Vervain is any of several attractive perennial herbs, the name given to members of the genus Verbena. The best-known species is European vervain (Verbena officinalis), which has a long and wide history of use in herbal medicine and magic.
In addition to V. officinalis, less common varietals include blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and white vervain (Verbena urticifolia). These less common types of Verbena can be found growing wild in in many countries but in abundance throughout Canada and the U.S.
Blue Vervain is the variety I will be focusing on in this article.
If you’re wondering how to identify Blue vervain, then this article is just for you. After reading through this article you will be able to spot blue vervain wherever it is growing as well as know its medicinal benefits and uses.
History and Traditions
Vervain has a long history as a sacred magical herb of powers and features in the folklore of Celtic, Northern European, and Roman cultures.
The name Verbena means “altar plant,” and it was used as an altar herb by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Known as a holy herb it was burned in Roman temples and scattered on altars, while their soldiers carried sprigs of vervain as protection.
Anglo-Saxons in medieval times used vervain to protect them from the plague, snakebites, and evil spirits.
Early Egyptians believed that vervain was created from the tears of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of healing and magic when she wept for her dead husband Osiris.
Vervain also had connections to Jesus’ crucifixion. According to one legend, this herb was pressed into Christ’s wounds and used to stop bleeding.
By the 16th century, it had become the “official” herb of English apothecaries. They used it to treat at least 30 ailments.
Although it fell from favor as herbal medicine evolved beyond herbalism’s historical foundations, it still has a place in modern herbal medicine today.
Where to Find Blue Vervain.
Blue vervain (Verbena hastata), also called simpler’s joy and enchanter’s plant, is an herb native to North America and is closely related to vervain (V. officinalis). It can grow up to 5 feet in height and produces small blue flowers. In the wild it is most often found in disturbed areas, moist prairies and meadows, around springs and stream banks, and in low, open woodlands.
How to Identify Vervain.
Blue vervain is a perennial wildflower that does not emit a scent.
- Stems: Its square stems can be green or red with fine white hairs.
- Leaves: Its leaves progress in pairs up the stem and are about 6 inches long by 1 inch wide. They are green and rough to the touch, with double-toothed or serrated margins.
- Flowers: Purplish-blue flowers bloom in showy, elongated panicles and are up to 5 inches long that appear similar to the arms of a candelabra. Each bloom is about 1/4 inch across and noticeably lobed. Blue vervain blooms in mid to late summer; approximately 1 1/2 months after blooming each flower gives way to four oblong, reddish-brown triangular-convex “nutlets.” Flowers at the bottom of the spike bloom first, and the ring of flowers appears to advance upward. Sometimes, depending on conditions, some plants will produce lavender and sometimes even white flowers.
- Roots: Blue vervain spreads through rhizomes, producing new plants.
Is Blue Vervain Edible?
Surprisingly, yes! Traditionally, blue vervain had many uses among native people. What we learned is that the seeds can be eaten roasted or ground into a flour or meal. Leaves can be used as a tea or in salads, soups, etc. The roots can be gathered all year round. The flowers are pretty and can be tossed onto salads to garnish them.
Holistic practitioners and herbalists believe that vervain has healing properties, including:
- Analgesic (pain-relieving)
Common uses of blue vervain include as a nervine for us anxious overthinkers and a treatment for depression. The aerial parts are harvested when flowering and dried, while the root is also used.
Yet that’s just the start of what this plant is good for. All the typical astringent uses apply: it’s used to expel worms, and it’s an ingredient in epilepsy herbal mixes.
Anti-inflammatory & Pain Relieving
The anti-inflammatory, anti-fever and pain-relieving properties of blue vervain are similar to aspirin. This herb is also a gentle astringent that has been used as a mouthwash for sore, inflamed, and bleeding gums; as an eyewash for tired, inflamed eyes; and to help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coughs, or asthma. Its astringency combined with its antispasmodic properties makes it helpful for IBS and relieves constipation. It also boosts kidney and liver function.
Vervain is useful for increasing perspiration and regulating temperature, which helps when one is ill. It has positive benefits that improve a person’s mood, making it a great pick-me-up during recovery from illness. Vervain balances hormones and normalizes thyroid function. It is used to treat menstrual complaints including hormonal headaches and as a tincture to cool menopausal hot flashes.
Increase Milk Production
Vervain contains verbenin, a galactagogue that increases milk production in nursing mothers.
How to Use Blue Vervain
Vervain is often used as a tea, but it may also be taken as a tincture. If you can’t find vervain growing near you, you can buy the dried aerial parts (leaves and flowers) to make your own herbal tea.
If you can’t find the herbs you need locally, you can purchase them from Mountain Rose Herbs. My favorite place to buy high-quality, organic dried herbs and herbal products.
Although blue vervain was used for medicinal purposes for centuries, its benefits have been lost just like so many other plants. Let’s take a moment to rediscover what this herb has to offer! Vervain can be used to improve lactation, calm stress and anxiety, relieve a headache, and support your liver, kidneys, and digestion.
Vervain is quite safe to use, but it should not be taken in large doses. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy because it can stimulate the uterus, and it should not be used with blood pressure medications or hormone therapy. Large doses may cause diarrhea or vomiting.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided throughout this site is for educational purposes only and is not to be regarded as substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.