Vervain is not a well-known herb, but it has a huge place in the traditional medicinal practices of many cultures. Blue vervain is native to North America and was used by the Aztecs and Native Americans for its many health benefits.
There's a lot of folklore surrounding vervain. One of its nicknames is "Herb of the Cross" because certain sources state that it was used to stop Jesus' wounds from bleeding after he was taken off the cross. Vervain is also believed to have been used by Hippocrates (the "father of medicine") and was revered by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese and later by the Druids. (1)
Even with all the legends surrounding it, vervain still has a long history of documented, practical use by herbalists. Here's more about the benefits of blue vervain and how you can use it.
What Is Blue Vervain?
Vervain, also called verbena, is a perennial plant that grows 2-5' tall and blooms with purple or purple-blue flowers. There are many different species of verbena, including quite a few that are used ornamentally.
The two main varieties used medicinally are common vervain (Verbena officinalis), which is native to Europe, and blue vervain (Verbena hastata), which is native to North America. Although there are minor differences between the two, they are both similar in appearance and beneficial properties.
Blue vervain (also known as wild hyssop) is considered a native wildflower in the U.S. It attracts many beneficial pollinators, feeds several species of birds with its seeds, and is an important food source and host for the verbena moth and common
buckeye butterfly. (2)
The leaves, roots, and flowers can all be used medicinally and contain plant compounds that have antispasmodic, anti-fever, and diuretic properties. (3)
Both species of vervain have been used for ailments like headaches, fever, coughs, skin wounds or infections, and mood disorders as well as to boost lactation in nursing mothers and to help with PMS symptoms.
Top Benefits of Blue Vervain
Calms Nerves and Mood Swings
Vervain has often been used by herbalists as a nervine, meaning an herb that calms the nervous system. It's typically used as a tea for stress relief, anxiety, mood swings, and sometimes symptoms of depression.
The benefits of blue vervain for your mood are thought to come from a compound called verbenalin. It has calming and sleep-promoting properties that ease stress and frayed nerves. (4) Vervain also has an uplifting effect on mood and won't make you groggy.
Not many studies have been done on vervain, but one from 2016 confirmed its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties as well as anticonvulsant activity that could be helpful for seizures and epilepsy. (5)
Helps Improve Breastmilk Production
One of the most traditional benefits of blue vervain is aiding nursing mothers by stimulating breastmilk production.
Any food, herb, drink, or medicine that increases breastmilk supply is known as a galactagogue. Herbal galactagogues have been used for hundreds of years as a safe and natural way to increase supply by women who are struggling to produce enough milk.
Vervain isn't as well-known as other galactagogues like fennel seed, blessed thistle, and fenugreek, but it was once used often for this purpose.
To increase and enrich breastmilk, try blue vervain in our herbal Milky Mama blend that combines it with other beneficial herbs that also stimulate breastmilk production.
Headache and Pain Relief
While vervain isn't one of the top herbs for pain relief, it does have properties that help to ease headaches, menstrual cramps, and inflammation.
Studies have shown that it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties when used topically as well as orally. (6)(7) Drinking vervain as a tea (maybe with some peppermint to cover its bitterness) can be especially great for relieving the tension that comes with headaches and your menstrual cycle as well as the pain.
Along with easing cramps, vervain can help you with the bloating and water retention that frequently show up together. Its calming effects will also have a positive effect on your mood during PMS.
The bitter compounds in blue vervain have special benefits for your liver and kidneys. Both of these are important parts of the natural detoxification system your body has in place.
Everything that enters into your body will eventually pass through your liver, which plays a big role in breaking down and processing toxins so that they can be eliminated. Your kidneys, intestines, and skin provide pathways for these toxins to exit your body.
This means that liver and kidney health are essential to prevent the harmful accumulation of toxic compounds.
The bitterness of vervain stimulates liver function while other compounds in the herb work to protect and strengthen the liver. It's also a diuretic, which means it helps flush out toxins through the urinary tract and supports kidney function.
The bitter compounds in vervain that support your liver also stimulate and support healthy digestion. They do this by sending a signal to increase saliva, bile, and enzyme production. All three of these are important for properly digesting food.
The antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory nature of vervain also helps to calm digestive upset and cramping. In animal studies, vervain extract has been shown to heal gastric damage. (7)
How to Use Blue Vervain
Although studies are often done using a concentrated extract, vervain is most often used as a tea and sometimes as a tincture. You can buy the dried aerial parts (leaves and flowers) to make your own herbal tea:
- Add 1-3 teaspoons of the dried herb to a heat-proof jar and pour 8-10 oz. of hot water over them.
- Cover the jar and let your tea steep for at least 15 minutes.
- Strain out the herbs and drink 1-3 cups per day. You can drink as needed or 1-2 hours before bedtime to help you relax before going to sleep.
- Blue vervain is bitter, so you may wish to add a little lemon and sweeten with honey before drinking.
If you want to use vervain for increasing breastmilk, try it in an herbal tea blend with other herbs that will increase its effectiveness.
Both common and blue vervain are very safe herbs that rarely have adverse side effects but should not usually be taken in large doses.
Vervain is not recommended for use during pregnancy because it can stimulate the uterus. Blue vervain may interact with blood pressure medication and hormone therapy. Large doses may cause diarrhea or vomiting.
Rediscovering Blue Vervain
Despite much historical use as a medicinal herb and remedy, the benefits of blue vervain have become somewhat lost. This is unfortunate because it has much to offer.
Vervain can be used to improve lactation, calm stress and anxiety, relieve a headache, and support your liver, kidneys, and digestion. It's definitely an herb worth rediscovering!