Vervain Benefits, Uses & History

If you’re an avid watcher of The Vampire Diaries, chances are that you’ve heard of the herb vervain before. But this herb has become all but forgotten by herbalists around the world.

And while it may not actually be used to repel vampires, what are the actual benefits, uses, and history of vervain? First, we’ll want to know a little more about what vervain actually is.

Vervain Benefits, Uses & History

What is vervain?

Vervain is a plant in the Verbenaceae family which is often known by many different names.

Verbena, herb of the cross, pigeon weed, pigeon’s grass, and herb of grace are but to mention a few of the names that this fascinating plant is known by!

There are 150 different species of vervain plant. Most of these species are native to Asia and the Americas, and common vervain is the species that is native to Europe. 

This perennial plant features shoots which have five-petaled light blue or purple flowers. Some varieties even have pink or white flowers.

Even though these flowers are very pretty, they don’t have a smell. The vervain plants also have delicate, jagged leaves, and are around 3 to 4 feet in height.

Vervain tends to flower between June and September. 

Vervain can often be confused with lemon verbena because of their similar names. However, these are two very different plants. They do share the same family, but aren’t the same plant.

What are the benefits and medicinal uses of vervain?

This impressive plant has as many as 20 different plant compounds which are known to produce great health benefits.

There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back up some of the claims made by herbalists, however, there is plenty of promising evidence that vervain could be beneficial for your health.


Vervain extract is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one of the most common symptoms of several different health conditions.

Vervain can be used to reduce inflammation both inside and outside the body to help ease these conditions.

There have been several animal studies which have achieved positive results to back this claim up.

With several different types of vervain extracts used, researchers discovered that all types of extract were able to deliver significant anti-inflammatory results.

It was discovered that the vervain extracts were also able to lower damage to the animals’ guts, too.

A different study found that vervain extract could also produce anti-inflammatory results as well as pain relief effects when applied topically in comparison to the studies mentioned above which used oral methods.

Drinking vervain tea can also help to ease bloating, cramps, and flatulence.

Boosts gum health

There are numerous examples of how vervain can be used to help boost the health of your gums.

In fact, one particular study showed that when people drank a herbal infusion of vervain, it was able to ease gum inflammation and help manage chronic gingivitis.

Vervain was historically used by Celtic people as a mouthwash. You can even use this method at home, too!

Mix 2 tablespoons of vervain with 1 cup of boiling hot water, then allow it to cool down as the vervain is steeped in the liquid.

When the vervain mixture has cooled down, you can use it as your very own DIY mouthwash.

Could protect against cancer

Some exciting test tube and animal studies have shown that vervain may inhibit the growth of tumors, as well as kill off cancerous cells.

In one study in particular, it was shown that high doses of vervain extract were able to inhibit the growth of tumors by more than 30% compared to controls.

Scientists think these great results are down to two types of glycosides, verbenosides A and B, as well as the triterpenoids found in vervain.

A component of vervain essential oil, citral, is also proven to have anti-cancer effects which can kill off cancerous cells.

Another test tube study found that a concentration of just 0.01% of vervain essential oil was able to increase the death rate of rogue immune cells by up to 15% to 52% taken from subjects with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Further human research would be needed to solidify these claims, however, the results so far are pretty promising.

Fights infections

There is greater evidence of bacteria becoming resistant to certain antibiotics. So it’s great news that vervain has shown promising results when it comes to killing off this antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as fungi. 

In one particular test tube study, it was found that the higher the dosage of vervain extract, the better the antimicrobial effect.

Other studies have found that vervain extract proves highly effective against certain bacteria known to cause nasty infectious diseases. 

Some compounds contained in vervain essential oil are well known to have antimicrobial effects. Some compounds such as flavonoids have also been found to heighten these antimicrobial effects.

Flavonoids may also work to inhibit bacteria from attaching to a host, as well as neutralizing any toxic effects against human cells. 

However, more human research is still needed to determine this power to fight infections as an indisputable fact.

Vervain has also been used in traditional medicine methods to treat respiratory and urinary tract infections. Different parts of the vervain plant can be used to kill off different bacteria.

Helps you to sleep better


Taking vervain can help to prevent insomnia, and can also give you better quality sleep. All without making you feel groggy the next morning!

Drinking vervain tea before you need to go to bed can help send you on your way to blissful sleep.

There’s no caffeine in it, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it helps to soothe and sedate you.

In some studies carried out to determine the effects of vervain on soothing anxiety, it was also found that the animal subjects spent more of their time sleeping than those who received a placebo.

It is thought that this could be down to the compound verbenalin, which is an iridoid glucoside.

