What is blue vervain?


Plant Database

Reveal, James L.

Verbena hastata

Swamp Verbena, Blue Verbena, Blue Vervain, Simpler’s Joy

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Simpler’s-joy or blue verbena is a 2-5 ft., stout-stemmed perennial with numerous, pencil-like flower spikes branched upwards like the arms of a candelabra. Each flower spike has a ring of blue-purple flowers; the flowers at the bottom of the spike bloom first, and the ring of flowers appears to advance upward to the tips of the spike. Stiff, pencil-like spikes of numerous small, tubular, blue-violet flowers are at the top of a square, grooved stem and its branches. An attractive perennial, it has flowers on showy candelabra-like spikes. Bumblebees are among the important pollinators. In ancient times the plant was thought to be a cure-all among medicinal plants and the genus name is Latin for sacred plant. Hoary Vervain (V. stricta), to 10 feet (3 m) tall and with flowers 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) long, is most abundant in the Midwest and occurs sporadically eastward. Narrow-leaved Vervain (V. simplex), has narrow leaves and lavender flowers 1/3 of an inch (8 mm) long; it is a southwestern and midwestern species.

This species is a member of the verbena family (family Verbenaceae), which includes about 75 genera and 3,000 species of herbs, shrubs, and trees, mostly of tropical and warm temperate regions. Among them, teak is a highly prized furniture wood, and Vervain, Lantana, Lippia or Frog Fruit, and Chase Tree or Vitex are grown as ornamentals.

From the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Biennial
Habit: Herb
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Blue , Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: N.S. to B.C., s. to FL, KS, NM & CA
Native Habitat: Moist prairies; damp thickets

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Not Available


Use Wildlife: Attracts bees.
Use Medicinal: This plant has been used for many years as a medicinal herb for treating convalescents and people suffering from depression, headaches, jaundice, cramps, coughs and fevers. Externally, it has been applied to wounds, ulcers and acne. Swamp vervain can, however, interere with blood pressure medication and hormone therapy, and large doses cause vomiting and diarrhea. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Common Buckeye

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Common Buckeye
(Junonia coenia)
Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Propagate from seed.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Seed requires cool-moist stratification for 30 days. After stratification, seeds can be incubated at from 60-80 degrees in the presence of light.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status


This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241).Click herefor map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The – Valhalla, NY
Native Seed Network – Corvallis, OR


Bibref 1186 – Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 – Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 – Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 841 – Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 1294 – The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Verbena hastata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Verbena hastata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Verbena hastata


Record Modified: 2019-12-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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Vervain Family (Verbenaceae)

Other Names:

false vervain, hastateleaf vervain, ironweed, purvain, Simpler’s-joy, swamp verbena, wild hyssop.

Origin and Distribution:

Blue vervain is native of North America. BLUE VERVAIN is common in the eastern part of the U.S. and rare west of the Mississippi. Its range includes all of Ohio. The species is found in meadows, pastures, ditches, and shores. It prefers gravelly or heavy loam soils and grows mainly on low ground and other moist places.

Plant Description:

Blue vervain is an upright perennial. Among the characteristics it shares with other vervain species are small flowers consisting of 5 united petals in the form of a slender tube with a flared top. Flowers are located in dense spikes at the end of square stems. Fruits are nutlets that separate into 4, single-seeded sections and remain attached to the spike. Characteristics distinguishing blue vervain are its lance-shaped leaves, blue flowers, compact spikes, and fruits packed so tightly on the stem that they frequently overlap. It reproduces by seeds and spreads by short rhizomes (horizontal underground stems).

  • Root System:

    Roots are fibrous. Adventitious roots arise early from the base of the stem.

  • Seedlings and Shoots:

    Young leaves have hairs on the upper surface, edges, and veins on their lower surface. Leaves emit a mushroom-like odor when bruised. Young leaves and stems are often purple-tinged.

  • Stems:

    Stems are 2 to 7 feet tall, erect, square, coarsely grooved, covered with short hairs, and branched near the top. Stems often appear purplish.

  • Leaves:

    Leaves are opposite (2 leaves per node), 2 to 6 inches long, lance-shaped, serrated around the edge, and rough textured.

  • Flowers:

    Flowers are about 1/8 inch across and usually blue (rarely pink). They consist of 5 petals that are united forming a slender tube with a flared top. Stiff, pencil-like spikes of numerous small flowers form at the ends of stems and axillary branches. A few flowers bloom at a time, with the location of the open blossoms progressing steadily toward the tip of the spike.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    Spikes are crowded with overlapping fruits that separate into 4 linear nutlets. Nutlets are reddish-brown, single-seeded, and have a ridged surface.


BLUE VERVAIN flowers in June through September.


None known.

