Verbena plant

(Verbena officinalis)


Common English name: Herb of the cross, Common Vervain, Verbena, common Verbena, mosquito plant, Simpler's Joy, wild hyssop, blue vervain

Verbena botanical illustration
(Verbena officinalis)

- Spanish / Castellano:Verbena, verbena macho, verbena mayor, hierba de Santa Isabel, hierba de los hechizos, hierba de la verbena, yerba sagrada, curalotodo, hierba sagrada, hierba de la ictericia, verbena sevillana, hierba de San Juan, yerbuca de San Juan.

- Catalan / Català: Verbena, berbena, barbera herba

- Galician / Galego: Verbena, sacred erba, orxavan, gerbao

- Portuguese / Português: Verbena, erba sacred, orxavan, gerbao

- Basque / Euskara: Berbena, berbena-belarra

- Italian / Italiano: Verbena, Erba corce, Erba crocina, Barbegna, Erba sacra, Erba colombina, Erba turca, Erba della milza, Birbina, Virminaca, Crebena.

- Romanian / Română: verbină

- French / Français: verveine officinale

- German / Deutsch: Echte Eisenkraut, Katzenblutkraut, Taubenkraut

- Polish/ Polski: Werbena pospolita

- Dutch /Nederlands:: Laege-Jernurt

- Norwegian /Norsk bokmål: Jernurt

- Finnish /Suomi: Rohtorautayrtti

- Swedish /Svenska: Järnört

Etymology: verbena derived from the Celtic word "ferfaen" (= which expels stones) or the Latin word "Herba veneris" (= Venus grass) ".

Scientific name: Verbena officinalis L. ; Verbena vulgaris Bubani; Verbena tenuispicata Stap, Verbena rumelica Velen.

Family: Verbenaceae

Habitat: On roadsides and highways, uncultivated land or grasslands between 0-1500 meters. Abundant throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa in soils with some moisture. Naturalized in America.

Description of verbena

Verbena is a perennial plant of the Verbenaceae family, up to 75 cm.

Stems erect, very distant internodes, with four well marked angles. Opposite, open branches, each pair forming a V with the lower vertex attached to the stem.

Leaves opposite, lower ones romboid, very divided with lobes that almost reach the midrib, lobes divided, toothed. Upper leaves very small and few, sessile, with fewer divisions.

Very small pink-lilac flowers in inflorescences in the form of spikes, about 8 to 12 cm in length. Each flower from 4 to 5 mm in length, with the corolla almost twice as long as the calyx, bilabiate, with five flat lobes; short tube. Both the cup and the corolla villous. Each flower with 4 fruits (nucule), reddish-brown with well-marked ribs.

Verbena components

- Acids: caffeic acid (leaves), ursolic acid (plant)

- Artemitin (plant)

- Carbohydrates: fiber (mucilage), sugars: stachyose (notably the root and stem)

- Alkaloids: contains a bitter principle (adenosine)

- Iridiod glycosides: aucubin, verbenalol, verbenin, verbenone and hastatoside (plant),verbenalin (whole plant, but the flowers in larger quantities).

- Tannins (plant)

- Enzymes: emulsin, invertin (flowers)

- Phytosterols: alpha-sitosterol (plant)

- Essential oils: citral, terpinene, lupeol, verbenone (plant)

- Vitamins: vitamin A as beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin B (leaves)


Traditional use: medicinal and magical properties of verbena

Verbena in ancient times

The use of verbena in antiquity is extremely widespread. The same Dioscorides called it Hierobolane (sacred herb). At that time, it was thought that the vervain was able to cure over 30 diseases, including gout, paralysis, headaches, jaundice, etc.

However, since ancient times, verbena was known more for his supernatural properties to bring peace than for its therapeutic properties. The ancient people thought who carried with them a sprig of this plant aroused feelings of trust and willingness on the part of others.

It was a plant highly revered by the Druids who used it as a magical plant in their ceremonies. A fairly common practice was to meet the sunset, and people gathering themselves around a circle, they buried it with a spade in the ground in gratitude for the gifts received.

Verbena in ancient Greece and Roma

The Greeks and Romans called it "Herba sacra" (= "Sacred herb"). Frequently they used in rituals to cast lots for omens and portents, to defame or to purify people. But above all it was a symbol of peace, friendship and happiness. During the first day of the year, they sent it to their friends to wish them luck and express their good wishes. When an emissary was sent to another city, he was given a sprig of verbena.

When Romans sent an emissary to a noble mission, they offered him a sprig of verbena. This emissary was known as "verbenario" (that is to say "the carrier of verbena").

Verbena for Christianity

The tradition of considering the verbena with special properties was adopted by Christianity. It is considered that Jesus trod this plant in the ascent of Mount Calvary, endowing it with magical properties against snake bites and other venomous reptiles.

Verbena from the Middle ages to the present time

The great revolutionary physician Paracelsus (1493-1591) considered it a magical plant with stimulant properties. During this same century, in Germany, it was widely used as a plant with magical powers. On the night of San Juan, people hanged it on their necks and danced around the bonfire. It is therefore not surprising that in many parts of Spain is still being known as "St. John's Wort", "yerbuca of San Juan" in Asturias (Spain) The following proverb says:

"Whoever take verbena in the morning of San Juan, will not be stung by snake; nor bug will do him or her any harm"

Because of this application, for a long time, the shepherds of southern France brought with them a piece of verbena to protect them.

Medical, miraculous or magical properties of verbena have been widely recognized in many parts of the world. In 1852, for example, Nicolas Jean Baptiste Gaston Guibourt, school teacher in Pharmacy of Paris, writes in his Natural History of Drug Simples:

"The oficinal verbena is a fibrous and perennial root... This plant has enjoyed formerly a great reputation and served in various religious ceremonies of many people and superstitious practices of magicians and witches. So, it was called sacred herb ".

At present, the importance of verbena has declined considerably. When the word "verbena" is named, people think more about the meaning of nightlife, dancing, etc, than in the original meaning of grass verbena: Celtic word "ferfaen" (= which expels stones) or the Latin word "Herba veneris" (= Venus grass). "the truth is that the word verbena (= holiday) is derived from verbena (= plant) and not the opposite."

However, verbena leaves deserve not less importance from a medicinal point of view. Although no longer they are considered a "cure-all" as in the past, it is worth keeping in mind their medicinal properties.

punto rojo More information on vervain medicinal properties in the listing above.

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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.
"Botanical" is not responsible for damages caused by self-medication.

Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.