Casting a glance at the incredibly rich history of the verbena plant gives us a good idea of its vast potential for healing and well-being. Used to treat everything from headache to congestive heart failure, verbena might be viewed by some as similar to a cure-all pill.
Verbena goes by more than 25 other names. Among them are: Vervain (most common), Dragon's Claw, Tears of Isis, Herba Veneris (herb of Venus), Persephonion, Demetria, Pigeon Grass, Simpler's Joy, Altar Plant, Herbe Sacrée, Holy Plant, Herb of the Cross and Herb of Grace.
In this article, we are using the terms ‘verbena’ and ‘vervain’ interchangeably.
In the William Faulkner novel, The Unvanquished, Drusilla gives a verbena sprig to her stepson Sartoris as he goes off to fight a duel to avenge his father’s death:
Again I watched her arms angle out and upward as she removed the two verbena sprigs from her hair in two motions faster than the eye could follow, already putting one of them into my lapel and crushing the other in her other hand while she still spoke in that rapid passionate voice not much louder than a whisper: “There. One I give to you to wear tomorrow (it will not fade), the other I cast away, like this—" dropping the crushed bloom at her feet. “I abjure it. I abjure verbena forever more; I have smelled it above the odor of courage; that was all I wanted."
The name verbena comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen:” “fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone” and this because it was found to be a good treatment for treating kidney stones.
It was called Tears of Isis because where her tears fell as she grieved for the murder of Osiris, vervain grew.
Hippocrates himself applied it to wounds and prescribed it for fevers and nervous disorders.
The ancient Egyptians and Chinese believed vervain to have hidden powers. It was the “all-seeing” herb for the magi, the mystic sages of Persia.
Verbena has a long history of use in purification. King Solomon cleansed the temple with verbena, and the Romans placed it on altars in honor of Venus and Diana.
It was one of the Druids’ most revered herbs who utilized vervain in divination, consecration, and ritual cleansing of sacred spaces.
It was carried by priests and heralds and garlands were made of vervain for crowns for heroes and poets. Roman soldiers carried verbena with them into battle for good luck and protection, and the Romans sprinkled their homes and temples with verbena to keep out evil. They also buried it in their gardens to bring them prosperity.
The polymath and herbal healer Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) prescribed a decoction of vervain and vermouth for toxic blood infections and toothache.
In the Middle Ages, vervain came to be used as a treatment for acne and from there it began its evolution into treating other skin problems.
The seventeenth century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper prescribed it as an excellent skin cleanser and dandruff reliever when mixed with vinegar. He used it to treat jaundice, gout, cough, bleeding gums, shortness of breath, fever, kidney stones, congestive heart failure and even the plague.
It’s been called Herb of the Cross because one account purports it grew at the foot of the cross where Jesus was crucified and the flowers were said to be pressed into his wounds to stop the bleeding.
The Aztecs used the mashed roots as a diuretic.
In early 18th century Spain, the Jesuits prescribed the herb as a remedy for headache, jaundice, and a number of other ailments.
During the Revolutionary War, military physicians used vervain for pain relief and to induce vomiting.
Many Native American tribes found all sorts of medical treatment and curative uses for verbena but their principle uses include treating fever, gastrointestinal problems, stagnant circulation, headaches, insomnia and hepatitis.
Many modern day people of Mexico use verbena tea to treat bad colds and flu.
Contemporary herbalists recommend vervain as a tranquilizer, expectorant, menstruation promoter, and treatment for headache, fever, depression, seizures, wounds, dental cavities, and gum disease. – Michael Castleman, The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More than 125 of Nature’s Most Potent Herbal Remedies.
Premium grade verbena essential oil is a unique ingredient found in the formulation of many of PHYTO5’s Earth element line of skincare products. It’s important to note that all essential oils in PHYTO5 skincare, including verbena, are perfectly blended in appropriate and safe, therapeutic proportions.
The following are some of the currently recognized benefits of verbena essential oil. Though some of the benefits referenced in column 1 of this article may be valid today, this article is not meant to suggest that verbena provides all the benefits for which it was used throughout history.
- supports immunity
- promotes good liver function
- assists to relieve fevers by encouraging perspiration
- fights colds and flu
- loosens congestion in sinuses and lungs
- eases irritating coughs
- tones muscles and relieves buildup of lactic acid
- lowers breathing and heart rates
- encourages repair of weak connective tissue
- speeds healing of joint-related injuries
- lessens pain of arthritis
- increases mobility
- relieves upset stomach and nausea
- alleviates menstrual cramps
for the skin
- helps soften and tone the skin
- reduces skin puffiness and inflammation
- astringent properties (tightens the skin)
- cleansing to the skin (beneficial for acne prone skin)
- its protective antioxidants slow aging of skin
- antiseptic properties lend healing to eczema and other skin disorders
- speeds wound and sore healing
mentally and psychologically
- alleviates lethargy and apathy
- stimulates creativity and concentration
- improves study retention
- helps bring you to the present moment
- eases feelings of panic and calms nerves
- offers pleasant aphrodisiacal properties
- bolsters the spirit when dealing with stressful situations
- assists with insomnia
Sources for this article:
Curtis, Susan, Pat Thomas, and Fran Johnson. Essential Oils: All-natural Remedies and Recipes for Your Mind, Body, and Home. NY, NY: DK, 2016. Print.
Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More than 125 of Nature's Most Potent Herbal Remedies. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2009. Print.