Facts and Folklore:

  • Vervain was very popular in European folklore. People wore necklaces of the flowers as charms to cure headaches, prevent snake bites, and bring general good luck. Priests and Druids were said to use it during rites and incantations

  • The plant was discovered on the Mount of Calvary, where it was used to dress the wounds of crucified Jesus Christ.

  • When medicines were in short supply during the Revolutionary War, doctors used vervain as an emetic and expectorant with favorable results.

  • Nearly 200 species in the genus Verbena are found in the New World. Many of these species have been hybridized and cultivated by New World inhabitants.

Vervain Herbal Information: Learn How To Grow Vervain Herb Plants

What is vervain? Vervain is a robust, drought-tolerant herb that grows wild throughout much of North America. Vervain herb plants are valued for their many beneficial qualities and have been used medicinally for thousands of years. In fact, some people believe vervain herb plants carry supernatural qualities, while others consider it a holy plant. Read on to learn about growing vervain herbs in your own garden.

Vervain Herbal Information

Vervain belongs to the genus Verbena – the friendly little annual found in many flowerbeds. While garden verbena is a sub-tropical plant, Vervain is native to Southern Europe and most likely found its way to the New World with early settlers.

Vervain is a spreading plant that displays stiff, erect stems and reaches mature heights of 12 to 36 inches. Narrow spikes of tiny, blue flowers appear from early summer until autumn. Vervain, which grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, doesn’t tolerate extreme cold or heat.

What are Vervain Herb Benefits?

Vervain leaves or roots are often brewed into tea or used as a poultice to treat a number of maladies, including the following:

  • Gum problems
  • Menstrual cramps and other “female” problems
  • Depression, anxiety and mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Respiratory problems, including colds, bronchitis and sore throats
  • Elimination of toxins
  • Snake bites
  • Headaches
  • Kidney disorders
  • Difficulties with lactation
  • Wounds and inflammation
  • Digestive disorders

Growing Vervain Herbs

Vervain herb plants grow well in full sun, but the plant tolerates partial shade. Well drained soil is a necessity.

The best way to get started growing Vervain herbs is to plant seeds directly in the garden in late summer or early fall. You can also start seeds in spring following a two-week stratification period.

Water regularly until the seedlings are established, which generally takes about a month. Thereafter, Vervain is relatively drought-tolerant but benefits from occasional irrigation during hot, dry periods.

You can also find Vervain plants ready for planting in spring. Look for the plant at garden centers that specialize in herbs. Alternatively, start Vervain by taking cuttings from established plants.

Common Vervain Varieties

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

10 Wonderful Benefits of Blue Vervain

The most important health benefits of blue vervain include its ability to stimulate the liver, soothe the nervous system, detoxify the body, reduce depression and stress, eliminate pain, lower inflammation, protect the immune system, and alleviate chest congestion.

What is Blue Vervain?

Throughout North America, you can find small patches of purple flowering plants commonly known as blue vervain. However, the scientific name of this well-known herb is Verbena hastata and is also known by the name swamp verbena. These plants are quite robust and are able to resist drought, making them very reliable sources of this powerful herb.

The organic constituents in the leaves, roots, and flowers possess certain qualities that are beneficial for human health. Blue vervain has been used for thousands of years and is not limited to North America. Even the Romans used verbena (another common name) to treat a variety of medical conditions, and the flowering herb was also a popular remedy among the Native Americans. The herb is primarily used now by herbalists and traditional medicine practitioners.

It can be consumed in the form of a warm infusion of leaves, roots or flowers, most easily accomplished as a tea. The unique composition of the acids and phytochemicals in blue vervain is responsible for the surprisingly potent and fast-acting effects of this herb and is the reason for its popularity to this day.

Health Benefits of Blue Vervain

Let’s take a closer look at the numerous health benefits of blue vervain.

Detoxifies the Body

One of the oldest and most reliable uses of blue vervain is as a diuretic, as it stimulates the release of urine from the body. It can help eliminate toxins from the system, as well as excess water, salts, and fat. It also helps protect the kidneys and the liver by reducing the presence of dangerous substances and toxins that accumulate there. If you have a bladder infection, blue vervain can be a highly effective remedy.

Relieves Symptoms of Respiratory Disorders

If you regularly suffer from chest congestion, colds, chronic bronchitis, sore throats or respiratory inflammation, blue vervain tea can be a simple and pleasant means of clearing up your tracts and eliminating irritation. Coughs and colds from Rome to California have been cured with blue vervain, as it also acts as an expectorant, helping to expel mucus and phlegm that have accumulated in the respiratory tracts.

Beautiful and mesmerizing blue vervain flower Photo Credit:

Keeps Nervous System Healthy

The soothing properties of blue vervain can effectively treat a number of ailments, including nervous disorders, chronic anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. Sometimes, our body’s release and management of hormones are less than optimal, and over time, this can cause significant health problems. A cup of blue vervain tea can calm our nerves and re-balance hormone levels, ensuring that our body can rest.

