a view to strengthen their teeth and gums. Interestingly, the herb served to diverse purposes a love potion for the medieval witches and a substance to cure people from the influence of the ominous spell cast by these witches. In fact, vervain also finds place in the Christian holy scripts as the herb that was used to stop bleeding from Jesus Christ’s wounds on Calvary a mountainous terrain near Jerusalem. Therefore, vervain is also regarded as the ‘herb-of-the-cross’ by the Christians as well as others.
In fact, over the years, the therapeutic properties of vervain have made the herbalists as well as the common people to regard the herb as an effective cure for almost all diseases or disorders. For instance, in the ancient times the herbal medicine practitioners often recommend the herb to treat ailments such as colds, apparent nervous problems, fevers, and gout as well as skin infections. Even today, many herbalists prescribe vervain tea as a stimulant, astringent, diuretic and diaphoretic to alleviate fever by encouraging sweating. In addition, the herb is still considered to be an effective sedative or tranquilizer, anti-spasmodic that reduces cramps and muscle pains and an aphrodisiac for arousing sexual desire. Finally, vervain is an excellent stimulant or tonic that helps to calm down nerves and soothe anxiety.
Vervain, scientifically known as Verbena officinalis, was brought from Europe to North America by the Puritans. Currently, the herb is common in North America like the continent’s native species American Verbena. In fact, a family member of the American Verbena is also thought to possess therapeutic features.
As mentioned earlier, vervain has been regarded as a consecrated and blessed herb that was particularly used during sacrificial ceremonies of different Western religions. The Druids or priests in the ancient Celtic religion regarded the herb as approvingly as the mistletoe, a parasitic evergreen bush used as a decoration during Christmas. The Egiptians had dedicated the herb to their Goddess of birth Isis and used it as a common constituent in the love potions prepared by them. In addition, the herb may be taken to alleviate tension, get rid of depression, lethargy, irritability and all other problems associated with stress headaches, migraines and even the nervous system fatigue. At the same time, the bitterness of the herb serves as a liver tonic and improves digestion. The herb has also been frequently used to treat gallstones, add to the energy levels during convalescence or recuperation from ailments. When used as a hot infusion, vervain functions as a diaphoretic and helps to lower feverish conditions by inducing sweating.
Vervain is also advantageous for women. The herb not only enhances the lactation and also induces menstruation cycles. In addition, vervain is known to invigorate the contraction of uterine muscles during labor and hence herbalists suggest that it is best to avoid using the herb during pregnancy. However, vervain may be used during labor as it makes child birth easier. The diuretic features of the herb make it beneficial for retaining fluids as well as treating gout. The herb encloses substantial amount of tannins that makes it an effective astringent and useful as a mouthwash to treat bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. Remedies prepared with the herb are also used effectively to treat sores and wounds. In addition, lotions or ointments prepared with vervain act as valuable medication for insect bites and skin disorders.
Although scientists and researchers have not adequately researched the therapeutic properties of vervain, herbalists as well as the common people are well aware of its advantages. Vervain is known to have an effect on parasympathetic nervous system and also invigorates the uterus. The vervain is a bitter herb and hence it enhances the digestive process. However, here is a word of caution: if taken in excess dosages, the herb may lead to vomiting. Vervain possesses verbenalin that is said to be a gentle purgative and is suspected to be accountable for the vomiting.
Vervain is also considered to be an effective stimulant for digestion and helps the body to soak in the elements in the ingested foodstuff. At the same time, the herb is valued as a restorative or recuperative medication for the nervous system and is hence frequently recommended by the herbal medicine practitioners to treat nervous tension or anxiety. According to herbalists, vervain possesses anti-depressant properties and so it is particularly used to cure anxiety and the fatigued nerves owing to prolonged period of trauma.
Significantly, vervain is considered to be a very useful stimulant or tonic for people recuperating from persistent ailments as the herb not only improves the digestion process, but also soothes and restores the nervous system. In addition, vervain is known to offer relief from headaches and is particularly advantageous for women. This function of the herb has led the Chinese herbal medicine practitioners to recommend it for treating migraine problems related to the menstrual cycle.
In addition to the above mentioned benefits from the herb, vervain has several other therapeutic advantages. For instance, the herb is often recommended by herbalists to treat jaundice, asthma, gallstone, pre-menstrual anxiety, insomnia and even fevers, especially at the beginning of flu. The herb has several benefits for women. Vervain is also thought to contract the vaginal muscles during labor and also enhance lactation in the post-natal period.
A medicinal herb, it was used traditionally as a treatment for liver and bladder problems, coughs and colds, and depression. It has anti-bacterial, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves, stems and flowers are used to make a bitter tasting tea which is taken as a tonic. It has no culinary uses. Vervain was revered by the Ancients and was used in religious ceremonies by the Romans and the Druids and is thought to have been used to anoint the body of Christ. It was also thought to have many magical properties and was also used as an aphrodisiac.
Note: Do not use vervain if you are pregnant.