Verbena officinalis

Verbena officinalis
Verbena officinalis
Flowering plant
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Verbenaceae
Genus: Verbena
Species: V. officinalis
Binomial name
Verbena officinalis

Verbena domingensis Urb.
Verbena macrostachya F.Muell.

Verbena officinalis, the Common Vervain or Common Verbena, is a perennial herb native to Europe. It grows up to a metre/yard high, with an upright habitus. The lobed leaves are toothed, the delicate spikes hold mauve flowers.

This plant prefers limey soils; it is occasionally grown as an ornamental plant but perhaps more often for the powerful properties some herbalists ascribe to it. Propagation is by root cuttings or seed. It is widely naturalised outside its native range, for example in North America.


Common names and taxonomy

It is also known as Simpler's Joy or Holy Herb, or more ambiguously as "mosquito plant" or "wild hyssop". The common name "Blue Vervain" is also sometimes used, but properly refers to V. hastata. And of course, being the only member of its genus in much of its range, it is also simply known as "the vervain" locally.

The common names of V. officinalis in many Central and Eastern Europes languages often associate it with iron, for example:

  • Echtes Eisenkraut (German: "true ironherb")
  • IJzerhard (Dutch: "iron-hard")
  • Læge-Jernurt (Danish: "medical ironwort")
  • Železník lekársky (Slovak: ("medical ironherb")
  • Rohtorautayrtti (Finnish: "medical ironherb")

Common Vervain was scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus his 1753 Species Plantarum.[1] The scientific name references the Ancient Roman term verbena, used for any sacrificial herb considered very powerful (as described e.g. by Pliny the Elder). Officinalis, meanwhile, is Latin for "used in medicine or herbalism".


One of the few species of Verbena native to regions outside the Americas, it is derived from the lineage nowadays occurring widely across North America. It might be closest to a group including such species as the White Vervain (V. urticifolia), V. lasiostachys or V. menthifolia, and perhaps the Swamp Verbena (V. hastata). As these, it is diploid with 14 chromosomes altogether.[2]

Numerous local varieties have been described, some of them as distinct species or subspecies. The following are often accepted today:[1]

  • Verbena officinalis var. africana (R. Fern. & Verdc.) Munir (= V. officinalis ssp. africana R.Fern. & Verdc.)
  • Verbena officinalis var. eremicola Munir
  • Verbena officinalis var. gaudichaudii Briq.
  • Verbena officinalis var. macrostachya (F. Muell.) Benth. (= V. macrostachya)
  • Verbena officinalis var. monticola Munir
  • Verbena officinalis var. officinalis L. (= V. domingensis)

The Texas Vervain (V. halei) is sometimes included in V. officinalis as a subspecies or variety.[1] But despite the outward similarity, biogeography alone strongly suggests there is really no justification to include this North American native here, and DNA sequence data agrees. Instead, V. halei seems to be closely related to V. macdougalii, perhaps with some interbreeding with the V. menthifolia lineage which might explain its Common Vervain-like traits.[2]

Use by humans

Common Vervain is held in high esteem since the Classical Antiquity; it has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces, and it has an equally long-standing use as a medicinal plant.

Medical use of Common Vervain is usually as a herbal tea; Nicholas Culpeper's 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses. Among others effects, it may act as a galactagogue and possibly sex steroid analogue and abortifacient; it is reputed to help against nervousness and insomnia. "Vervain", presumably this species, is one of the original 38 Bach flower remedies, prescribed against "over-enthusiasm"[citation needed]. In the Modern Era, it is sometimes considered a powerful "ally" of poets and writers, as its relaxing effects can relieve writer's block. As noted above, it cannot be considered safe to use during pregnancy as it might cause miscarriages.

While Common Vervain is not native to North America, it has been introduced there and the Pawnee have adopted it as an entheogen enhancer and in oneiromancy, and is often referred to as the North American version of Calea zacatechichi.

In western Eurasia, the term "verbena" or "vervain" usually refers to this, the most widespread and common member of the mostly American genus occurring there. It was called "tears of Isis" in Ancient Egypt, and later on "Juno's tears". In Ancient Greece, it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that Common Vervain was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after his removal from the cross; hence names like "Holy Herb" or (e.g. in Wales) "Devil's bane"[verification needed].

