Vervain plant benefits can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and the temple of Zeus on Mount Olympus, which was said to have been purified with valerian water since this plant was thought to be a panacea, able to deliver from all evils. During the middle ages, it was used by sorcerers and fortune-tellers as a magic herb. In ancient times it was recommended as an aphrodisiac (“lights the candles”), and it is likely to be so. At present, we have come to know its actual properties and applications.
Healing Properties and Indications
The plant contains verbenalin, a glycoside that acts on the autoimmune nervous system, especially the parasympathetic system, producing sedative, antispasmodic, analgesic, digestive, and anti-inflammatory actions. Besides, it contains tannin and mucilage, which make it an astringent and an emollient. Thus its applications are:
- Migraines. Due to its antispasmodic action on the arterial system, it prevents migraine crises or at least diminishes their intensity. The treatment of this ailment is quite tricky, and better results are obtained when vervain is combined with other plants. Unlike ergotamine-derived medicines, which are usually employed to treat migraines crises and have significant side effects, vervain does not.
- Rheumatic pain, neuralgia, sciatica. It is applied both internally (infusion or decoction) and externally (compresses or poultices).
- Digestive dysfunctions. Its eupeptic action promotes digestion. The plant may be used for diarrhea and intestinal colics, given its astringent properties.
- Relief of liver congestion. Since it promotes bile secretion (choleretic action), it is recommended for liver dysfunctions. Its antispasmodic action also renders good results for liver stones.
- Diuretic. Being mildly diuretic, it is administered for kidney stones to ease pain and help eliminate stones. The same applies to the treatment of obesity and cellulitis.
- Throat afflictions. It is highly recommended for various throat ailments such as pharyngitis, laryngitis, and tonsilitis, and generally for sore throat, being applied in poultices and taken in an infusion.
- Sinusitis. The vervain plant benefits also include the treatment of this distressful condition because of its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It is taken orally, inhaled, and applied in warm compresses on the face.
Vervain Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: European vervain, enchanter’s plant, herb of the cross, holy herb, Juno’s tears, pigeon’s grass, pigeonweed, simpler’s joy.
- French: Verveine, herbe sacree.
- Spanish: Verbena, curalotodo, hierba santa.
- Environment: Common on roadsides, non-cultivated land, and slopes all over Europe. It is naturalized to the American continent.
- Description: Vivacious plant of the Verbenaceae family, growing up to one meter high, with a stiff, quadrangular stem and small, mauve flowers which bloom in terminal spikes. Sour taste.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The plant when blooming, the fresher, the better.
There is a species similar to the European vervain in America, known as the blue or American vervain. The composition and properties of both species are identical. The blue vervain is usually employed as a sedative against influenza and catarrhs, especially when there are respiratory problems.
How to use Vervain
Since verbenaline degrades with drying, fresh plants should be used whenever possible.
- Infusion. 15-20 g per liter of water. Drink three or four cups daily.
- Decoction. 20 g per liter, for 10 minutes. Same dose as for infusion.
- Gargling. The infusion or decoction recommended for internal use, though slightly more concentrated (40-50 g per liter).
- Inhalations. Breathing directly over hot decoction steam.
- Hot or warm compresses. They are made with concentrated infusion or decoction, then applied to the aching areas.
- Poultices. With a stewed plant wrapped in a cotton fabric.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 174, 175. Print. [vervain plant]