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Vervain

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JULY 2011: VERVAIN (Verbena Officinalis)

Vervain Description and Habitat:: Vervain is a slender perennial herb, 30-90cm tall, with a woody stalk and several stiffly erect stems bearing many small, pale-lilac flowers. The leaves are opposite, and cut into toothed lobes. The plant has no perfume, and is slightly bitter and astringent in taste. The fruit comprises four cylindrical nutlets enclosed in the calyx. Vervain is indigenous to England, central and southern Europe, North Africa and Asia, and has been introduced into North America. In England Vervain is found growing by roadsides and in sunny pastures and wasteland.

Synonyms and Common names: Enchanter's plant, Herb of the Cross, Holy herb, Juno's tears, Pigeon's grass, Pigeonweed, Simpler's joy, Traveller’s Joy, Wizard’s Herb, Herb of Grace, Herbe Sacrée. Herba veneris, Dragon's Claw (in Scotland), Tears of Isis, Frog-foot, Mercury's Moist Blood, The Herb.

The name Vervain is derived from the Celtic 'ferfaen', from 'fer' (to drive away) and 'faen' (a stone), as the plant was much used for infections of the bladder. Another derivation is given by some authors from 'Herba veneris' because of the aphrodisiac qualities attributed to it by the Ancients. Priests used it for sacrifices, and hence the name 'Herba Sacra'. The name 'Verbena' was the classical Roman name for 'altar-plants' in general, and for this species in particular.

Parts used: Leaves and flowering parts. The leaves are collected just before the flowers open, usually in July, and dried quickly.

Medicinal Action and Uses: It is recommended in upwards of thirty complaints which include depression, hysteria, generalised seizures, jaundice, early stages of fevers, convalescence after fevers (especially influenza), ulcers, pleurisy, headaches, rheumatism, pain in bowels, piles, as a sedative, a nerve tonic, asthma, migraine, insomnia and nervous coughing.

Vervain is also used for insomnia, liver conditions, jaundice and gallstones and as a gentle but effective laxative. It is a traditional remedy for infected gums and tooth decay, halitosis and tonsillitis. A poultice of the herb may be applied to insect bites, sprains and bruises, and the ointment is used to treat eczema, wounds, weeping sores and painful neuralgia. In addition, it is also used for colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, as eyedrops to strengthen the optic nerve and clear vision, to expel worms, as a blood tonic, to heal sores and wounds and for snakebite.

In China, the plant is known as ma bian cao, and it is used mainly as a fever remedy for malaria and influenza and also for dropsy and dysentery.

Caution: It should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant, but it may be taken during labour to stimulate contractions.

Additional Comments and Folk Lore: Vervain is a sacred herb associated with visions and prophecy and the flowers were used to adorn altars and to make protective wreaths or magical hoops. Know to be used in ancient Egypt and Persia, vervain was one of the sacred herbs of the Druids who used it in magical drinks and in ritual cleansing, consecration, and divination of sacred places. Vervain was also sacred to the Romans to whom it was the divine weed that was sprinkled on the altars of Jupiter and the herba veneris employed in rites of love. The Romans also held Vervain sacred to Mars, the God of War, believing that by rubbing it on their bodies, it would repel enemies.

Vervain is sometimes referred to as “devil’s bane”, in that it was believed that by wearing or using it, evil spirits could be held at bay or driven off. Magicians, witches and sorcerers used it in various rites and incantations and magicians wore a crown of vervain as protection during the evocation of demons. Vervain also provided protection from the bite of Vampires.

It was traditionally believed to be a female aphrodisiac and until comparatively recently, it was hung round the necks of children to avert infection. Bruised, it was also worn round the neck as a charm against headaches and also against snake and other venomous bites as well as for general good luck. Mothers sewed it into babies clothes to protect them from the fairies. Vervain used to be sprinkled about the dining chamber as it supposedly made the guests merrier.

Legend has it that it was used to staunch the wounds of the crucified Christ on the Mounts of Calvary.

Vervain can be used in a tea, in a bath, worn in your hair, or placed into charms or other forms of jewelry to afford you protection and luck. It can also be used around the house, usually around or over doorways, to bless and purify your home and to help protect it and your family from evil.

Vervain is buried in a field to make crops abundant, burned to attract wealth and hung above a bed to prevent nightmares. It can be hung in the home it offers protection from negative spells, hung above a baby’s crib for protection and to enable the child to grow up with a love of learning and a happy outlook. It is a pledge of mutual faith when given to a friend and can be used for cleansing incenses and in baths.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 July 2011 18:53  

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