What is Vervain?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Vervain flowers can vary in color from white to purple, while their leaves are saw-toothed.
Vervain flowers can vary in color from white to purple, while their leaves are saw-toothed.

Vervain is a perennial herb native to the Old World. Most people are thinking of either Verbena officinalis or Verbena hastata when they think of this herb, and the plant is also sometimes referred to as “verbena.” Several societies have historically used it for healing, and it was once a very common feature in herb gardens. Today, people grow it for both medicinal and ornamental use, and many health food stores stock dried forms for people who do not wish to grow their own.

Vervain teas have traditionally been used to soothe nerves and improve breath, however they should not be used by pregnant women.
Vervain teas have traditionally been used to soothe nerves and improve breath, however they should not be used by pregnant women.

The leaves of this herb are saw-toothed and hairy, and it produces small white to purple flowers on delicate spikes. Gardeners can grow this plant in zones three through eight. Vervain likes full sun and well drained, limey soil, and it can also be grown in containers. It can tend to look a little bit weedy and unkempt, which is something that gardeners should consider when they decide where they want to plant this herb.

Also known as verbana, vervain can be grown in pots.
Also known as verbana, vervain can be grown in pots.

Historically, the plant was associated with Christ, and it was viewed as a holy or auspicious herb. Some cultures referred to it as “devil's bane,” referencing the idea that wearing or using it could drive off evil spirits, and the herb was also said to be effective in vampire deterrence. The distinctive fragrance also made it an excellent herb to add to sachets that were designed to add a sweet scent to clothing while deterring insect pests.

Vervain can help treat colic.
Vervain can help treat colic.

In addition to being used ritually, the herb was also used in medical treatments. Vervain teas were consumed as tonics that were designed to promote relaxation while invigorating the spirit. The herb also supposedly promoted digestion, and was used to treat colic, nausea, diarrhea, and other intestinal complaints. Solutions and teas were also used as mouthwashes to freshen the breath and cut down on oral bacteria. Minor skin conditions such as itches and irritation have also historically been treated with this herb, often in the form of a bath additive.

Pregnant women should not take vervain.
Pregnant women should not take vervain.

Few studies have been conducted to determine how effective this herb is. This is often the case with herbal medicines, as drug companies are not usually interested in investing time and energy in drugs that cannot be patented. As a result, little evidence exists to indicate how effective vervain really is. Pregnant women should be aware that this herb is not safe for them, especially in the first trimester, as it has been linked with miscarriages.

People who grow the plant can cut the stems when the flowers mature and dry them for future use. The dried herb should be kept in a cool, dry, dark place to prevent it from being damaged and to preserve its potency.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon946424

Does its history have anything to do with vampires?

anon338507

Can vervain weaken vampires?

anon301626

Can vervain really be a vampire deterrent?

anon260842

I am doing a personal project on vervain. I want to know if vervain can cure a specific disease but can't find nay information. From my further knowledge, I can say that vervain is a plant that caught my attention with its history.

anon243473

l'occitane brand has a scent "verbana" which is the same thing but a different name.

wesley91

@waterhopper: Lemon vervain is usually pretty hard to find in grocery stores. Some herbal shops might have it. However, it is very simple to grow either in a pot or in your garden.

Many people add lemon vervain to different types of drinks. It is really good added to turkey, chicken, or veal dishes.

StormyKnight

@waterhopper: Lemon vervain is the flowering tops and leaves of a deciduous shrub from the Pacific coast of South America. It is now very popular in Europe. The leaves are pale green and they grow in groups of three. Lemon vervain was first used for the medicinal properties as a tonic and a digestive aid. Its uses have been compared with lemon balm, orange blossom, and mint.

Lemon vervain leaves are also used to prepare a type of tea. The leaves have also been used to flavor ice creams and different desserts.

WaterHopper

What is lemon vervain?

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    • Vervain flowers can vary in color from white to purple, while their leaves are saw-toothed.
      Vervain flowers can vary in color from white to purple, while their leaves are saw-toothed.
    • Vervain teas have traditionally been used to soothe nerves and improve breath, however they should not be used by pregnant women.
      Vervain teas have traditionally been used to soothe nerves and improve breath, however they should not be used by pregnant women.
    • Also known as verbana, vervain can be grown in pots.
      Also known as verbana, vervain can be grown in pots.
    • Vervain can help treat colic.
      Vervain can help treat colic.
    • Pregnant women should not take vervain.
      Pregnant women should not take vervain.