Due to the association with the Passion of Christ, it came to be used in ointments to drive out and repel "demonic" illness. Vervain flowers are engraved on cimaruta, Italian anti-stregheria charms. In the 1870 The History and Practice of Magic by "Paul Christian" (Jean Baptiste Pitois) it is employed in the preparation of a mandragora charm[citation needed]. In the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension, the magickal group Verbena, masters of the sphere of Life, derive their name from the sacrificial herbs of Antiquity, and it is implied that this specifically means the Common Vervain in this case.

Hazlitt's Faiths and Folklore (1905) quotes Aubrey's Miscellanies (1721), to wit:

"Vervain and Dill / Hinder witches from their will."[3][4]

In the series of young adult novels The Vampire Diaries, author L. J. Smith uses vervain to protect humans from vampires,[5] in an extension of vervain's fabled magic-suppression powers against witches. In The Struggle, Volume II, the vampire Stefan instructs the human Elena that vervain can "protect you against bewitchment, and it can keep your mind clear if someone is using Powers against you."[6] He tells her how it is prepared and used, "Once I've extracted the oil from the seeds, you can rub it into your skin, or add it to a bath. And you can make the dried leaves into a sachet and carry it with you, or put it under your pillow at night", but gives her an unprepared sprig for protection in the meantime.[7]

A Royal Navy Arabis class sloop of the World War I era was named HMS Verbena, and in World War II a Group 1 Flower class corvette bore the same name; a Group 2 vessel of the latter class was called HMS Vervain. The only Verbena widely found in England in a native state is Common Vervain, though it is just as possible that the names reference the popular ornamental verbenas , such as the Garden Vervain.


  1. ^ a b c USDA (2007)
  2. ^ a b Yuan & Olmstead (2008)
  3. ^ Hazlitt,William Carew; Brand, John (1905). Faiths and folklore: a dictionary of national beliefs, Volume 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 611. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  4. ^ Aubrey, John, Esq. (1721). Miscellanies upon the following Subjects.... London: Bettesworth, Battley, Pemberton, Curll. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  5. ^ Sheffield, Rob (April 08, 2010). Love in Vein: The Vampire Diaries. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
  6. ^ Smith, L. J. (1991). The Struggle (Volume II). Harper Collins. p. 105. ISBN 006102001-X. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  7. ^ Smith (1991), p. 145


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  • Verbena officinalis —   Verbena officinalis …   Wikipedia Español

  • Verbena officinalis — ? Вербена лекарственная Вербена лекарственная Научная классификация Царство: Растения …   Википедия

  • Verbena officinalis — Eisenkraut Eisenkraut (Verbena officinalis) Systematik Klasse: Dreifurchenpollen Zweikeimblättrige (Rosopsida) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Verbena officinalis — Verveine officinale Verveine officinale …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Verbena officinalis — vaistinė verbena statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Verbeninių šeimos dekoratyvinis, vaistinis augalas (Verbena officinalis), paplitęs Afrikoje, Europoje, Azijoje ir Šiaurės Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Verbena officinalis angl. common… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Verbena officinalis — Peristerion Per is*te ri*on, n. [NL., fr. Gr. ? a dovecote, a kind of verbena, fr. ? a dove, pigeon; cf. L. peristereon.] (Bot.) The herb vervain ({Verbena officinalis}). [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Verbena officinalis — ID 87381 Symbol Key VEOF Common Name herb of the cross Family Verbenaceae Category Dicot Division Magnoliophyta US Nativity Introduced to U.S. US/NA Plant Yes State Distribution AL, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MS, NC, NJ, NM,… …   USDA Plant Characteristics

  • Verbena officinalis var. officinalis — ID 87382 Symbol Key VEOFO2 Common Name herb of the cross Family Verbenaceae Category Dicot Division Magnoliophyta US Nativity Introduced to U.S. US/NA Plant Yes State Distribution AL, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MS, NC, NJ, NM …   USDA Plant Characteristics

  • Verbena officinalis var. prostrata — ID 87383 Symbol Key VEOFP Common Name prostrate verbena Family Verbenaceae Category Dicot Division Magnoliophyta US Nativity Introduced to U.S. US/NA Plant Yes State Distribution NY Growth Habit Forb/herb Duration …   USDA Plant Characteristics

  • Verbena officinalis L. var. prostrata Gren. & Godr. — Symbol VEOFP Common Name prostrate verbena Botanical Family Verbenaceae …   Scientific plant list

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