Provides Relief from Depression

Blue vervain has commonly been turned to in the past for people suffering from depression and unpredictable moods. This relaxing and uplifting herb can promote positive thinking, stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and improve your mood by clearing your mind of worry.

Anti-parasitic Activity

Although intestinal worms and parasites aren’t as common as they used to be before proper food preparation guidelines and health advanced, the anti-parasitic nature of blue vervain is still relied on in some cultures and situations. The natural anti-parasitic nature of the herb means that you can eliminate or prevent the growth and development of any worms or parasites in your intestines, thereby protecting your digestive health.

Eases Menstruation

For women who suffer from severe periods, blue vervain can be a blessing. It has been known to reduce cramps and general discomfort, primarily for women who are bloated and cramping. Its effects on mood and depression can also soften the symptoms of menstruation, while its help in the regulation of hormones will keep you balanced and functional.

Oral Health

The tannins present in blue vervain make it a very effective way to protect your overall oral health. Whether you have bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, bacterial infections, or any other unhealthy aspect of your oral health, blue vervain tea can quickly clear it up. Tannins function as antioxidants to promote healing and prevent further degradation to the tissue.

Breastfeeding Mothers

Some women struggle to produce enough milk for their baby, and this is completely natural in many cases. However, blue vervain can help stimulate the production of milk in the breast, ensuring that your baby has all of the nutrients it needs in that crucial period of growth.

Reduces Pain & Inflammation

Blue vervain can act as a powerful analgesic. It seems to be particularly effective in arthritic pain and the pain from kidney stones. The organic compounds present in blue vervain can numb certain areas and stop the pain from registering in those nerves, thereby giving you some relief. The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb are the perfect complement to this pain relief, as it will also reduce swelling and inflammation, such as in cases of gout, arthritis, or inflammation in the gastrointestinal system.

Word of Caution: There are not many reports of side effects from blue vervain or verbena supplements, but upset stomachs occasionally occur. Also, when used in larger concentrations, such as in medicinal supplements, mild skin rashes may also appear. As with any herbal remedy, it can interact with certain medications and other treatments, so it is always wise to speak with a doctor before adding it to your regimen.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). Ithaca, NY


This is an update to a blog I wrote many years ago.

I want to start off by saying I think Blue vervain is one of the prettiest plants of our region, especially in large stands blooming over a wetland expanse.

I have been using Blue vervain as a medicinal plant for many years and consider it a safe, non-sedating nervine, beneficial as a long-term tonic for anxiety and for feeling overwhelmed.

The focal plant of this blog is Blue vervain, but it will also cover some of its close relatives including those that have been used in a similar medicinal manner.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). Ithaca, NY

Botanical Notes

Blue vervain and the other plants in this blog are in the Verbenaceae (Vervain family). Due to taxonomic revisions, some plants have been moved from this family into the Lamiaceae (Mint family) including Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus).

  • Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus, Lamiaceae)
  • Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus, Lamiaceae

There are two main groups of Vervains in the US. Some of these can be visually separated based on their inflorescences (flower tops). The ‘Mock vervains’ often have a flat-topped inflorescence and are in the genus Glandularia. The ‘True vervains’ are in the genus Verbena which often displays a spike-like inflorescence. The true taxonomic differences between these two genera are more complex.

Medicinally, the Verbenas are the ones more commonly used medicinally, though some herbalists also use plants in the genus Glandularia.

Glandularia species (formerly Verbena)

  • Desert vervain (Glandularia wrightii). Big Bend, TX
  • Mock dakota vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida). Superior, NM
  • Mock vervain (Glandularia gooddingii). Coronado NF, AZ
  • Mock dakota vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida). Reserve, NM

Other Interesting Plants in the Verbenaceae

There are other attractive and interesting genera in the Verbenaceae. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is one of my favorite tea plants, with a best-of-lemony flavor. Another tasteful one is Aztec sweet herb, also known as Hierba dulce (Phyla dulcis), which has a very sweet tasting leaf due to a sesquiterpene as opposed to a sugar, so it does not raise blood sugar levels or cause tooth decay. Blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) is a pan-tropical plant with many medicinal uses. And who can resist the purple allure of Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)?

Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), Aztec sweet herb (Phyla dulcis, with white flowers), Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana with purple fruit), Lantana (Lantana camara with red and yellow flowers), Blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, whole plant with small blue flowers).

Other Verbena Species

Blue vervain seems to be the most common Verbena species currently used medicinally, though many other species are used by Indigenous Nations and with other folks where Blue vervain does not grow.

