Vervain (Verbena officinalis and V. hastata)

Blue VervainHave you ever met a person who was fanatically obsessed with something? I’m not talking about just passionate about something, I’m talking about being passionate about something to the point of extreme fanaticism. Instead of being interesting and exciting, their passion becomes overbearing, intolerant and fanatical. If so, you’ve met what I call a “vervain” person.

I’ve known several “vervains” in my life. The one that always comes to the forefront of my mind is Dr. C. Samuel West. I’ll always be grateful for what I learned from Dr. West about the process of inflammation (“trapped blood proteins” as he called it) because it is one of the foundational concepts that has helped me in my healing work, but it wasn’t easy working with the man. 

He was so passionate about this that he would talk about it at inappopriate times.  In fact, sometime Carl Robinson (who was also working for him) and I just wanted to hide under the table because it was so embarrassing. The problem with this personality type is that although they want to lead and inspire people, they often have exactly the opposite effect.  Their hard-driving intensity drives people away rather than attracts them, and people who try to work for them feel unappreciated and unvalued because their intensity inhibits the different perspectives that contribute to synergy and creativity.

It’s great to be passionate about your work, your hobbies and other aspects of your life, but a key to healthy living is balance.  When we become so passionate about one thing that we neglect other aspects of our life it isn’t healthy and that’s exactly what the person who needs blue vervain does. 

Because of their lop-sided passion, the vervain person may neglect to care for themselves physically in their zeal to follow their passionate ideals.  They may not get enough rest or exercise or even eat right.  As a result, they develop nervous exhausion from overstriving to achieve their goals or promote their cause. In other words, they aren’t just intense, they are tense!

Tension is not good for health and it’s not good for relationships either. Tension inhibits flow in the body and it also inhibits flow in our relationships with others. When tension and intensity are balanced with relaxation and flow, we have a state of grace.  Grace, gracefulness and gratiousness are itnerrelated states of being.  They alow the movements in our bodies and how we move through our social interactions to flow easily instead of being forced.

Both vervain (Verbena officinalis) and blue vervain (Verbena hastata) are remedies that relaxes tension and promote flow. The Latin name, officinalis, reflects the long standing use of blue vervain as a medicine. Officinalis in the Latin name indicates an herb is the “official” species used as a medicine.  Vervain has been used as a medicine in both Western and Oriental medicine for thousands of years.  It grows throughout Europe and in North Africa, China and Japan.  Like lobelia, it has been considered one of those “cure-all” plants.  Dioscorides (1st century AD) called it “sacred herb” because of its tonic and restorative properties.

Blue vervain has very similar uses. I think of blue vervain as a more gentle, restorative version of lobelia.  Lobelia has been called the “intelligent herb” because its tension relieving properties restore flow to obstructed areas of the body. This is what makes lobelia useful for so many conditions. Blue vervain has a similar intellegence and usefulness for a wide varity of condtions, but it also helps to restore a nervous system that has been depleted by long term stress.  This makes blue vervain a wonderful remedy to help people who are recovering from chronic illness or “burn-out,” situations in which lobelia would not be the best choice.

Blue vervain is bitter and stimulates digestion. Like lobelia it can be emetic (induce vomiting) in large doses, but it takes far more blue vervain than lobelia to create an emetic effect.  Blue vervain also helps bile flow and has been used for jaundice and gallstones. It is even a useful remedy for colds, flu and fevers, especially in children. When you have children who are cranky from tension and stress, or just from being sick and not feeling well, think blue vervain. 

Blue vervain’s antispasmodic action makes it useful for asthma and muscle cramps.  Because its action is be milder than lobelia, it is more suitable for long term use and for young children or debilitied people. Vervain can be used during labor to ease pain and aid contractions and it also increases breast milk production, so nursing mothers can also use it.  It’s tension-relieving properies are also useful for cramping and anxiety associated with PMS.

Edward Bach used vervain as one of his flower remedies for healing people on an emotional level. The flower essence helps people to learn to practice moderation and tolerance.  It helps them find more balance in life and “grounds” their idealism in a more practical and useful way, so they motivate people rather than “bowling them over.”

If you know someone who is suffering from tension and exhaustion from imbalanced, fanatical striving towards ideals, they’re a “vervain type.”  Give them either the blue vervain herb or the vervain flower essence to relax their nerves, rebuild their energy and help them learn to use their passion in a more positive and balanced way.

Selected References

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier
Flower Essence Repertory by Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz
The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine by Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph. D.
The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra
Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss

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