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Getting to Know Herbs: Common Verbana / Vervain


9 months agoBusy4 min read

Common verbana or common vervain is a perennial and traditional sacred medicinal herb that's been traditionally used to calm nerves and reduce inflammation. It's been called the holy herb and herb of the cross, alluding to it's sacredness.

Photo by @krnel

The scientific botanical name is Verbena officinalis. Other names include: Blue Vervain, Common Vervain, Eisenkraut, Enchanter's Plant, European Vervain, Herb of Grace, Herb of the Cross, Herba Verbenae, Herbe aux Enchantements, Herbe du Foie, Herbe Sacrée, Herbe aux Sorciers, Herbe à Tous les Maux, Herbe du Sang, Herbe de Vénus, Holywort, Juno's Tears, Ma Bian Cao, Pigeon's Grass, Pigeonweed, Simpler's Joy, Turkey Grass, Veine de Vénus, Verbenae Herba, Verbena officinalis, Vervain, Verveine, Verveine Commune, Verveine des Champs, Verveine Officinale, Yerba de Santa Ana


Key Points

  • long use since classical antiquity
  • used in Ancient Egypt and Greece
  • wide range of medicinal applications
  • not used for food


Common vervain has a long esteemed history of use since classical antiquity. It's associated with the divine and supernatural forces.

When introduced to North America, the Pawnee have used it as an entheogen enhancer. In ancient Egypt it was called "tears of Isis". and later "Juno's tears" by the Ancient Greeks. In Christina legend it's said to have treated Jesus' wounds, hence hte name "holy herb", and "Devil's bane". This led to it's use in ointments to drive out "demonic" illness.

Where is it found?

This plant is native to Europe. Although not native to North America, it has been introduced and become widely naturalized.

It can be found in waste grounds, on the roadside. It doesn't like acidic soils much and prefers the sun.

What's it used for?

The flower, stem and leaves can be used to make medicine, often as a tea. It's used for sore throats and other conditions of the mouth as a gargle. Respiratory tract disease like asthma and whooping cough can also be treated. Heart conditions like chest pain (angina) and fluid retention are also treatable with this plant.

Other uses include, depression, hysteria, seizure, arthritis, gout, metabolic disorders, anemia, fever, recovery after fever, pain, spasms, exhaustion, nervous conditions, digestive disorders, liver and gallbladder diseases, gallbladder pain, jaundice, and kidney and lower urinary tract disorders.

Treating symptoms of menopause, irregular menstruation, and increasing milk flow, if breast-feeding are some more uses for the plant.

Skin application can be done to treat poorly healing wounds, abscesses and burns; for arthritis, joint pain (rheumatism), dislocations, bone bruises (contusions), and itching.

Verbana is also used with gentian root, European elder flower, cowslip flower, and sorrel to maintain healthy sinuses and treating swollen or inflamed sinuses.

Are there any risks?

Food-doses are considered safe. High doses can cause nervous system paralysis with effects of stupor and convulsion. Avoid during pregnancy due to it's stimulation of the uterus. Whether it's completely safe to use when breastfeeding is not known, despite it's use to increase lactation. Blood pressure medication might be affected by using verbana/vervain.


Previous posts on Getting to Know Herbs:
Holy Basil | Sweet Annie | Globe Artichoke | Butterfly Weed / Pleurisy Root | Joe-Pye Weed / Gravel Root | Valerian | Malva/Mallow | Boneset | Elecampane | Lungwort | Cramp Bark | Motherwort | Common Plantain | Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) | Black Cohosh | Common Bearberry | Mahonia Mountain Grape (Oregon Grape) | Blue Cohosh | Goldenseal

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