What is Blue Vervain?
Vervain (Verbena officinalis), is a flowering plant that is part of the verbena family of herbs. There are over 250 species of verbena, but vervain specifically refers to the types used for medicinal purposes. One of the less common varieties of vervain is blue vervain (Verbena hastata). This particular plant is native to wet meadows, wet river bottomlands, stream banks, slough peripheries, fields and waste areas of the Americas, the Mediterranean region and the Near East.
What is Blue Vervain Used for?
While all parts of blue vervain are used in medicine, the roots have more active properties than the leaves. The roots have multiple benefits; they act as:
- Antiperiodic: preventing the periodic return of attacks of disease, such as certain fevers
- Diuretic: causes increased passing of urine
- Diaphoretic: induces perspiration
- Emetic: induces vomiting in high doses
- Expectorant: helps bring up mucus and other matter from the lungs
- Tonic: gives a feeling of vigor or well-being
- Vermifuge: kill parasites and worms
- Vulnerary: used in the healing of wounds
Native Americans used blue vervain seeds for food, but the leaves were also used to prepare medicinal tea. This herbal tea was used for boosting liver health, providing relief from arthritis symptoms, helping to reduce fever, and treating certain digestive problems.
What are the Health Benefits of Blue Vervain?
Blue Vervain is Used to Protect Nerve Health
Studies on Blue Vervain show that it may benefit certain neurological or brain-related conditions. Studies in rats show that blue vervain’s glycoside verbenalin — also known as cornin — may significantly improve brain damage after a stroke.
The studies explain that the compound verbenalin promotes the development of new blood vessels in the brain, which supply it with oxygen, and improves its mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are responsible for energy production in cells, and they require oxygen to do so. Energy production decreases without oxygen, leading to issues in regular cellular activity and the potential development of a variety of diseases of the nervous system.
Verbenalin ensures sufficient energy and blood supply to the brain, improving function after a stroke.
Blue Vervain is Used to Reduce Anxiety
Blue Vervain has long been used in folk medicine as a relaxant or nerve tonic, and recent animal studies support this traditional use. A study in rats determined that doses of 0.04–0.22 grams per pound (0.1–0.5 grams per kg) of body weight of vervain extract had an anxiety-reducing effect comparable to diazepam, a popular drug used to reduce anxiety. Researchers linked this to the plant’s content of flavonoids and tannins, both of which are known to possess anti-anxiety and sedative properties.
Blue Vervain is Used as an Anti-Microbial
Studies on vervain show that it may also protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi. In one test-tube study, vervain essential oil was tested against two fungi and seven bacteria. It inhibited the growth of all microorganisms in a dose-dependent manner — meaning that the higher the dose, the higher the antimicrobial effect.
Another test-tube study demonstrated the antibacterial effect of vervain extract against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella typhi, which are responsible for multiple infectious diseases. Blue vervain is rich in plant flavonoids. Research suggests that these flavonoids may inhibit bacterial attachment to the host and neutralize toxicity against human cells. While test-tube studies show promise, studies in humans are still needed.
Blue Vervain is Used to Manage Convulsions or Seizures
As a nerve tonic, blue vervain may also be used to manage convulsions or seizures. Studies in rats have concluded that vervain extract may help manage convulsions or seizures in those with neurological diseases such as epilepsy by prolonging their onset time and shortening their duration. This was attributed to verbenin, an essential component in vervain. Verbenin was even favored over bromide, a compound usually used in epilepsy treatment.
Blue Vervain is Used as a Diuretic
One of the oldest and most reliable uses of blue vervain is as a diuretic. It can help eliminate not just toxins from the system, but excess water, salts and fat. Blue vervain helps protect the kidneys and liver by helping the body rid of dangerous substances and toxins that accumulate there, like in cases of a bladder infection.
Blue Vervain is Used for Digestive Disorders and Gut Health
In its tea form, blue vervain can be used to ease digestive disorders and gut health. It’s been a required remedy for common stomach problems, such as bloating, cramps and flatulence. Since it works as a natural solution for vomiting and diarrhea, the herb is also known to boost nutrient absorption, and can also serve its purpose as a good laxative.
Blue Vervain is Used for Pain Relief
A number of studies have looked into the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of blue vervain both in topical and oral formulations. Results have been largely mixed. A 2006 study from Spain found that an extract of vervain applied topically in rats, was as effective in relieving edema (swelling) as traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, but it was far less able to relieve pain.
Blue Vervain is Used for Insomnia
Vervain tea has long been believed to have a calming effect that can help relieve stress and promote sleep. This effect was first described in the 1652 book "The English Physician" in which vervain was used as a tea to treat "over-enthusiasm." Moreover, mice injected with vervain extract spent more time sleeping than those injected with a placebo.
What are the Active Compounds in Blue Vervain?
Many of blue vervains health benefits are attributed to its bioactive compounds. A significant number of active constituents of have been identified in blue vervain, including: adenosine, aucubin, beta-carotene, caffeic-acid, citral, hastatoside, lupeol, ursolic-acid, verbenalin, verbenin.
Is Blue Vervain Safe?
Blue vervain is considered a safe and effective herbal medicine with a few side effects, namely the potential for indigestion and gas. The herb also produces an oily substance that may cause contact dermatitis, but a generally mild form with localized rash and redness. Before using a vervain tincture, it is recommended to apply a little of the tincture to the skin and wait an hour to see if a rash develops. There is a possibility for anaphylactic reactions, but this is very rare.
It is not known if blue vervain interacts with other drugs, and so, it is recommended to speak to your doctor or health care practitioner about any supplements you are taking to avoid possible interactions.
Blue vervain should be avoided in people with kidney disease, as the compound verbenalin found in the plant can irritate the kidneys if overused, causing inflammation and a potential worsening of the condition.
Though blue vervain has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, there is not enough modern research on this medicinal herb to verify its safety for long-term use. For this reason, it is also recommended to avoid using supplements with blue vervain if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is also not recommended to be used long term for children.
Vervain (Verbena officinalis), is a flowering plant that is part of the verbena family of herbs. There are over 250 species of verbena, but vervain specifically refers to the types used for medicinal purposes. One of the less common varieties of vervain is blue vervain (Verbena hastata).
Blue vervain has a number of health benefits and medicinal uses. Native Americans used blue vervain seeds for food, but the leaves were also used to prepare medicinal tea. This herbal tea was used for boosting liver health, providing relief from arthritis symptoms, helping to reduce fever, and treating certain digestive problems.
Nowdays, it is most commonly used as a nerve tonic to soothe the nervous system, but it has many other beneficial uses as well. A truly medicinal herb with centuries of traditional use, as well as some promising modern research to support it, blue vervain has been established as a powerful medicinal ally to know and work with.