Verbena officinalis (L)
Synonyms and Common names: European vervain, Enchanter’s plant, Herb of the Cross, Holy herb, Juno’s tears, Pigeon’s grass, Pigeonweed, Simpler’s joy, Herb of Grace
German = Eisenkraut, French = Verveine, Spanish and Italian = Verbena
Description: Verbena is a slender perennial herb, 30-90cm tall, with a woody stalk and several stiffly erect stems. The lower leaves are obovate, deeply divided and stalked, the upper ones lanceolate, slender, sessile and toothed. Tiny blue flowers appear in long slender spikes in the axis of a bract, becoming denser higher up each spike. The fruit comprises four cylindrical nutlets enclosed in the calyx. Verbena is indigenous to England, central and southern Europe, North Africa and Asia, and has been introduced into North America. It grows in waysides and waste places.
Collection: The herb is collected just before the flowers open, usually in July, and dried quickly.
Actions: Sedative, relaxant, nerve tonic, thymoleptic, spasmolytic, mild diaphoretic, hepatic, reputed galactagogue
Indications: Depression, melancholia, hysteria, generalised seizures, cholecystalgia, jaundice, early stages of fevers. Specifically indicated in depression and the debility of convalescence after fevers, especially influenza.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Verbena strengthens the nervous system whilst relaxing tension and stress. It is used in the treatment of depression and melancholia, particularly following a debilitating illness such as influenza. It is used as a relaxant and antispasmodic remedy in asthma, migraine, insomnia and nervous coughing. Verbenalin, one of the constituents, has a direct action on smooth muscle and also has a potential hypotensive effect. As a diaphoretic, the herb is indicated in the early stages of fever.
The glycosides also have a reputed galactagogue and emmenagogue action, and the Chinese use Verbena to treat migraines associated with female sex hormone fluctuations. The galactagogue properties are attributed to aucubin. A luteinising action has been reported, and attributed to inhibition of the gonadotrophic action of the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland. Verbena has been documented to possess weak parasympathetic properties, causing slight contraction of the uterus, and verbenalin exhibits uterine stimulant activity.
Verbena is used on the Continent for liver conditions, jaundice and gallstones, and as a gentle but effective laxative. It is a traditional remedy for infected gums and tooth decay, halitosis and tonsillitis. This is supported by the discovery that the glycoside verbenin has a direct effect on glandular secretions, suggesting an effect on the production of saliva.
A poultice of the herb may be applied to insect bites, sprains and bruises, and the ointment is used to treat eczema, wounds, weeping sores and painful neuralgia
Caution: It should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant, but it may be taken during labour to stimulate contractions.
Magical Uses: Vervain is a profoundly magical herb belonging to the sphere of Venus. Roman priests and priestesses used it as an altar plant – it was tied in bundles and used to ritually “sweep” and purify the altar. Druids placed it in water that was sprinkled on worshipers as a blessing.
Vervain was picked at the rising of the Dog Star, at the dark of the moon, just before flowering. It was taken from the earth with the sacred sickle and raised aloft in the left hand. After prayers of thanksgiving were spoken the Druid or Druidess left a gift of honey to recompense the Earth for her loss.
Vervain was once infused in wine and worn on the body to ward off the stings of insects and serpents. It is used in the bath as a protection from enchantments and to make dreams come true.
Wearing or bathing in vervain places one under the influence of Diana. After washing your hands in the infusion, it will be possible to engender love in the one you touch.
To dispel fears, light a candle daily and surround it with vervain. Speak aloud a prayer to the Gods and Goddesses asking for release from your fear. Do this as long as necessary.
On the night of the full moon, go outside with a chalice filled with water, vervain and salt. Take also a candle and a piece of petrified wood. Dip the stone into the water mixture and then pass it through the candle flame. Touch the stone to your feet, hands, shoulders, and head. As you do this ask for the blessings of youth and beauty. Repeat the process seven times.
Vervain is worn as a crown during Druidic initiatory rites and as protection for those who are working magic. Sprinkle throughout the home for protection and to bring peace. Keep some in the bedroom to bring tranquil dreams. Keep it in the home to attract wealth and to keep plants healthy. Sprinkle some on the garden as an offering to the elementals and other nature spirits. Drinking the juice of fresh vervain is said to cut sexual desire. Burn it to banish the pangs of unrequited love. Vervain is worn to recover stolen articles. Tucked into a child’s cradle, the plant brings joy and a lively intellect. When burned, Vervain is powerful for warding psychic attack, but it is also used in spells for love, purification and attracting wealth. It is a powerful attractant to the opposite sex. Use for Anointing; Banishing; Gather and burn at Litha; Altar Offering; Creativity; Energy; Strength; Power.
Sources: Purple Sage, Joeles Sacred Grove