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Parts Used & Where Grown
The most commonly used species is European vervain (Verbena officinalis), though blue vervain (V. hastata) and V. macdougalii, among others, are probably interchangeable. V. officinalis is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and has spread to North America. Other medicinal species are native to North America. The leaf and flower are used in herbal medicine.
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Colic (Chamomile, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Licorice)
1/2 cup (118 ml) of tea up to three times daily
A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo.
Carminatives are a class of herbs commonly used for infants with colic. These herbs tend to relax intestinal spasms.
Chamomile is a carminative with long history of use as a calming herb and may be used to ease intestinal cramping in colicky infants. A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo.4 In this study, approximately 1/2 cup (150 ml) of tea was given during each colic episode up to a maximum of three times per day.
Refer to label instructions
Vervain is a traditional herb used for depression.
Vervain is a traditional herb for depression; however, there is no research to validate this use.
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Vervain is a traditional herb for dysmenorrhea.
Vervain is a traditional herb for dysmenorrhea, however there is no research to validate this use. Tincture has been recommended at an amount of 5–10 ml three times per day.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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Vervain is a digestive stimulant widely used in traditional medicine in North America.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.5 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.6. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Some bitters widely used in traditional medicine in North America include yarrow, yellow dock, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and vervain. Oregon grape’s European cousin barberry has also traditionally been used as a bitter. Animal studies indicate that yarrow, barberry, and Oregon grape, in addition to stimulating digestion like other bitters, may relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.7
Sinusitis (Elder Flower, Gentian Root, Primrose Flowers, Sorrel)
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An herbal combination of gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elder flowers, and European vervain has been found to help promote mucus drainage from the sinuses.
One of the most popular supportive treatments for both acute and chronic sinusitis in Germany is an herbal combination containing gentian root, primrose flowers, sorrel herb, elder flowers, and European vervain.8 The combination has been found to be useful in helping to promote mucus drainage (“mucolytic” action) from the sinuses.9 The combination is typically used together with antibiotics for treating acute sinusitis.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Due to its bitter taste, herbalists used vervain to improve digestion. Vervain was also used to treat people with depression and spastic pains in the gastrointestinal tract, as a mild diaphoretic (to induce sweating and promote mild fevers), and for all manner of female reproductive system problems when associated with melancholy or anxiety.1 Early 20th century Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbal medicines) in the United States felt vervain might be helpful for mild digestive problems.2 Vervain also has a reputation as a traditional remedy for stimulating production of breast milk.3
How It Works
How It Works
The active constituents of vervain have not been thoroughly demonstrated. Glycosides, such as verbenalin and aucubin, and a volatile oil may all contribute to its activity.10 No human studies have documented the use of this herb for any condition.
How to Use It
A tea of vervain leaves and flowers is prepared by adding 1–2 teaspoons (2–4 grams) to a pint (500 ml) of hot water which is left to steep, covered, for 10–15 minutes.11 Three cups (750 ml) per day are typically recommended by doctors. The taste of the tea is fairly disagreeable, therefore, most people prefer a tincture. Tincture, 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) three times per day, is also suggested.12
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
No adverse effects of vervain have been reported. Vervain should be avoided during pregnancy.13 Although, traditionally, its use was during the last two weeks of pregnancy to facilitate labor. Vervain should be used during pregnancy only under the guidance of a healthcare professional experienced in herbal medicine.
1. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 263.
2. Felter HW. Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1922, 693-4.
3. Oliver-Bever BEP. Medicinal Plants in Tropical West Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
4. Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D, et al. Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. J Pediatr 1993;122:650-2.
5. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168-73.
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425-6.
7. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331-6.
8. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1998, 163-4.
9. März RW, Ismail C, Popp MA. Action profile and efficacy of a herbal combination preparation for the treatment of sinusitis. Wien Med Wschr 1999;149:202-8.
10. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 263.
11. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. West Yorks, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.
12. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. West Yorks, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.
13. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997.
Last Review: 04-28-2015
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.
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