Vervain is a fairly unspectacular looking perennial with slender woody stems and spikes of small lilac flowers. A very modest look for a plant with such a high reputation in both European and Chinese herbal medicine. Since ancient times it was regarded as a sacred cure-all herb with magical properties, used by druids and even carried as good luck charm.
Traditional und current use of vervain is mainly based on its tonic, nervine, mild bitter, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant action. Most commonly, vervain is used as a restorative for the nervous system and to aid anxiety, nervous tension, nervous exhaustion and to relieve stress. The tonic and bitter actions are thought to have beneficial effects on the digestive system which can improve its function as well as food absorption. The combination of these two properties can be a powerful assistance during convalescence, especially after long-term and chronic illness.
Chinese medicine knows Vervain to aid headaches and migraines, especially if they are connected to the menstrual cycle. It may also be used for insomnia, pre-menstrual tension, flu and fevers, asthma as well as jaundice and gallstones.
Surprisingly, very little research has been conducted into this renowned ‘magical’ plant. Laboratory research suggested vervain may have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and liver protecting properties. It also appears to have some hormonal activity, particularly oestrogenic and progestogenic (female sex hormones). These can stimulate breast milk production and contraction of the muscles of the womb. This is likely an indicator that pregnant woman should try to avoid vervain, but may very well be useful for lactating mothers.
It seems to me that this highly reputable, sacred plant has remained some what illusive to us through the course of history. Perhaps this is part of the reason why we can still appreciate it for the ‘magical’ and traditional reputation today and why it still maintains its sacred standing amongst herbalist. What magic may it spark in you?