Blue Vervain: 4 Key Benefits, Dosage, & Safety

Blue vervain is a herb with a strong history of traditional use for relaxing nerves and relieving anxiety. In this article, we will look at the benefits of blue vervain, …

Photo of author
Written by: Tara Bassi, MSc, CNS, LDN
Published on:
Reviewed by: Daniel Powers, MSc
Learn about our editorial process

Blue vervain is a herb with a strong history of traditional use for relaxing nerves and relieving anxiety.

In this article, we will look at the benefits of blue vervain, as well as its traditional uses and safety.

health benefits of blue vervain

What is Blue Vervain?

The Latin name of blue vervain is Verbena hastata. It’s native throughout the United States and southern Canada; it’s commonly found growing in meadows and swamps.

Blue vervain is also known as swamp vervain, wild hyssop, or simpler’s joy.

It should be noted that blue vervain (Verbena hastata) differs from common vervain (Verbena officinalis). Both species share similar medicinal uses, although each varietal has its own unique health benefits.

Traditional use shows that blue vervain is beneficial for mental health, including helping to reduce anxiety. It’s also been used to promote sleep and reduce the prevalence of seizures.

Despite its long history of traditional use as a medicine, there is limited modern research showing the benefits of blue vervain.

Benefits of Blue vervain:

Although there is limited clinical research on Verbena hastata, this plant has many purported health benefits and is commonly used in herbal medicine today. 

Below are some of the top researched-backed benefits of blue vervain, in addition to the plant’s traditional uses and excerpts from respected herbalists.

1. May Promote Sleep

As a mild sedative herb, blue vervain is known to aid in sleep.

Respected herbalist Christopher Hedley notes that as a mild relaxant and nerve tonic, blue vervain was traditionally used to induce ‘dreamless sleep’ (9).

An animal study demonstrated that hastatoside and vervenalin, two chemical components found in vervain, may aid in promoting sleep. The results showed that an extract administered 3-5 hours prior to bedtime helped to increase the total time of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. 

Another animal study showed the effects of blue vervain extract on sleep. Findings showed a significant reduction in the time it takes to fall asleep, and a considerable increase in the total time of rapid eye movement (REM) and NREM sleep.

SUMMARY:

Traditional knowledge indicates that blue vervain is helpful for sleep problems. Initial animal trials appear to support this claim. Human clinical trials are needed to verify the benefits of blue vervain for insomnia and improved sleep quality.

2. May Reduce Anxiety

Many herbalists today use blue vervain in anti-anxiety herbal formulas.

David Hoffman, AHG, a well-noted herbalist, characterizes vervain as a gentle anxiolytic (relieves anxiety) and helpful in alleviating depression (10).

Winston and Maimes, two other herbalists, note that combining blue vervain with motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), yuan zhi root (Polygala tenifolia), and fresh oat (Avena sativa) can help ease anxiety during premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause (13).

Dr. Aviva Romm combines blue vervain with motherwort, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and nettle (Urtica diocia) for anxiety and irritability. For postpartum depression and irritability, she combines blue vervain with ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and  Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) (12).

An animal study compared diazepam, a common anti-anxiety drug, and vervain extract. Results showed that the vervain extract had an anxiety-reducing effect similar to diazepam.

SUMMARY:

Traditional herbal medicine indicates that blue vervain may be helpful for anxiety and depression, especially when combined with other herbs. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these claims.

3. May Help Manage Seizures

Blue vervain has a well-documented traditional use as a treatment for epilepsy by Eclectic physicians (3, 4).

An animal study revealed that blue vervain extract may help decrease the number of seizure episodes and reduce the duration of episodes.

Another animal study demonstrated the anticonvulsant effects of blue vervain extract in mice with seizure disorders. Researchers noted that blue vervain’s anticonvulsant effects may be due to increased GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production in the brain. The amino acid GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and has a calming effect on the central nervous system.

SUMMARY:

Blue vervain has a long history of use as an anti-seizure herb. Initial animal studies support this usage, but in-depth human clinical trials are needed to verify safety and efficacy.

4. Other Benefits

Other benefits of blue vervain include:

  • May Aid in Cognitive Health – An animal study found that vervain extract may provide neuroprotective effects against neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • May Provide Digestive Support – An animal study revealed that a vervain extract dose of 200-400mg/kg weight can help relieve diarrhea. Another study showed that vervain extract can help heal gastric damage.
  • May Relieve Colic – In a clinical trial, 68 infants with colic were given a combined herbal tea of blue vervain, chamomile, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm. After seven days of treatment, 57% of the infants no longer experienced colic.
  • May Have Anti-bacterial Properties – In an in vitro study, antibacterial effects of vervain extract were shown against the bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella.
  • May Have Anti-inflammatory Properties – An animal study demonstrated that vervain extract has anti-inflammatory effects when used as a topical treatment.
  • May Help Alleviate PMS Symptoms – Winston and Maimes state that blue vervain can help relieve menstrual cramps, mood swings, headaches, and irritability associated with PMS (13).