  • White vervain (Verbena urticifolia). Monongahela NF, WV
  • Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta). Perch Lake County Park, MN
  • Narrowleaf vervain (Verbena simplex). Monticelloa, KY
  • Hairy vervain (Verbena pumila). Big Bend, TX
  • McDougals vervain (Verbena macdougalii). Grand Canyon NP, AZ
  • McDougals vervain (Verbena macdougalii). Grand Canyon NP, AZ
  • Seashore vervain (Verbena litoralis). Monteverde, Costa Rica
  • Tall vervain (Verbena bonariensis). Rt 1, CA.

European Vervain (Verbena Officinalis)

European vervain, or known simply as ‘Vervain’ has a long history of use in the UK for both medicinal and magical uses. I planted a few plants some years ago, and since then, each year a few come up between the flagstones (see photos). What is surprising is that while they do not get very big, they survive getting stepped upon on a regular basis. Tough little plants they.

I have used it similarly to Blue vervain but not nearly as often. I inquired among my herbalist friends how they use it, and here are some of the ways they employ it.

There are many medicinal similarities between V. officinalis and V. hastata, as they share similar uses concerning anxiety, agitation and tension. It is used as a general nervine for anxiety, and a long-term tonic for people who hold onto ideals or thoughts too strongly, making any sort of change difficult. Like Blue vervain, it can help quiet the mind especially if taken regularly.

European vervain is also used for PMS and menopausal symptoms including headaches, irritability and mood swings. Another use is for people who have disturbed sleep and to help them relax into a more peaceful sleep.

It has an association with the Druids and has long been used as a sacred herb in rituals and for protection.

Wildcrafting and Processing Blue Vervain

Blue vervain grows in a variety of habitats, though I most often see it in wetland environments, especially in marshes and alongside streams and ponds. While it is not uncommon, it tends to grow in scattered populations and restraint should be used when gathering these plants. Look for large stands and gather only limited amounts from each area. Generally, just the leaves and flowering tops are used, though I gather the whole plant from the base rather than cutting pieces off individual plants, which may leave them more prone to disease. Gather the plants just before and at the height of their flowering (in botany speak, this is called ‘anthesis’).

If drying the plant, I suggest using a dehydrator set to 95°F. Blue vervain tends to turn brown pretty easily, but if you dry the leaves and flowers quickly, they will hold some of their color longer. If drying on a tarp, or another similar method, dry inside in a sunny area so that dries quickly.

Once dried and properly stored, they maintain their medicinal qualities for about 3 years.

Blue Vervain comparison

Blue Vervain Preparations

I generally use Blue vervain in tea and tincture form. The tea is quite bitter, so I suggest going light when preparing it this way. Or prepare it with less bitter plants such as Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), Damiana (Turnera diffusa) or Rose (Rosa spp.).

To prepare a tincture, you can either use fresh or dried Blue vervain leaf and flowering tops. You can see by the below photo, that the quality can vary a lot when preparing medicines, so either gather and dry it yourself or find a good source of quality plant material.

I prepare the fresh plant tincture at 1:3 in 80% ethanol and the dried tincture at 1:4 in 50% ethanol. I have not tried glycerites or other forms of this medicine yet.

Blue vervain flowers caught in a Blue vervain leaf. Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). Ithaca, NY

Medicinal Uses of Blue Vervain

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata) is commonly used for emotional and psychological well-being, especially for conditions relating to anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. This plant is a nervine, an herbal tonic that can be taken over a period of time to nourish the nervous system. It can also be taken as needed for acute anxiety, but its strength lies in its long-term nervous system affects.

Below are examples for those whom this plant may be helpful. But these are just illustrations and hopefully don’t limit anyone wanting to try it, especially since it is well tolerated and non-sedating.

Blue vervain can be helpful for people who feel perpetually stressed-out and may describe themselves as having frayed nerves or being tightly wound with an inability to relax.

Anxiety can be divided into two subtypes. The non-Blue vervain type: when anxious, thoughts become very scattered or one’s mind may go blank, making it difficult to make any decisions. Anxiety may bring mental fragmentation and an inability to focus. The Blue vervain type: when anxious, as when plans change abruptly, this person may become very focused and controlling and start telling everyone what to do. \

It can be difficult for them to be a good listener due to a full mind or too latched onto a specific idea to alter it in any way. Verbena hastata may also be helpful for people who have difficulty falling asleep due to active thoughts, rampant ideas, continual list-making, or plotting revenge while trying to fall asleep. Another trait is having contingency plans for their contingency plans for their contingency plans. Over-planning can make it difficult to adapt to any changes that may occur. A classic Blue vervain type are people who are habitual list makers and only feel satisfied when they have crossed everything off their daily list only to start a new one, ad infinitum.

