Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Lamiales
Family Verbenaceae
Genus Verbena
Species V. officinalis
Binomial name Verbena officinalis

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the herb vervain are Blue Vervain, Wild Hyssop, Simpler's Joy, and Herb of the cross, a Bian Cao, Pigeon's Grass, Verbena, American vervain, false vervain, Traveler's joy, Indian hyssop and Purvain.


Vervain, scientifically known as Verbena officinalis, was brought from Europe to North America by the Puritans. The name Vervain is derived from the Celtic ferfaen from fer, 'to drive away' and faen, 'a stone' as it was used for affections of the bladder, especially calculus (stone formation). One of the Seven Sacred Herbs of the Druids.

This species was ranked 12th in a Chinese survey of 250 potential and fertility plants. The name Verbena was the classical Roman name for altar plants in general and for this species in particular. Priests used it for sacrifices from where the name Herba Sacra comes.Vervain has been used in traditional herbal medicine by many diverse cultures from the ancient Romans and Celtic cultures to the American Indians. Army surgeons used it during the Revolutionary war. The ancient Romans held all species of the vervain in admiration and used the 'sacred' herb to sanitize their homes and temples.


Vervain is a perennial herb growing to 3 to 7 ft.high, rough and branched above. The leaves are opposite, stemmed, lance-shaped, saw-edged rough, lower ones lobed at base. It is in leaf from April to October. The flowers are very small, purplish blue in colour with numerous slender, erect, compact spikes.

Calyx are 5-toothed and the corolla tubular, unequally 5-lobed with 2 pairs of stamens and 1 pistil. The flowers are in bloom from July to September and they are hermaphrodite. The plant is self-fertile and the seeds ripen from August to September. It is noted for attracting wildlife. The fruits are coral red, round or oval and not edible.


Vervain is a perennial herb that grows throughout temperate North America, but originally from Europe, Barbary Coast, China, Japan.Vervain is found growing in abundance in the wild all over Europe, North Africa and also in China and Japan.


This herb is seen to thrive best in waste ground, roadsides and dry grassland avoiding acid soils and shady positions. The plant prefers light sandy, medium loamy and heavy clay soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure.


A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny position. Plants are very tolerant of neglect and will maintain themselves for a number of years even when growing in dense weed competition. The herb is grown through seedlings during spring or in autumn and the plant flourishes in soil that does not allow water to stand and prefers a lot of sunlight. The aerial parts of vervain are useful for its therapeutic properties and are normally collected during the summer when the plants are in full blossom.


The seeds are sown in early spring in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 3 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. If you have sufficient seed, it can also be sown in situ in late spring.

Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring. Basal cuttings are made in early summer. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Flowering Season

The flowers of the herb vervain are in bloom in midsummer between July to September.

Pests and Diseases

This plant is susceptible to powdery mildew and white flies. In some locations and seasons, this plant can be riddled with insect damage and foliar diseases that cause leaves to discolor. During other growing seasons, insect and disease damage were low.

Parts Used


The leaves and the flowering heads of the herb are most commonly used for its medicinal and commercial value.

Medicinal Applications


• It helps the yellow jaundice, the dropsy and the gout.

• It kills and expels worms in the belly and causes a good colour in the face and body.

• It strengthens as well as corrects diseases of the stomach, liver and spleen.

• It helps the cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and defects of the bladder, expelling gravel and stone. Used with honey it heals old ulcers and fistulas in the legs.

• It is used in treating snake and other venomous bites.

• The root of vervain was chewed by people with a view to strengthen their teeth and gums.

• The herb is considered to be an effective sedative or tranquilizer, anti-spasmodic that reduces cramps and muscle pains and an aphrodisiac for arousing sexual desire.

• Vervain is an excellent stimulant or tonic that helps to calm down nerves and soothe anxiety.

• The bitterness of the herb serves as a liver tonic and improves digestion.

• Vervain enhances the lactation and also induces menstruation cycles.

• Vervain may be used during labor as it makes child birth easier.

• Vervain possesses anti-depressant properties and so it is particularly used to cure anxiety and the fatigued nerves owing to prolonged period of trauma.

• The herb is often recommended by herbalists to treat jaundice, asthma, gallstone, pre-menstrual anxiety, insomnia and even fevers, especially at the beginning of flu.

• The root is astringent; it is used in the treatment of dysentery.

Commercial Applications


• Lotions or ointments prepared with vervain act as valuable medication for insect bites and skin disorders.

• Leaves - parboiled, seasoned and then eaten.

• The leaves are used as a tea substitute.

• The flowers are used as a garnish.


The herb Vervain is said to be influenced by the planet Venus.

Religious Influences

It was used in various rites and incantations, and by ambassadors in making leagues.Vervain also finds place in the Christian holy scripts as the herb that was used to stop bleeding from Jesus Christ's wounds on Calvary - a mountainous terrain near Jerusalem. Therefore, vervain is also regarded as the 'herb-of-the-cross' by the Christians as well as others. The Druids or priests in the ancient Celtic religion regarded the herb as approvingly as the mistletoe, a parasitic evergreen bush used as a decoration during Christmas. The Romans had dedicated the herb to their Goddess of birth Isis and used it as a common constituent in the love potions prepared by them.

Folklores and Myths

The herb served to diverse purposes - a love potion for the medieval witches and a substance to cure people from the influence of the ominous spell cast by these witches. It is buried in a field to make crops abundant and burned to attract wealth. The herb is hung above a bed to prevent nightmares. When hung in the home it offers protection from negative spells. It is also hung out of reach above a baby's crib for protection and to enable the child to grow up.