While these various other health benefits of blue vervain are interesting, human clinical trials are needed to corroborate these findings.

SUMMARY:

Blue vervain has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.

Blue vervain Safety:

Safety Class: 2b

Interaction Class: A

The safety class of 2b indicates this herb should not be used during pregnancy.

The interaction class of A indicates that no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.

Some research shows that this herb may inhibit non-heme iron absorption; therefore, vervain should not be taken with iron supplements or with iron-rich meals, especially for those with iron-deficiency anemia (7, 11).

Consuming this herb in excessively large doses may cause nausea and vomiting (2, 13).

Pregnancy & Lactation:

It is not recommended to use vervain during pregnancy as it may have abortifacient effects or uterine stimulating effects (and could induce contractions). However, traditionally, this herb was used to protect against miscarriages (2, 7).

The Botanical Safety Handbook states that blue vervain should only be used during pregnancy under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.

The safety of blue vervain during lactation has not been established yet (7).

SUMMARY:

Blue vervain is a generally safe herb to consume. However, it’s not reccomended for pregannt women, unless under the supervision of a doctor.

Dosing:

Tincture (1:5): Take 2.5 to 5mL three times per day.

Infusion (tea): Add 1 cup of hot water to 1 tsp. of dried herb. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Drink up to three times per day.

Naming & Taxonomy:

Verbena hastata belongs to the Verbenaceae family of plants.

It is a perennial plant that grows about two to four feet in height, with small pale-purple flowers.

Species of Verbena:

Verbena is a genus within the Verbenaceae family and includes several species that can be found throughout the world.

Below are the common species of vervain:

  • Common Vervain (Verbena officinalis) – European species. Used for sore throats and respiratory tract diseases such as asthma and whooping cough,
  • Mountain Blue Vervain or Spike Vervain (Verbena macdougalii) – Growns in the southern states of the USA where it grows at high altitudes. Decorational.
  • White Vervain (Verbena urticifolia) –  Grows in the central and eastern United States; not commonly used for medicinal purposes

History & Traditional Use:

Historically, blue vervain was used as a relaxant tonic and to promote bowel movements. It was also used for colds, fevers, and menstrual disorders, as well as for intestinal worms (1, 5).

The plant was also used as a poultice for headaches and rheumatism, as a tonic to induce vomiting, and as an expectorant (8).

The Cherokee used blue vervain as a tonic for pain after birth, for coughs, strengthening the stomach, as a diaphoretic (induce perspiration), and for kidney health. The Iroquois used this herb for stomach cramps and earaches (6).

Constituents:

  • Iridoid glycosides
  • Phenylethanoid glycosides
  • Flavonoids
  • Tannins
  • Mucilaginous polysaccharides
  • Volatile oils

Actions:

Anxiolytic, nervine, sedative, bitter, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, analgesic

Conclusion:

Blue vervain has a strong history of use in native populations and with modern-day herbalists.

Further human clinical research on this plant and its benefits is highly recommended.

As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.

1. Cook, W. (1869). Verbena hastata, blue vervain, simpler’s joy. The Physiomedical Dispensatory. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/VERBENA_HASTATA.htm

2. Easley, T. & Horne, S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, CA.

3. Ellingwood, F. (1908). Is verbena a cure for epilepsy? Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Henriette’s Herbs. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/journals/elth/elth1908/07-verbenin.html 

4. Felter, H. W. (1922). The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology, and Therapeutics. Henriette's Herbs. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/felter/verbena-hast.html 

5. Felter, H. W. & Lloyd, J. U. (1898). Verbena - Vervain. King’s American Dispensatory. Henriette's Herbs. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/verbena.html 

6. Foster, S. & Duke, J. A. (2014). Peterson: Field guide to medicinal plants and herbs of eastern and central North America (3rd ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company: New York, NY.

7. Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (2013). Botanical safety handbook (2nd ed.). American Herbal Products Association.

8. Grieve, M. (1931). Vervain. A modern herbal.  https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vervai08.html

9. Hedley, C. (1995). Christopher Hedley: Insomnia. Henriette's Herb. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/chris/insomnia.html 

10. Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, VT.

11. Kubica, P. Szopa, A., Dominiak, J., Luczkiewicz, & Ekiert, H. (2020). Verbena officinalis (common vervain) - A review on the investigations of this medicinally important plant species. Planta Medica, 86(17), 1241-1257. https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/a-1232-5758 

12. Romm, A. (2018). Botanical medicine for women’s health (2nd ed.). Elsevier: St. Louis, MO.

13. Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, VT.

Photo of author

About Tara Bassi, MSc, CNS, LDN

Tara is a Licensed Nutritionist and Clinical Herbalist, specializing in women’s health. She has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Nutrition and Herbal Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health and is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS®).

Leave a Comment