Vervain or verbena was already a sacred plant among the Egyptians. The fame of this plant rose to unprecedented heights among the Romans. Pliny the Elder called verbena the most famous herb in Rome. It was also a sacred plant for the Celts, Greeks and Gauls. So much has been written about verbena in history that it could easily fill an entire book with facts. The herb is used by herbalists to treat various ailments. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.
Botanical drawing Vervain from 1796 / Source: Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm), Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
- Naming verbena
- The magic of verbena
- Verbena among the Romans
- Verbena in the 17th century
- Active ingredients verbena
- Verbena for strong nerves
- Vervain for good digestion
- Verbena against cough and fever
- Verbena as a painkiller
- Other medicinal effects of verbena
- External use vervain
- Consult a herbal therapist
In science we use Latin names because everyone knows for sure that we are talking about the same plant. The Latin name of verbena is Verbena Officinalis . ‘Verbena’ actually means ‘venus herb’. It is a combination of ‘Veneris’ which means ‘of Venus’ and ‘herba’ which means herb. Officinalis means: ‘From the place where the pharmacist works’. In the past, all medicinal herbs were given this addition if they were on the official list of medicinal plants. In Dutch the plant has a number of alternative names: Vervain, Sprinkle Herb, Duive Herb, Knight’s Herb, Church Herb, Hard Iron, Eizen, Fleurus Herb and Pleuris Herb.
The magic of verbena
Verbena is part of witches’ ointment, an herb that allowed witches to fly. By the way, this meant: flying in another dimension and with a different body than our physical body. Witches and wizards wore garters of verbena to make them tireless. For a long time, hikers and mountain climbers have put verbena in their shoes to relieve tired feet. Verbena was a wish herb that provided protection against all infectious diseases and nervous diseases, which were considered ‘devilish diseases’. Children were given an amulet of verbena so that they became decent, well-behaved and learned people. The Celts and Germans wore a talisman around the neck of verbena against evil spirits. They also protected houses with the help of verbena. The Celts and Germanic people used it to predict the future and perform spells.
Verbena / Source: Unknown, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
Verbena among the Romans
The ancient Romans used the verbena as a sacred sacrificial herb to conclude treaties. Verbena was a symbol of peace and tolerance. There is a legend that Jesus had his bleeding wounds stopped with verbena on the mountain of Golgotha. Vervain was seen as a universal panacea that could combat all diseases. From war wounds to bites from poisonous snakes, liver ailments, toothache, ulcers, head diseases and heart diseases, everything was healed with the ‘herba sacra’ or sacred herb which has been vervain for a long time. Of course, the Venus herb was also known for its lovemaking stimulating properties; it was described as an aphrodisiac. In addition, verbena juice was used to make iron even harder than it already is. This is probably where the name of this herb comes from.
Verbena in the 17th century
In the 17th century, the English botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper recommended using the herb from Venus for uterine problems; it was a tonic for the uterus. The Englishman also recommended verbena for edema, liver disease, gout, stomach diseases, spleen disorders, cough and shortness of breath. In Chinese medicine, verbena was used for diseases related to the disruption of meridians of the liver, spleen and bladder and menstrual irregularities, influenza, fever, gingivitis, abscesses, difficulty urinating, malaria and schistosomiasis.
Active ingredients verbena
The entire above-ground herb of verbena is used for its medicinal efficacy. This is harvested when the plant blooms. Vervain contains the iridoid glycosides verbalin or cornine, verbenin, hastatoside and aucubine. It also contains bitter substances, the phenylpropane derivatives rosmarinic acid and verbascoside, tannins, mucilage, the essential oils citral, terpenes and terpene alcohols, vitamin C and, of course, iron.
Verbena for strong nerves
The substances that verbena has cannot generally be found in very large quantities. Yet the effect is unmistakable, partly due to the synergistic or mutually reinforcing effect of the ingredients. Verbena has a nervous strengthening, stimulating, calming, anti-anxiety and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The glycosides have a weak parasympathomimetic effect. For these medicinal activities, verbena can be used by a herbal therapist for:
- Weak nerves, nervous exhaustion, nervousness, anxiety,
- Insomnia, depression, postnatal depression, melancholy,
- Weakness during recovery from flu, recovery from illness,
- Exhaustion, headache, migraine.
Vervain for good digestion
Vervain promotes both appetite and digestion. Bitter substances support liver and bile function; hence, digestion is aided. Verbenaline is a substance with antispasmodic properties. Due to these medicinal activities, verbena is prescribed by a herbal therapist for the following indications:
- Indigestion, stomach pain, gastrointestinal cramps,
- Hepatic insufficiency, hepatitis,
- Pain in the bile ducts, bile problems.
Verbena against cough and fever
Verbena has the ability to dissolve mucus and make coughing up mucus easier. Verbenaline is an antitussive. In addition, it promotes perspiration and has a cooling effect, which is valuable if you have the flu. Through these activities, verbena can be used for:
- Cough, asthma,
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Verbena as a painkiller
Verbena is an anti-inflammatory herb due to the iridoid glycosides it contains. In addition, it has both an analgesic and nerve analgesic effect. Rheumatic diseases are accompanied by edema or fluid retention. Verbena is a diuretic that causes edema, causes of gout and arthritis, to disappear. In this way, verbena is not only responsible for inflammation and pain relief but also removes the causes of arthritis and gout. For these reasons
Verbena / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
it is used for:
- Arthritis, rheumatic pain,
- Neuralgia or nerve pain.
Other medicinal effects of verbena
- Because verbenin promotes breastfeeding, it is given to mothers who produce insufficient breast milk.
- Verbena has a mild diuretic effect; and promotes the dissolution of kidney stones. For these reasons, it is recommended for edema, weak kidney function and as kidney stone prevention.
- Verbena helps to normalize the thyroid gland because verbena components attach to TSH receptors, making it a natural remedy for both excessive thyroid function and reduced thyroid function and Graves’ disease.
- Due to its blood pressure lowering effect, it is prescribed for high blood pressure.
External use vervain
Verbena has an astringent or astringent effect, which makes wounds heal faster. In addition, it is a hemostatic agent so that wounds can start the recovery process faster. In addition, it promotes local blood circulation. To use verbena, an infusion is made from 120 grams of dried herb in a liter of water. It
Verbena / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
is used for:
- Abrasions, cuts and burns, poorly healing wounds,
- Inflammation of the gums, sore throat, mouth ulcers,
- Eczema, ulcers, abscesses,
- Bruises and nerve pain.
Consult a herbal therapist
Anyone who wants to use verbena as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Verbena extracts and medicines in the form of mother tincture, powder, dried herb, liquid extract and decoction should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about possible side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. Some herbs can enhance each other’s effects; that’s called synergy. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.
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