Many of the above descriptions share similar characteristics often associated with emotional and mental health. Please use these as concepts rather than hard facts when deciding when to use Blue vervain medicinally.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). Ithaca, NY

Combinations with Other Plants

Blue vervain combines well with other nerve tonics, anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) plants and sleep aids. Some other plants that help with the ‘nerves’ and anxiety include Rose flower and buds (Rosa species), Damiana (Turnera diffusa), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Wild oats (Avena sativa) and Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum).
The sleep aid plants include Hops (Humulus lupulus), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and Kava kava (Piper methysticum). This group of plants is generally more sedating and so it may be better to take them at night or in lower doses during the day

Damiana (Turnera diffusa, small shrub with yellow flowers, Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, small green plant with no flowers), Beach rose (Rosa rugosa in bud), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata, purple flower), Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum, many plants with purple spikes), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca with crinkly green leaves) Wild oats (Avena sativa, many picked green grass tops).

Dosages for Blue Vervain

Tea-since Blue vervain is bitter, it is helpful to pair it with more tasteful nervine plants such as Tulsi and Rose. Infuse this tea by pouring 1 quart of hot water over approximately 1 ounce of tea and letting it steep for about 10 minutes. Rose honey can be added for both it’s medicinal value and of course, the flavor.

Tincture-as a long term tonic, it is usually mixed with other nervines (see ‘Combinations’) and taken 2-4 times a day. If the tincture is only Blue vervain, take 1-2 ml (1/2-1 dropperful) per dosage. If mixed with stronger sedative herbs such as Hops, using a smaller dose may be a better daytime choice depending on one’s sensitivity to the herbs.

If the tincture is taken for anxiety a stronger dose of 2-4 ml (1 to 2 dropperfuls) can be taken as often as needed. The plant is generally non-sedating.

At first, an individual may not notice a difference in how they feel, but in a few weeks they may feel that they have better control from feeling overwhelmed or find that they react less strongly to triggers, both internal and external. I haven’t seen many negative reactions to this plant medicine, though for some people it does not help.

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). Ithaca, NY Field with Blue vervain. Ithaca, NY

Blue Vervain Handout

This is a link to a printable Blue vervain handout

Blue vervain in autumn

End Notes

Blue vervain is one of my favorite plants for the emotional rigors of the modern world: The incessant input of information and the quick responses that are expected of us.

Plants and other medicines are only a part of the way we can cool our thoughts and regain our emotional composure. There are numerous other techniques such as taking walks and allowing one’s mind to drift into their surroundings. Having intimate conversations with trusted friends. Playing. Hot baths with a good book. I think each of us has our own emotional release valves and these along with a good bitter cup of Blue vervain, Tulsi, Damiana with a little Rose honey can make the challenges we face more bearable.

Please leave any thoughts, comments or questions below. Thank you for reading through this blog, ~7Song

7Song gathering Blue vervain around Ithaca, NY

Is The Vampire Diaries’ Poison Vervain For Real?

Today’s post is brought to you by Vampire Diaries’ latest storyline. If you have been watching then you know what’s going on with Damon, Stefan and the vervain. If you are like me then you were probably thinking “is vervain actually a poison used against vampires like in the show?” Well, I did some research and it turns out that back in the day it was in fact used against vampires. Kudos to the writer for doing research.

Vervain, also known as herb-of-the-cross, ma bian cao, pigeon’s grass, verbena and more, is a pretty common plant that can be found in North America, South America and even Europe, among other places. The use of vervain in folklore is pretty common; it was believed to have many supernatural and divine purposes. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that vervain was used to staunch Jesus’ wounds after his removal from the cross, which is how is got its holy nickname. Even the ancient Romans believed that it was a sacred herb and used it to sanitize their homes and temples. The ancient Celtic Druids also believed the plant was sacred. So, it’s pretty clear this plant was well known and used by many for many supernatural reasons.

Now to the vampire part; in some legends it is used to ward nasty lil’ vampires. You could do this by mixing it in some herbal tea and drinking it, by simply keeping the plant near you or putting some vervain oil into your bath. It was also used in some charms, like the necklace in Vampire Diaries. Not only was it used to keep the blood suckers away but it was also used to keep them out of your head, once again, like in the show.

So as you can see, the show wasn’t off on this one. Who would have thought that a vampire drama show could be educational.

– Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).

 Vervain – Verbena Officinalis

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the vervain plant verses the verbena plant. Actually it is exactly the same plant.

The official name for vervain is verbena officinalis, but it is commonly known as vervain. Both names are used about this plant.

This herb is found all around the world. Vervain is a slim plant that may grow to be about 80 cm (32 in) tall.

It has tiny pale lilac flowers. The stem is square-like. The leaves are hairy and grow in opposite sequences.

It is a hardy perennial and self-sows. It grows freely in the wild and is often to be found along roadsides and in dry or stony grounds.

The whole plant may be used.

Leaves are used to make tea. The flowers are sometimes used to flavor salt.

