VERVAIN Common Vervain
Growing Vervain: Vervain is a perennial, hardy in Zones 4 through 8. Part shade/ rich soil.
Common vervain is a simple looking plant in a family of showy, extroverted cousins. It doesn’t have the beautiful blooms of blue vervain or the seductive scent of lemon vervain – no noteworthy flowering stage or yummy flavour – only a bitter taste and tiny flower spikes, and it makes no demand to be fawned over. For all that it’s not, this simple looking herb was one of the most revered plants for its place within rituals and for its mystical properties. This is one amazing plant! It has found its place in the history books as one of the most widely used magical plants of all time.
A quick history and a few myths surrounding this magical and medicinal wonder
In ancient Egypt, it was said to have sprung from Isis’ tears as she mourned the death of Osiris. In ancient Rome it was used as an altar plant, and soldiers carried with them into battle for protection. The Druids used it their lustral water (cleansing water) to purify tools and people before rituals, and King Solomon himself is said to have purified his temple with vervain. In ancient Germany the people wore vervain on their bodies to bring peace and bring love (Voogelbreinder 2009, 345), and in the British Isles vervain was held over the Beltane fire to protect livestock and strewn over Summer Solstice fields to ensure a plentiful harvest.
Throughout history vervain was a sacred plant to a myriad of cultures: Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Druids, worshippers of Thor in Scandinavia. This unassuming plant has been a favourite of magicians, healers, priests, poets and farmers throughout history, and is still revered as a plant with mystical properties today.
Vervain Chemical Constituents
Iridoides including verbenin and verbenalin, flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, triterpenes, mucilage, tannins, saponins and volatile oils, .
It is cooling and drying, an astringent and a bitter digestive tonic. (www.drugs.com) It is used to relieve stress, headaches and anxiety, depression as well as a sleeping aid. Vervain added to wine around Samhain aids in connecting with ancestor spirits (Roth, 2012.)
Vervain is a nervine, anti-spasmodic, sedative, diaphoretic, hepatic, alterative, galactogogue, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue, thymoleptic, vulnerary, hypotensive, anti-bacterial. It is still used as a febrifuge for autumn fevers.
Vervan, Van Van, Ferfaen, Verbein, Verbena, Verbinaca, Dragon’s Claw, Enchanter’s Plant, Tears of Isis, Juno’s Tears, Herba Veneris (herb of Venus), Persephonion, Demetria, Mercury’s Moist Blood, Peristerium, Sagmina, Pigeon Grass, Pigeonwood, Frog-foot, Simpler’s Joy, Altar Plant, Herba Sacra or Herbe Sacrée, Holy Plant, Herb of Cross, Holy Herb, and Herb of Grace.
How is vervain used?
Vervain is often used in a tea, as a sedative or mild relaxant.
It is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (called Ma Bian Cao or Ma Pian Cao) in herbal mixtures and as a tea.
It is sometimes used a poultice for headaches and rheumatism, the plants leaving a reddness on the skin- said to be the indication of the drawing of the blood out towards the surface of the skin.
Who is vervain great for?
As a medicinal, the people who are the most susceptible to vervain’s wonderful effects are those who hold tension and stress through the shoulders and neck. (Sound familiar? I know that I fall into this category!) These people are generally intense, highly driven and sometimes overly critical. They are hard on themselves- and their over-worked and over-active mind tends to keep them awake, and keep them from fully relaxing into their own happiness. They harbour an incredible amount of internal self-pressure, that may bubble over into aggitation, restlessness or unhappiness. (from Kiva Rose)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Verbena is use to resolve blood stasis and to clear hear and remove toxicity. This is a wonderfully in line with the intense, highly driven person described above. Suppressed anger or irregular emotional outbursts are some of the emotional stressors that can lead to a condition where the blood becomes “stuck” or slowed. Blood stasis, when not resolved, can lead to a variety of chronic health problems.
Magickal Uses: Vervain is a sacred plant, potentially the most mystical plant on earth. It is used on altars and is a staple plant in magic ceremonies. I purchased my plants through Richter’s Herbs here in Ontario, and their catalogue sums up the properties of the plant as “Aphrodisiac, said to secure ‘the favour of the ladies’. Historically associated with sorcerers and witches, bestowing magical powers to those that use it. Slightly bitter tisane of very old usage as a diestive and sedative nightcap. Also used in Chinese Medicine.”
It is used as protective herb, to open up the third eye, to help the user to be more intuitive and to bring blessings into your life. You can steep the herbs in water or oil for later use. It’s great for cleansing and purifying spaces and magical tools, and for taking before going to bed if you are doing dream work.
Sources: Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness.
Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009. Roth, H. “Vervain Herb from Alchemy Works.” Alchemy Works, 2012. http://www.alchemy-works.com/herb_vervain.html
“Verbena Officinalis.” DreamHerbs, 2011. http://dreamherbs.com/herbal-products/verbena-officinalis/
“The Medicine Woman’s Roots. A touchstone: The Blessed Verbena” by Kiva Rose http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-touchstone-the-blessed-verbena.html/comment-page-1#comment-216132