by Geraldine Lavin
Genus & Species: Verbena hastata
Common Names: Blue Vervain, Blue Verbena
Energetics: Slightly cooling, drying and relaxing (Easley)
Properties: Nervine (nerve relaxant), bitter, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, mild sedative, antispasmodic, febrifuge, relaxant, emetic (in high doses) (Easley) (Wood)
Taste: Bitter, acrid (Wood)
Degree of Interaction: 3rd degree (Easley)
Tissue States: Constriction, Heat (Wood) (Bunce)
Parts used: Aerial parts
To Harvest & Store: Harvest Aerial parts in full flower. The most potent tincture is made from the fresh plant although it may be dried and stored in a cool, dark, place for use in teas.
Key Uses: It is generally agreed upon in the herbal community that Blue Vervain is the herb for uptight, fanatical, type A personalities. Many herbs have specific organ affinities, whereas blue vervain seems to have more of specific mental state. Thomas Easley says blue vervain is for “tight-necked, over-achieving, list-makers, who can’t ask for help.” Matthew Wood adds that Blue Vervain is for “people who make lists…of other peoples faults.” He also notes that Blue Vervain people tend to be “strong above, weak below” meaning that they can be strong in words, weak in action - very intense and judgmental of others, often holding themselves and those close to them to almost unattainable standards. Dorothy Hall’s personality type for Blue Vervain is workaholics who feel uncomfortable when there is nothing to do. Detail oriented people who have trouble sitting still and (curiously) suffer from neuralgias and skin problems. Kiva Rose says that it works “when you’re so irate and uptight you could dismember the nearest living creature.” Larken Bunce notes that she finds Blue Vervain most useful in states of Hot/Excess/Tension, where the goal is to cool & relax digestion, reduce irritability, anxiety, headache, muscular tension, overt inflammation, & insomnia. When my peers & I are round tabling clinical cases and we come across a client who rates all of their symptoms in painstaking fractions & decimals, we begin to suspect that Blue Vervain may be a key herb in the wellness plan. Folks who are perfectly matched to the Blue Vervain personality will react strongly to energetic (drop doses) of the plant - it is best to have them sitting down when they try this herb for the first time, as they may have a reaction that manifests as a full body sigh of relief.
Blue vervain types who go without intervention (or an energetic tune up) may end up with nervous exhaustion from the long term stress they put themselves through and burn out from their fanatical, hard driving personalities. My personal experience with Blue Vervain is that it is best given as a simple in drop doses when the person fits the specific indication. It also is indispensable in formulas for anger, spasm, PMS, digestive complaints, and neck and shoulder tension - which I will discuss further in Clinical Uses & Dosage.
Botany & History: Native to the Americas, the Mediterranean region and the Near East. Introduced widely elsewhere. There are over 350 known natural and artificial hybrids in cultivation and the wild. Numerous species are used medicinally, although we concentrate solely on Verbena hastata in this monograph. Blue Vervain flowers from June through September and can be found growing in grassy fields, low open woodlands, stream banks, gardens and along roadsides, reaching a height of 3-4 feet at full maturity. (Kress) (Hutchens) The Dakota word for Blue Vervain translates to “Medicine”, and the Omaha and Ponca word for Blue Vervain translate to “Herb medicine.” (KSU) From this we can deduce that Blue Vervain was well known to Native American tribes and a valuable member of their materia medicas. According to Matthew Wood, Blue Vervain was popular during the Revolutionary War. It was used for intermittent chills and fever and was found to be useful in cases when sweating needed to be induced. There is a legend that the wounds of Jesus Christ were dressed with Vervain when he was taken down from the cross. (Wood)
Clinical Uses: We have discussed the very specific uses for a simple of Blue Vervain as an energetic balancer for a specific personality, however, this powerful plant should not be overlooked in formulas even when the client does not fit the personality type. Blue Vervain is a key herb in formulas for nervous system support, mood improvement, digestive system support, menstrual cycle support, musculo skeletal tension & holding patterns, lymphatic stagnation, inducing sweating when necessary, in some cases of pulmonary hypertension and in the case of diffuse esophageal spasm.
