The name ‘vervain’ derives from the Celtic ‘ferfaen’, meaning ‘to drive away a stone’ and reflects the use of this herb for bladder problems. As well as being revered in Celtic and Germanic cultures, both the Druids and the Romans held this herb as sacred and priests used it in sacrifices. The latin ‘verbena’ was the classical Roman name for altar plants in general, and the Romans used vervain to purify their homes and temples.
Aphrodisiac properties were once ascribed to this herb, and it was often carried as a talisman. In particular, it was bruised and worn round the neck as a charm against headaches, snake-bites and for good luck. This reflects two of vervain’s uses: as a poultice for headache and insect bites. It is also used in this way for sprains and bruises and can be applied externally for eczema, sores and gum disease.
This herb can calm the nerves, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, relieve pain and control bleeding and it is taken internally for nervous exhaustion, depression, asthma and migraine. It is contra-indicated in pregnancy, as it stimulates the uterus, but can be sipped during labour to encourage contractions and during lactation to stimulate milk flow.
A bitter, pungent/aromatic, cooling herb.
CAUTION: Do not use this herb during Pregnancy
Pick the leaves before flowering and dry them promptly.
PLEASE NOTE: These notes on the history and use of herbs have been compiled for general interest and are not intended as medical advice, for which you should consult a professional herbalist.
'A Modern Herbal' Mrs M. Grieve FRHS ed. Mrs C. F. Leyel (1973)
'The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal' Penelope Ody MNIMH (1993)
'RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses' Deni Brown (2002)