Vervain Leaf is found growing by roadsides and in sunny pastures in the UK. It is a perennial 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.
Vervain Leaf Etymology:-
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 affections of the bladder, especially calculus.
History of Vervan Leaf:-
Another derivation is given by some authors from Herba veneris, because of the 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. The druids included it in their lustral water, and magicians and sorcerers employed it largely.
Uses for Vervain Leaf:-
It was used in various rites and incantations, and by ambassadors in making leagues. Bruised, it was worn round the neck as a charm against headaches, and also against snake and other venomous bites as well as for general good luck.
It was thought to be good for the sight. Its virtues in all these directions may be due to the legend of its discovery on the Mount of Calvary, where it staunched the wounds of the crucified Saviour. Hence, it is crossed and blessed with a commemorative verse when it is gathered. It must be picked before flowering, and dried promptly.
It is recommended in upwards of thirty complaints, being astringent, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, etc. It is said to be useful in intermittent fevers, ulcers, ophthalmia, pleurisy, etc., and to be a good galactogogue. It is still used as a febrifuge in autumn fevers.
As a poultice it is good in headache, ear neuralgia, rheumatism, etc. In this form it colours the skin a fine red, giving rise to the idea that it had the power of drawing the blood outside. A decoction of 50 ml to 1 litre of water, taken in the course of one day, is said to be a good medicine in purgings, easing pain in the bowels. It is often applied externally for piles. It is used in homoeopathy.
IMPORTANT PLEASE READ :-
In France ( in particular ) Italy and Spain, Lemon Verbena ( which is Lippia citriodora ) is often sold as Vervain whilst in the rest of the world Verbena bonariensis is (quite rightly) sold as Vervain. It is easy to see the confusion which has been caused by decades of cultural misuse of the names confusing colloqial names in different cultures with the Linnaean classifications.
In short, if you have bought a tea (especially the Flixadix brand) labelled Vervain in France, Italy or Spain you will probably have been buying Lemon Verbena ( see the label and the picture of the plant on the product packaging for its ingredients ) and the resultant herb will taste very sherbet like and lemony whilst elsewhere in the world Vervain purchased will be bitter and astringent and will be obtained from the Verbena bonariensis plant.
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