For nervous system support, Blue Vervain pairs well with Motherwort and Skullcap for a generalized anxiolytic tincture to be taken throughout the day. Thomas Easley & Matthew Wood note case studies in which Blue Vervain has been helpful for spasmodic nervous disorders including tics, palsy and tourette’s syndrome when the tension manifests above the shoulder (neck, face, scalp.) John William Fyfe, an eclectic herbalist of the early twentieth century says of Blue Vervain, “It is said that this agent has cured cases of epilepsy which had been unsuccessfully treated for a long time by many other methods. These reports deserve attention, for it is possible that the remedy may reach a class of cases in which the physician now has but little success.” In cases of depression that is rooted in hormonal anxiety, chronic stress or melancholia characterized by anger (what the Greeks would call an excess of black bile) Blue Vervain is an appropriate nervine. Herbalists typically classify nervines into nerve tonics & nerve relaxants. Blue Vervain falls on the nerve relaxant side, an herb that will help you empty out your stress, but should ultimately be paired with nerve tonic herbs or lifestyle changes to manage the stress in the long term and increase capacity for holding stress.
Blue vervain is an intensely bitter herb with a tremendous effect on the nervous system, noted in old literature as a common digestive bitter. It has a reputation for working on tension in the stomach area linked to suppression of emotions, especially anger. It is suitable in digestive bitters formulas where there is a simultaneous need to work on the digestive system (increasing stomach acid & digestive juices) and give nervous system support. Blue Vervain has the potential to mitigate intense food cravings associated with over consuming food, so it is an herb to consider in formulas where you may be working with a client who wishes to improve their relationship with food.
We cannot ignore Blue Vervain’s many applications in menstrual cycle support: Mitigation of angry PMS, especially tension & anger during the luteal phase (post ovulation) that’s dominated by progesterone. Here, Blue Vervain acts as a hormone balancer as it promotes estrogen and progesterone receptor binding. The intense food cravings that are often associated with the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle are dually helped by Blue Vervain. (Yates) Additionally, Blue Vervain has been used to ease post-delivery stress and for obstructed menstruation. Blue Vervain is a cousin of the highly regarded hormone balancing herb, Vitex, and is likewise a good choice in a formula for easing the severity of hot flashes.
A classic trait of the person in need of Blue Vervain is holding all of their tension in their neck and shoulders. Even when the person does not meet the full picture of a “Blue Vervain person,” we can use Blue Vervain in a formula for this specific holding pattern and help them find relief. Most often we may use Blue Vervain as a supporting herb in a tincture formula for this purpose, but we may also make a poultice out of the fresh herb and apply topically to the neck and shoulders. When there is the opportunity to treat a condition from both the exterior & interior, this is usually the most effective route to take. Matthew Wood notes that Blue Vervain should be taken when there is loss of muscle in the neck, such as after a stroke.
Matthew Wood notes that Blue Vervain is an essential lymph remedy where there is an obstruction to lymph flow and a deobstructant is needed. This may be particularly useful where there is thickening lymph or muscles not working. In another scenario where a deobstruction is needed, Blue Vervain is the essential herb for a fever where the skin is tightly closed but profuse sweating is necessary for healing.
Thomas Easley notes that in certain cases of pulmonary hypertension, where the client fits the specific Blue Vervain personality, it is a key remedy. Taken as a simple in drop doses (3-5 drops, 2 times a day) Blue Vervain may help lower blood pressure. Thomas has seen it work in 4 cases, so more cases need to be studied and considered, but in the meantime it’s potential is not to be overlooked in this specific scenario.
In diffuse esophageal spasm (corkscrew esophagus), purportedly one of the most painful conditions one might be faced with, Blue Vervain is a key herb along with tincture of (fresh) black haw and khella to soothe the tension of the agonizing flare ups.