Improves digestion

This fascinating herb has also been used as a digestive stimulant. It can help to improve your digestive function by encouraging the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. It can also increase the production of saliva. 

When the body becomes stressed, digestion is often switched off to help your body focus on fighting the threat. This fight or flight response is prioritized as digestion is seen as non-essential.

Vervain counteracts this by encouraging your appetite as well as relaxing your stomach to relieve it of any tension.

Kidney and liver health

Vervain can be used as a natural diuretic. It can help to flush out any unwanted toxins from your body, and instead gets rid of these in your urine.

Vervain can also help you retain more water, which improves the function of your kidneys.

Another fantastic compound found in vervain, apigenin, can help to prevent any damage to your kidneys, too.

Some of the compounds contained in vervain have hepatoprotective effects. When vervain tea is consumed regularly, it has been shown to stimulate the liver and promote healing of any damage that has been caused to it.

It is thought that vervain can also be used to strengthen the liver and help to get rid of any unwanted toxins from the body.

Protects nerve cells

It is thought that using vervain extract can help to protect your brain cells from various diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

It could work to prevent the loss of cells or neurons, which can exacerbate these diseases. 

Vervain extract may also lower the toxicity of beta-amyloid, also known as Abeta. When this compound accumulates in your brain, it is thought to be a toxic factor in the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Some studies in rats have shown that a compound in vervain extract can also help to improve brain health after a stroke.

It was shown to promote the development of new blood cells in the brain, which in turn helped to improve the supply of oxygen as well as mitochondrial function.

Reduces seizures

The calming effects of vervain have been shown to reduce the likelihood of convulsions and seizures.

Certain studies in rats have shown that using vervain extract can help to prolong the onset of these seizures, as well as reduce the amount of time they last for.

It is thought this could be down to an essential compound in vervain known as verbena.

There have been few studies to examine the effects of vervain in humans, however, these animal studies are promising. It is thought that vervain could still have a positive effect on your central nervous system.

Soothes anxiety

Vervain is a herb that herbalists have often used in traditional medicine for helping to relax people. There is now a whole wealth of animal-based research to prove that they might have been right all along. 

One study in rats has shown that vervain extract was able to soothe and reduce anxiety.

The results were so promising that they even rivaled that of diazepam, which is a medication traditionally used to reduce anxiety.

The researchers think this was all down to the mixture of flavonoids and tannins in vervain. These are compounds which are well known to produce sedative and anti-anxiety effects.

Supports heart health

It is also thought that vervain can be used to help support the health of your heart. One animal study showed that using vervain extract has a positive impact on your heart.

It helped to reduce the death of heart tissue, as well as protect it from damage caused by an insufficient blood supply. 

This is because vervain contains a compound called cornin, or verbenalin as it is sometimes known. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that this compound can help to protect your heart.

Side effects of vervain

Most people don’t tend to suffer from any side effects when consuming vervain. However, there are a few factors that you should be aware of just to be on the safe side. Vervain is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is some evidence that vervain can inhibit the intake of iron. So it’s best to avoid this herb if you suffer from anemia or other iron deficiency.

There is also some evidence in animal studies that vervain can cause deformities in fetuses. So vervain is best avoided by pregnant women.

The history of vervain

The use of vervain for medicinal purposes dates back for thousands of years. Several different ancient cultures throughout Europe have used this fascinating herb because of its believed benefits.

The idea of vervain being a healing plant is partially how it has achieved some of its nicknames. It is thought that it was used to try to heal Jesus’ wounds on the cross, hence the nickname herb of the cross.

Vervain was even used back in ancient Egypt. It was believed that vervain had first sprung into being from the tears of the goddess Isis when she mourned the death of Osiris.

Vervain was also treated as a sacred plant by the Persians in ancient Persia.

The ancient druids of Ireland believed vervain to hold supernatural powers.

Other European cultures such as worshippers of the Norse gods in Scandinavia would use vervain during ceremonies and rituals, calling on its mystical powers.

Other cultures such as the Greeks and Romans believed vervain to be a holy plant. Vervain branches were often used to help purify their temples.

The Romans would use vervain to bless their altars. The Greek physician Hippocrates would often recommend vervain to ease fever and cure the plague.

In summary

And so our guide to the benefits, uses, and history of vervain comes to an end! We hope that you’ve been able to learn something new about this fascinating herb.

It can be used for soothing your anxiety, helping you get a good night’s sleep, helping to improve your gum health, soothing inflammation, among many other great health benefits.

So why not treat yourself to a relaxing herbal infusion of vervain tea?