Blue Vervain has become one of my staple relaxant remedies over the years and is the perfect remedy for some common patterns in our overworked and burned-out culture. You can use Blue Vervain for a full spectrum approach to alleviating tension, whether that be psychological or a stiff neck. This herb acts as the conduit between your nervous and musculoskeletal systems, so you feel a sense of relief not only in the mind but in the body as well.
In today’s blog post, you’ll learn:
- The significance of the bitter and acrid tastes and their effects on the body and nervous system
- Blue Vervain’s unique effects on the nervous, musculoskeletal, and female anatomical reproductive systems as well as the febrile mechanism, liver, and neck
- The emotional and psychological indications for Blue Vervain
- Blue Vervain’s correspondence to Venus, “the great relaxant”
- How to prepare a palatable medicine with this bitter herb
- A formula using Blue Vervain for stress, burnout, and overwhelm
Blue Vervain has a long traditional usage in European herbal medicine and was considered a sacred plant to the druids. This plant has some very unique psycho-spiritual indications that aid in planetary and elemental imbalances culminating in the body and mind. It is one of the very best relaxant remedies available in the Western Materia Medica, and as you will learn, this property translates to nearly every aspect of the way it works in your body and mind.
Common name: Blue Vervain
Latin name: Verbena hastata
Tastes: Bitter, Acrid
Affinities: Nervous, musculoskeletal, and female anatomical reproductive systems, febrile mechanism, liver, neck region
Actions: Nervine sedative, antispasmodic, bitter tonic, relaxant diaphoretic, emmenagogue
Energetics: Relaxant, cooling, drying
Blue Vervain tastes bitter. Now when I say bitter, I mean so bitter it can induce nausea in large quantities. For this reason, you would not want to brew an infusion with it as it would be extremely difficult to drink. Like many bitter plants, Blue Vervain sends a shiver down your spine, alluding to its grounding effects on the vital force. This downward bearing action corresponds to many of Blue Vervain’s medicinal properties.
The second taste associated with Blue Vervain is acrid. Although I like to think of this flavor as the combination of bitter and sour, Matthew Wood succinctly describes it as “the sensation of bile in your throat.” If you’re unfamiliar with this flavor, think of other acrid plants like Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), Kava-Kava (Piper methysticum), and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). This taste indicates that the medicinal plant is antispasmodic. This action calms excess physiological tension, ultimately leading to affinities in the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
Blue vervain acts as a mediator between the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. By decreasing excess psychological tension, Blue Vervain softens musculoskeletal tension, which is often exacerbated by stress and anxiety. The opposite is true as well, for when we are physically more relaxed, our mind tends to calm down as well.
Blue Vervain has a unique affinity for the back of the neck and “the shoulders and up.” This makes it a valuable remedy for stiff shoulders, TMJ, and a sore neck. Blue Vervain relaxes tension in the liver, making it specific for headaches. More specifically, it works well for tension headaches that start in the back of the neck and radiate to your forehead. This plant is a valuable remedy for people with tension headaches since it supports the liver and the head, thereby addressing the root cause of the headache while alleviating painful symptoms. Illustrating another affinity for the head, Blue Vervain was traditionally used for epileptic seizures that started at the nape of the neck and moved downward. Nowadays, you would want to seek professional care in the case of a seizure, but the historical usage of Blue Vervain is consistent in its application for matters of the head.
With its relaxant quality, Blue Vervain is an excellent herb for the female anatomical reproductive system and is used for many menstrual-related complaints, such as amenorrhea, cramping, and anxiety. This herb can alleviate physical and psychological tension associated with the preceding and first few days of menses. Although this application is less common, you can use Blue Vervain for spasms and pain in the urinary system in the case of kidney stones and similar conditions.
Because of its relaxant properties, Blue Vervain is a valuable remedy for the febrile system. This “system” describes the body’s process of circulating the blood to the periphery and opening the pores to induce a sweat during a fever. As mentioned before, Blue Vervain affects the liver because of its bitterness. However, it also impacts the gallbladder and entire digestive system by stimulating gastric secretions and bile for the healthy assimilation of fats and oils while encouraging elimination as well.
