– Verbena Officinalis
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the vervain plant verses the verbena plant. Actually it is exactly the same plant. The official name for vervain is verbena officinalis, but it is commonly known as vervain. Both names are used about this plant.
This herb is found all around the world. Vervain is a slim plant that may grow to be about 80 cm (32 in) tall. Vervain has tiny pale lilac flowers. The stem is square-like. The leaves are hairy and grow in opposite sequences.
Vervain is a hardy perennial and self-sows. It grows freely in the wild and is often to be found along roadsides and in dry or stony grounds.
The whole plant may be used. Leaves are used to make tea. Verbena flowers are sometimes used to flavor salt.
A Medicinal Herb
Vervain as a medicinal herb is mostly used as tea. The taste is bitter.
Vervain tea is known for its qualities to ease tension and stress. Drinking vervain tea may help you relax. Vervain tea is mild and is not used for insomnia problems. This is good for people who are overworked. Some prefer to pour some vervain tea into their bath water.
Vervain is diuretic. Vervain tea increases the need to urinate. Maybe it is not a good idea to drink too much before going to bed. Vervain is said to improve liver and gall bladder functions.
Vervain may stimulate the production of breast milk. Nursing mothers are from time to time recommended to drink a cup of vervain tea.
Vervain is used to help women with irregular menstruation periods due to stress and women experiencing cramps and pain during menstruation.
Pregnant women should not use vervain. During labor a cup of vervain tea may facilitate contractions.
Drinking vervain tea in extensive amounts may cause nausea.
Legend and Folklore
The name “verbena” means altar plant. In Ancient Rome this herb was sacred. It was used on the altar in the temples. Vervain twigs were bundled and used to sweep the altar.
The name “vervain” comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen; “fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”. The name was given because it earlier was told to be a good treatment for treating kidney stones.
Vervain was a considered a sacred and very powerful herb both by the Druids and the Romans. Some spoke of vervain being magical; by rubbing vervain on the skin your wishes were to be granted if you recited a secret spell.
Vervain in the home was thought to protect against lightning.
During the Middle Ages vervain was carried for good luck. Superstitious belief flourished that “vervain hanged around the neck will bring marvelous and unhoped help”.
Some believed the superstition that vervain buried in the garden would bring prosperity.
Even though vervain had the power to ward off witches, the opposite was also said. Witches were believed to use vervain in their evil brews and spells. The powers of vervain were supposedly very dependent on how the herb was used and who used the herb.
Vervain was also considered to have romantic powers and very useful to keep handy when courting.
When people still believed in vampires drinking vervain tea was recommended for protection.
In Ancient Egyptian mythology it was told the vervain was sacred to the goddess Isis. When Isis cried vervain would grow wherever her tears hit the ground. Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
Osiris was murdered by the evil god Seth and his body cut into fourteen parts and scattered around the country. Isis was devastated, but set out to recover the body parts of her husband. Isis certainly had reason to cry.
She did manage to recover the body parts (except the penis which had been swallowed by a fish) and Osiris ended up ruling the Underworld supervising the judgment of the dead.
The goddess Isis had both healing and magical powers. It was told that she taught the humans how to cure illness.
In Christian legend it is told the vervain grew in Jerusalem. This very special herb was used to stop the bleeding of Jesus when he was crucified. An old charm demonstrates this legend:
Hallowed be thou Vervain, as thou growest on the ground
for in the mount of Calvary there thou was first found.
Thou healedst our Savior Jesus Christ, and staunchedst his bleeding wound,
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
I take thee from the ground.