Vervain Health Benefits

Vervain as a medicinal herb is mostly used as tea. The taste is bitter.

Vervain tea is known for its qualities to ease tension and stress. Drinking the tea may help you relax. Vervain tea is mild and is not used for insomnia problems.

This is good for people who are overworked. Some prefer to pour some vervain tea into their bath water.

Vervain is diuretic. The tea increases the need to urinate. Maybe it is not a good idea to drink too much before going to bed.

Vervain is said to improve liver and gall bladder functions.

Vervain may stimulate the production of breast milk. Nursing mothers are from time to time recommended to drink a cup of the tea.

It is used to help women with irregular menstruation periods due to stress and women experiencing cramps and pain during menstruation.

Pregnant women should not use vervain. During labor a cup of the tea may facilitate contractions.

Drinking vervain tea in extensive amounts may cause nausea.

Vervain in Legend and Folklore

Vervain has been considered a magical and sacred herb in many different cultures throughout the centuries.

The name “verbena” means altar plant. In Ancient Rome this herb was sacred. It was used on the altar in the temples. Vervain twigs were bundled and used to sweep the altar.

The name “vervain” comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen; “fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”.

The name was given because it earlier was told to be a good treatment for treating kidney stones.

Vervain was a considered a sacred and very powerful herb both by the Druids and the Romans.

Some spoke of vervain being magical; by rubbing vervain on the skin your wishes were to be granted if you recited a secret spell.

Vervain in the home was thought to protect against lightning.

During the Middle Ages vervain was carried for good luck.

Superstitious belief flourished that “vervain hanged around the neck will bring marvelous and unhoped help”.

Some believed the superstition that vervain buried in the garden would bring prosperity.

Even though vervain had the power to ward off witches, the opposite was also said. Witches were believed to use vervain in their evil brews and spells.

The powers of vervain were supposedly very dependent on how the herb was used and who used the herb.

Vervain was also considered to have romantic powers and very useful to keep handy when courting.

When people still believed in vampires drinking the tea was recommended for protection.

In Ancient Egyptian mythology it was told the vervain was sacred to the goddess Isis.

When Isis cried vervain would grow wherever her tears hit the ground. Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.

Osiris was murdered by the evil god Seth and his body cut into fourteen parts and scattered around the country.

Isis was devastated, but set out to recover the body parts of her husband.

Isis certainly had reason to cry.

She did manage to recover the body parts (except the penis which had been swallowed by a fish) and Osiris ended up ruling the Underworld supervising the judgment of the dead.

The goddess Isis had both healing and magical powers. It was told that she taught the humans how to cure illness.

In Christian legend it is told the vervain grew in Jerusalem. This very special herb was used to stop the bleeding of Jesus when he was crucified. An old charm demonstrates this legend:

Hallowed be thou Vervain, as thou growest on the ground

for in the mount of Calvary there thou was first found.

Thou healedst our Savior Jesus Christ, and staunchedst his bleeding wound,

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,

I take thee from the ground.”

That necklace, it contains an herb called vervain. It protects you from being compelled. I wanted to protect you from Damon’s influence. But I also wanted to…Protect you from me.
— Stefan to Elena about vervain in Lost Girls

Vervain is a potent herb and a vampire’s most well-known weakness. If a vampire makes physical contact with vervain in any form, it will burn them. If a vampire ingests vervain, the vampire’s throat and digestive tract will be burned and they will become feverish and extremely weak. If a human ingests or holds vervain somewhere in or on the body (e,g, holding it in a hand or pocket, wearing it in jewelry), the human is protected from vampire compulsion.


During the Middle Ages, the family that would eventually go on to become the Original Family of vampires, who lived in Europe, was hit by a devastating plague. The plague was believed to have caused the death of the family’s first born daughter, Freya, though she was taken by Esther’s sister, Dahlia, as payment for a fertility spell for Esther to have more children. To escape the plague, the family, along with several friends and neighbors, moved to the New World (what would eventually become known as Mystic Falls) to start a new life in the place where they had heard the people were healthy, strong, and gifted with speed and strength (otherwise known as the werewolves). The family, composed of parents Mikael and Esther, and the children whom they had after moving to their new home (Finn, Elijah, Niklaus, Kol, Rebekah, and Henrik) enjoyed years of tranquility and peace between themselves and their native neighbors in their village. Unfortunately, the youngest child of the family, Henrik, was mortally wounded by a werewolf when he and Niklaus snuck out to go see the werewolves transform into wolves on a full moon, and he ultimately died.

