Blue Vervain: Herbal Monograph

January 2022’s herb of the month

“Verbena hastata BLUE VERVAIN” by gmayfield10 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

General

Botanical Name: Blue Vervain

Latin Name: Verbena hastata

Other names: verbena, swamp verbena, wild hyssop (not the same as anise hyssop)

Family: Verbenaceae

Safety: Can cause digestive distress in large quantities: David Winston suggests combining with “ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel” [1]Adaptogens by David Winston, 2019, p. 247. It may also be unsafe during pregnancy.

Description: This perennial wildflower grows tall in full or part shade and prefers moist soil. You can find the stately plant along banks, in meadows, and marshes. Its purple flowers bloom mid to late summer. [I think I have a few pictures unwittingly of this plant. If I can get a proper ID, I’ll add them here].

“It facilitates letting go and is thus an ideal herb for getting over stressful bits of life.”

Christopher Hedley[2]via Henriette’s Herb

Medicinal

Actions: nervine, bitter, anti-spasmodic, mild sedative, & more

Energetics: bitter, cool, slightly dry

Constituents: Verbenalin is the most prevalent type of iridoid glycosides (which are generally bitter) found within the plant.

Uses: Blue vervain is an excellent nervine that can help address anxiety, headache. Often, it assists driven list-makers to reset when their plans don’t work out. It helps far more than just the stereotypical Type A (although if you are Pitta, be proud of your driven, fiery self!). The herb seemed to help my nighttime jaw pain and neck tension. Blue vervain can also be beneficial for the menstrual cycle and associated food cravings.

Preparations: Flowers are used in tinctures and capsules or in tea. It’s a BITTER tea! I made a tincture from dried blue vervain this month, although it won’t be ready until the beginning of March. But you don’t have to make your own. I also have this Herbalist & Alchemist tincture, which is a high-quality brand.

Doses: Tinctures 1-2 mL 3 times a day. Tea up to 3 cups of tea a day if you can stomach it.

Research and History

References & Research

I’m especially intrigued by David Winston’s use of blue vervain, ashwagandha, and skullcap for movement disorders. I’ll add any links here if/when I’m able to look into this much deeper. For example, I’m wondering:

  • chemical pathways for each herb (blue vervain, ashwagandha, and skullcap)
  • How they relax neural pathways without causing excess laxity in muscle tone

To Read:

Mary Vaux Walcott, Vervain (Verbena wrightii), 1938, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1970.355.168
Mary Vaux Walcott, Vervain (Verbena wrightii), 1938, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1970.355.168

This beautiful watercolor is of a related species that was spotted by Mary Vaux Walcott in the Grand Canyon. Mainly found in the Southwest region of the US, often known as mock vervain, its new scientific name is Glandularia wrightii.

Folklore

Blue vervain and its related species have been used throughout the ages and in multiple ways. I’m only sharing two examples below since I ended up falling down a research rabbit hole.

In the UK, Verbena officinalis is the native species, but Mrs. M. Grieve also mentioned the Verbena hastata in her book A Modern Herbal back in 1931.

V. hastata (BLUE VERVAIN, Wild Hyssop, Simpler’s Joy) is indigenous to the United States, and is used unofficially as a tonic emetic, expectorant, etc., for scrofula, gravel, and worms. A fluid extract is prepared from the dried, over-ground portion.[3] Mrs. M. Grieve in A Modern Herbal, 1931

Thanks to the late Michael Moore books like Ethnobotany of the Menomini Indians are accessible from his site. I really appreciate this example showing the use of roots since I’ve only heard of the use of the flowers in Western Herbalism.

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata L.), “piisa’nikiki,” [fine hair], referring to the slender roots shown in plate 17, fig. 4. The root tea is used to clear up cloudy urine. The white man attributes properties to it similar to Eupatorium. It was formerly used as an antiperiodic, but now as a nauseating expectorant and diaphoretic, being emetic in large doses. The white man uses the flowering tops, however, and not the root. [4] Ethnobotany of the Menomini Indians, 1923

Personal Use

Recently, I restarted my Community Herbalism course from Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism and choose blue vervain as the first herb of the month to study since I studied Rhodiola, which I never posted! I have posted other monographs in the past on chamomile, calendula, and linden, to name a few.

But, why blue vervain? Mainly, because I still have about a pound of the dried herb and planned to drink it daily.

Have you tried to drink blue vervain as a single infusion? Blah!!! It was much too bitter for me.

So, I switched to the tincture right away and consistently remembered to take a dropperful in the morning and at bedtime. Nights when it’s hard to sleep I take it with skullcap. 

I didn’t notice any difference after one week or two, but by the third week of the month, I realized my stress level was still there, yet more manageable. It feels like I moved a boiling pot of water over to the simmer burner.

Considering the way 2022 has begun, it pleasantly surprised me how well blue vervain has worked for me. Recently, I began suspecting I grind my teeth in my sleep (especially during Chemistry last semester), and curiously I haven’t woken up with a sore jaw for the past two weeks! Could it be a coincidence? I’ll keep taking and see.

Commercial and homemade tinctures of blue vervain.

References

A few YouTube clips by herbalists talking about types of people who can benefit:

7song

Jessie Conaway and Matthew Wood on Blue Vervain

Further references from footnotes should be displayed below.

For February, I’m taking a closer look at the adaptogen, Ashwagandha.

References[+]

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