Hypnotic effects of total aqueous extracts of Vervain officinalis (Verbenaceae) in rats
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences (2002)
Moses A. Akanmu + 2 more authors
Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan
In this study male rats were the test subjects. They were kept on a 12 hr dark, 12 hr light schedule, in an air conditioned environment with free access to rat chow and water. There were two experimental groups, one was given aqueous extraction of vervain officinalis and the other diazepam. The control group was given placebo. The results showed that Blue Vervain decreased the sleep latency and increased sleep time significantly. It was also found that the GABA-benzodiazeprine recpetor complex might play a significant role with respect to Blue Vervain’s sedative effect. It was found that Blue Vervain and diazepam had similar effects on the rats.
Constituents: Iridoid glycosides (verbenalin, hastatoside); phenylethanoid
glycosides (verbascoside - acteoside); flavonoids (flavones: luteolin); tannins; mucilaginous
polysaccharides; traces of volatile oils (Evolutionary)
Dosage: Tincture: fresh leaf and flowers (1:2, 60% alcohol); dried leaf and flowers (1:5, 40% alcohol) Energetic dosage: 5-10 drops, 3 times a day. If no results are seen, or in cases where the personality does not match: increase to 1-2 ml (.2-.4 tsp) up to 4 times daily. If the personality of the client is that of the classic Blue Vervain person, the energetic drop doses are likely to work for them, whereas when a specific clinical application is desired but the personality does not match, larger doses may be necessary.
Glycerite: dried leaf and flowers (1:6): 1-5 ml (.2 -1 tsp) as needed 3-4 times daily.
Tea: 1 cup up to 3 times daily (not a pleasant tea, VERY bitter, I would only use the tea in cases where inducing sweating is necessary)
Some examples of Blue Vervain in specific formulas:
Nerve Tonic / Nerve Relaxant:
4 part skullcap
2 part motherwort
1 part blue vervain
1-2 ml pulsatilla per 2oz bottle (if there is a tendency towards breaking down, crying)
1-2 ml lobelia per 2oz bottle (if there is severe muscular tension)
To Open Pores During a Fever:
1 part Lobelia
1 part Boneset
1 part Blue Vervain
Preferably taken as tea, a few ounces at a time (NOT a pleasant tea)
Menopausal Hot Flash Remedy:
1 part Peach leaf
1 part Lemon balm
1 part Blue Vervain
Tea or Tincture.
Original formula by Sandra Boyd, Blue Vervain added by Matthew Wood
Post Delivery Anger
Blessed Thistle tea with the addition of Blue Vervain tincture
energetic or large doses depending on client.
Warnings: Extremely large doses may cause nausea and vomiting. Large doses may stimulate a miscarriage in pregnant women, although traditionally, in normal doses blue vervain was used to protect against miscarriage (Easley.) According to the USDA, Blue Vervain can interfere with blood pressure medication and hormone therapy.
Geraldine Lavin is an Herbalist and Farmer from Philadelphia, PA. She is currently based in the Hudson Valley of NY, where she manages a small herb farm and practices clinical and energetic herbalism. Suntrap is Geraldine's practice as a healer: catching and reflecting the sun to create microclimates of warmth and light around her.
Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine
Notes taken in class, attributed to Thomas Easley, Matthew Wood, Kiva Rosa, and Larken Bunce.
Kansas State University
Research and Extension: MF-2606
A Grower’s Guide: Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata
United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Plant Fact Sheet: Verbena hastata (L.)
BLUE VERVAIN (Verbena officinalis)
An overview of the Research and Clinical Indications
Beverly Yates, ND
The Modern Herbal Dispensary
A Medicine-Making Guide
Thomas Easley & Steven Horne
The Earthwise Herbal
A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants
Verbena Hastata. Blue Vervain, Simpler's Joy.
Indian Herbology of North America
The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses
Alma R. Hutchens
The School of Evolutionary Herbalism
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)