Vervain of the white oak tree

Distraught and desperate to protect their family from any more deaths, Esther and Mikael begged Esther’s close friend and mentor, a witch named Ayana, to use her magic to turn her family into vampires, using a modified version of the the Immortality Spell. Ayana refused, reminding Esther that their duty as witches was to uphold the balance of Nature and warning her that their plans would result in a plague upon the earth, which would result in the Spirits turning against her. However, she and Mikael were so determined to protect their children that Esther performed the spell without Ayana’s assistance. Mikael fed his children wine laced with the blood of the doppelgänger Tatia before he killed them by stabbing them in the heart with his sword. When they awoke in transition, he forced them to feed on the human blood of a villager to complete the ritual. According to Rebekah, the benefits were indescribable, but casting the spell was a “betrayal” against Nature itself, and, as Ayana had warned, Nature defended itself against the undead in several ways: preventing them from entering places owned by humans without invitation; making them vulnerable to sunlight; making human blood their utmost desire; weakening them against both the wood from the great white oak tree, as well as the vervain flowers that grew at the tree’s base.

Uses For Vervain

Vervain is used to stop vampires from compelling humans. Its negative effects on vampires are a result of Nature’s attempt to create a weakness for every strength that a vampire gained after being turned. Humans who ingest vervain also have the added benefit of making their blood unappealing to vampires as a result of the weakness and burns it causes; however, most vampires are unable to tell if a human has been ingesting vervain unless they are somehow able to smell it on them, so it does not always ensure that a human is completely safe from vampire attacks. Another use for vervain is for it to be used as a weapon against vampires that can weaken and/or wound them enough to be easily captured or killed.


  • Put it in your food and drinks
  • You can carry it by:
    • Holding it in your hand/pocket
    • Putting it in your bag
    • Wearing it in jewelry
  • Wearing it as a perfume
  • In the novels, some people bathed in it

In Mystic Falls, many residents wear or ingest vervain as a way to protect themselves from the large vampire population. The main people who push its use are the Founding Families (e.g. the Town Council). They are so persistent that at one point, they even put vervain in the town’s water supply, which meant the water was unusable by any vampires in the area. While the water supply was infused with vervain, the vampires in the Mystic Falls Gang took showers at the Salvatore Boarding House, as they had their own water system that had no vervain in it.

The availability of vervain in Mystic Falls has fluctuated over the course of the town’s history. At one point, Zach Salvatore was the only person in town who had a steady supply, as he grew it himself. Vervain became more plentiful in the town until Pastor Young and his reformed Town Council blew up Pastor Young’s ranch with the entirety of the town’s vervain supply inside, causing a shortage. It wasn’t until Bonnie’s father Rudy Hopkins became mayor of the town and put vervain in the water supply that vervain became more readily available again.

In many episodes, vervain was used as a weapon against vampires to keep them weakened and sedated. But, some vampires have been known to ingest vervain in small, but steadily increasing doses in order to build up a stronger tolerance for it to protect them from vampire hunters and others who seek to use it against them. For example, Katherine admitted to taking small amounts of vervain every day for 145 years to ensure that she would never be caught off-guard by its use again. Once it was revealed that Original vampires could compel regular vampires, Stefan, Damon and Caroline began also taking small amounts of vervain to keep them from being compelled.

People wearing and consuming vervain

  • Elena Gilbert wore a necklace, given to her by Stefan, which had a pendant filled with vervain on it. She also, on occasion, ingested vervain in drinks before she was turned into a vampire.
  • Jeremy Gilbert wore a bracelet with vervain in it, but later gave it to April when he became a hunter, who are immune to compulsion. The bracelet was made by Stefan and given to him by Elena. He also drank tea with vervain in it.
  • Jenna Sommers wore a perfume that contained vervain, which was made by Stefan and given to her by Elena. She also drank vervain tea.
  • Trudie Peterson drank vervain tea, which she also served to Elena when the latter visited Trudy’s home to learn about her mother.
  • Alaric Saltzman drank vervain.
  • Carol Lockwood wore a charm bracelet with vervain in one of the charms.
  • Members of the Founder’s Council either consume or wear vervain, as well as many of the Sheriff’s deputies.
  • Caroline Forbes wore a vervain necklace until she became a vampire. When she was turned into a vampire, the vervain started burning her, so she stopped wearing it. The necklace was made by Stefan and given to her by Elena.
  • Connor Jordan wore gloves soaked in a vervain-infused liquid in order to identify vampires when he shook his hand. If the person’s hand burned when he shook their hand, he knew they were vampires and would promptly attempt to kill them.
  • April Young wears a vervain bracelet given to her by Jeremy, which he gave her to protect her after he felt bad about how often she was being compelled by vampires.
  • Matt Donovan was at one point taking vervain, as well as slipping it into the coffee at the Mystic Grill, when he had just begun learning about vampires and was wary about socializing with them. He stopped ingest after Elena first turned and could only drink human blood so that she could feed on him. He then began wearing a vervain bracelet instead of consuming it, just in case one of his vampire friends needed his blood in case of an emergency.
  • Camille O’Connell, after the liberation from Klaus’ subjugation, began to drink vervain on a regular basis, to be sure to be free from compulsion.
  • Peter Maxwell wore a watch that contained vervain, which was given to him by Matt.

