The American species of Vervain is slightly different from the European (V. officinalis), but the medicinal actions of both are quite similar. Both are members of the Verbenaceae, the Vervain family, of which Vitex is also a member. This family is closely allied to the Mints. Vervain will begin to flower in July and continue until the end of August; it likes rich soil, and prefers things a little moist. We gather the flowers and leaves all through July and August, although some prefer to harvest it right before it blooms. I like to add the purple flowers to my extracts…
Elemental associations: Earth
Phytochemistry: Bitter principles, tannins, glycosides, monoterpene volatile oils (Schauenberg)
Actions: Sedative, diaphoretic, diuretic, relaxant, cholagogue
Specific systems: Nervous system
This herb has a long and distinguished history of magical and ceremonial use. It was considered one of the most sacred plants by the Druids, who valued it almost on par with Mistletoe and Oak. Its uses in that regard seem to be related to purification and protection, especially of sacred ‘groves’ and ritual spaces.
Medicinally, it is an excellent relaxant, soothing tight muscles and calming the nerves. Matthew Wood reminds us of the doctrine of signatures in observing the erect, pointy candelabra of flowers, and comparing it to a person ‘always on edge’. Such a person will be quite fidgety, possibly ‘in your face’, and can tend to manifest unexpressed energy sexually.
As a diaphoretic, it makes a good (albeit bitter) tea for fever management, and can help recovery after a protracted illness. It is also quite a good bitter, and a liver remedy, especially if other signs (see above) are present as well.
Indications: Nervous tension, mild depression, liver congestion
Preparation/Dosage: Use the hot infusion, 4 TBS per quart of water, for fevers. Otherwise, a tincture can be made from the fresh flowers and leaves, 40% alcohol, 1:3 to 1:5. Take ¼ to ½ teaspoon 3 times per day.