Verbena officinalis, vervain Family: Verbenaceae Part used: aerial parts Verbena officinalis L. is a hardy, herbaceous perennial found in Eurasia, North and South America. It is found on rough grassland on dry soils. The Flora of Turkey gives two Verbena species, including Verbena officinalis. It forms an evergreen rosette which overwinters. Erect, hairy, woody, square stems (to 70 cm) bear opposite leaves with the lower leaves deeply lobed with serrated edges. Clusters of small pinkish lilac flowers with a two-lipped, five lobed tubular corolla occur on slender branched spikes in June to September. The calyx is long and tubular and the fruit contains four nutlets. A study carried out on waste ground the UK over 13 years found that population density depended on winter temperature in that plants died below -17°C, and summer temperature as seed germination required a temperature of above 19°C. Other species used Verbena hastata is a taller North American species that is easy to cultivate. It has bright green, larger, toothed leaves, a dark stem and branching flowerheads of blue flowers. It is discussed in American texts. Lemon verbena Aloysia triphylla (syn. Lippia citriodora) is a half-hardy lemon scented Read more […]
Archive for category Verbena'
Purification of sacred places has formed a key use of the sprigs of this sacred herb. The Romans used them to cleanse the altars and temples dedicated to lupiter. In Egypt the herb was dedicated to Isis and played an important role in religious ceremonies. The Druids held a sprig of vervain during the act of soothsaying or speaking divine prophecies, having first made offerings to Mother Earth in grand ceremonies surrounding the gathering of the plant. In medieval Europe, vervain was considered one of the magical midsummer plants, but there were rules for its gathering. It had to be collected at midsummer, during the solstice of the Sun. People in Germany cast their posies of vervain and mugwort Artemisia vulgaris onto the St lohn’s day fire on 24 lune. Pliny writes of the Magi that they required vervain to be gathered at the rising of the constellation of Sirius the Dog Star, when neither Sun nor Moon was shining. A circle had first to be drawn around the plant with iron, and after gathering, some wax and honey was given back to the Earth in its place. Culpeper mocks similar instructions in the London Dispensatory for the gathering of squills, questioning how anyone might know which astronomical rising of the star Read more […]
Now that we have returned to medicinal virtues of vervain, let us look at the medieval sources. The Old English Herbarium lists one internal use of the powdered herb peristerion, taken in drink to disperse poison, and 11 indications for vermenaca. These include liver pain, headache, wounds of various kinds including the bites of snakes, spiders and mad dogs, ‘for those who have clogged veins so that blood cannot get to the genitals’, an indication recalling the employment of vervain in love magic, and for those who cannot keep their food down. Two new uses are mentioned: for bladder stones and for swollen glands. Grieve tells us that the name vervain comes from the Celtic ‘fer’ and ‘faen’ meaning ‘to drive away the stone’. The Salernitan herbal specifies the root in mead for bladder stones, Macer wants equal parts of vervain, betony Stachys officinalis and saxifrage in white wine and Fuchs cites Aetius of Amida and Simeon Seth on the herb taken in drink with honey for unspecified stones. Parkinson and Culpeper after him state that vervain cleanses the kidneys and bladder of humours which engender stones, and helps to break stones and expel gravel. Quincy comments more generally on indurations and obstructions of the Read more […]
Where later writers have included any of the older indications, they are likely to have come from Culpeper. This includes Dioscorides’ indication for jaundice in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and references to lung conditions (Robinson 1868), but these are negligible compared to the importance of the descriptions by Coffin and Cook of the American Verbena hastata. Take vervain’s use in gynecology: Cook discusses vervain as a relaxant tonic with mild laxative effects indicated in recent obstructions of the menses, from which is derived an emmenogogue action and an indication of amenorrhoea (Priest & Priest, Bartram, Hoffmann), which has nothing to do with Culpeper’s original assertion, that vervain is a sympathetic remedy for the womb correcting all cold diseases of that organ. The relaxant effect becomes an anti-spasmodic action, useful in gall-bladder inflammation [British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Hoffmann), acute spasms of bronchitis and pertussis as well as dysmenorrhoea (Priest & Priest), seizures (Hoffmann) muscle spasm, neuritis and ear neuralgia (Menzies-Trull) and labour pains (Coffin). None of these writers mentions abdominal colic cited by the old Byzantine writers, or repeats Parkinson’s ‘all inward Read more […]