Vampires Immune to vervain

  • Katherine Pierce had been drinking vervain every day for 145 years in order to develop an immunity to it.
  • Damon Salvatore began drinking vervain every day after he learned that Katherine had done the same to develop an immunity. It was shown that his tolerance to the herb began to increase when he was attacked by Stevie, and later by Meredith Fell. He then continued ingesting vervain after the Original vampires came to town to prevent them from compelling him. However, once Pastor Young destroyed the town’s vervain supply in his suicide, Damon was unable to continue ingesting vervain and his tolerance to it began to decrease.
  • Stefan Salvatore also drank vervain to try and build up an immunity. After Pastor Young destroyed the town’s vervain supply in his suicide, Stefan’s immunity began to decrease as well.
  • Marcel Gerard was seen directly ingesting vervain. He reasons that as the one responsible for running New Orleans, it is ideal for him, as a leader, to keep his vulnerabilities at a minimum. This was likely both to ensure it couldn’t be used against him, as well as to prevent himself from being compelled by the Originals after they returned to town.
  • Lorenzo St. John developed an immunity, as result of being constantly injected with vervain for over 70 years during his torture at the hands of Augustine. He demonstrated his immunity when he was injected with vervain by Tripp Cooke and was able to recover within seconds.


  • In 1864, Pearl’s Apothecary sold vervain elixirs to the townspeople. A few years later, they had stopped selling vervain.
  • The Founder’s Council used vervain to protect people from vampires. Zach Salvatore was their supplier, until Damon Salvatore killed him. Damon then took over as the main supplier of vervain in town in order to better convince the Council that he wasn’t a vampire.
  • When ingested, vervain causes a vampire to become severely weak and feverish, often to the point of unconsciousness. If a vampire’s skin is exposed to vervain, it results in burns, although it is less severe if the vampire has a tolerance to it.
  • Vervain also protects humans from being compelled when it is consumed or worn.
  • Katherine Pierce was the first known vampire to develop an immunity to vervain, after drinking it in laced fluids for over a century. In the episode The Descent, both Damon and Stefan began taking small doses of vervain, so they too could develop an immunity. In the episode both Crying Wolf (while being attacked by Stevie) and in the episode The Ties That Bind (when attacked by Meredith Fell), Damon showed signs of resistance to vervain, which implied that he has already begun to develop a sense of immunity.
  • Older vampires seem to be more resistant vervain’s physical effects, as Elijah’s burns from a vervain grenade that exploded in his face healed within seconds. This could also be because he is both an Original vampire and one of the oldest vampires at 1,000+ years of age, and, as such, heals at a much faster rate.
  • Alaric Saltzman invented two types of weapons, which involved vervain. The first was a dart in which the vervain was held and it would inject whichever vampire was stabbed with it directly into their bloodstream; the second is the vervain bomb, a sort of grenade made from a jar full of vervain-infused liquid, which explodes like a regular grenade and showers the vampire in vervain extract and broken glass, burning their skin and incapacitating them temporarily due to the increased severity of their injuries.
  • Bill Forbes and Atticus Shane cannot be compelled even despite the fact that they aren’t on vervain. Bill Forbes claims that it is a skill he learned after decades of practice and compared the brain to a muscle that becomes stronger the more it is used. Atticus Shane claims to have picked up the skill on his travels around the world with mystical and magical people. There are also other supernatural creatures who cannot be compelled at all, such as (triggered) werewolves, witches, and members of the Brotherhood of the Five.
  • As no vampire has been shown to die from vervain exposure, it’s implied that it simply weakens them, rather than killing them.
  • “Vervain” is the title of the first The Vampire Diaries: Digital Comic trilogy.

  • In Dead Man on Campus, vervain was shown to be used in vapor form for the first time. Dr. Wes Maxfield created a safety feature in the lab where he experimented on vampires that involved pushing a button on the wall, which released atomized vervain extract into the air in such a large quantity that Damon was incapacitated instantly and lost consciousness within seconds.
  • In The Other Girl in New Orleans, Freya Mikaelson mentioned that she had injected Tristan de Martel with a mixture of hibiscus flower and mugwort in order to counteract any vervain in his system. This was the first time that an herbal antidote to the effects of vervain has been revealed to exist.
  • Vervain is also called herb-of the cross, pigeon’s grass, verbena, and Ma Bian Cao, literally horsewhip grass. It is supposed to help treat anxiety, stress, and nervous tension. It also has anti-depressant properties and stimulates digestion.
  • The Egyptians associated the plant with their goddess, Isis.
  • Vervain is a sacred herb for the Celtic Druids, just like mistletoe is.


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