In my opinion, the root of Blue Vervain’s medicinal virtue is as a nervine sedative. Herbs in this group differ from nervine hypnotics in that you can comfortably use them throughout the day without feeling tired. In fact, Blue Vervain can support you at school or work by regulating your nervous system and helping you feel calm enough to sit and focus for long periods. Just as it relaxes tension in the mind, Blue Vervain eases constriction and tightness in the musculature. As an antispasmodic, Blue Vervain relaxes the smooth muscles, which surround the organs, and skeletal muscles, which comprise most of the musculature in the body.
It’s quite common that plants with sedative properties for the nervous system will also relax the musculature. This is because muscle fibers are innervated by the nerves, so when the nervous system excessively “fires” the muscles tend to tense and cramp. Relax the nerves and you tend to relax the muscles as well.
Another way Blue Vervain’s relaxant effects translate to its medicinal properties is through its relaxant diaphoretic action. Diaphoretics are herbs you would use during a fever. There are two different types of diaphoretics; stimulant and relaxant. Stimulant diaphoretic herbs are typically hot, spicy, and pungent and work by directing the blood flow to the skin surface to relieve internal heat. You would typically use these in the beginning stages of a fever or when someone is pale and feeling cold. Relaxant herbs, on the other hand, are used when someone is feverish, hot, and tense. However, they cannot produce a sweat because the pores and capillary beds are contracted. People who need relaxant diaphoretics experience pain, can’t sleep, and may thrash around in irritability as the psychological and physical tension couple. This depiction is the perfect illustration for when you would want to use Blue Vervain. With its relaxant diaphoretic properties, it relaxes the pores of the skin and capillary beds beneath the skin so that the circulation can rise to the surface and produce a sweat, thereby relieving the internal heat of a fever. Blue Vervain is a specific for fevers that will not break and is the choice herb when other diaphoretics don’t work.
As mentioned earlier, Blue Vervain is a strong bitter herb. Because of this, it improves digestion through increasing gastric secretions and bile, thereby enhancing the assimilation of fats and oils and encouraging elimination. By supporting the liver in its detoxification process, Blue Vervain prevents a “hot liver” pattern from developing and prevents tension headaches from occurring at the very core. Blue Vervain’s bitter tonic action also lends it an emmenagogue property that can facilitate healthy menstruation and alleviate menopausal symptoms. Blue Vervain is a specific remedy for hot flashes and is one of the best remedies you can use to relieve them. If we consider all of these actions combined, it makes sense it would be supportive for hot flashes, for it cools down a hot liver, relaxes the pores and capillary beds, and calms psychological tension.
Blue Vervain is relaxant, cooling, and drying. You can see Blue Vervain’s relaxant property in virtually every aspect of its medicinal actions – from its ability to ease tense muscles to calming an irritable mind. Since it is bitter in taste and action, this lends it a particularly cooling effect energetically. Finally, because the bitterness of Blue Vervain increases secretions which ultimately leave the body, it has a net drying effect. Although Blue Vervain is deemed a drying plant in the Western model, the Chinese model states that Blue Vervain protects the fluids when “the yin is not holding down the yang.” This pattern describes a scenario where the internal heat is raging out of control because there are insufficient fluids, or moisture, to contain it.
In the Ayurvedic model, Blue Vervain is a specific remedy for vata since this dosha is prone to tension in the body and mind. If you look at Blue Vervain, you might notice that the plant looks tense! This thin and spindly plant has narrow flower heads that point to the top. Altogether, a very vata-looking plant. Blue Vervain’s relaxant and antispasmodic properties help balance vata. However, the cooling and drying nature can aggravate this constitution over time. For this reason, it may be best to pair Blue Vervain with a warming or moistening plant to balance these energetics if you intend on administering this herb for a prolonged period.
Blue Vervain is very helpful for pitta dosha as well since this constitution tends to run hot and can burn themselves out. The bitterness of the plant helps to cool their excited systems down while its relaxant property soothes an agitated mind. Blue Vervain is a specific remedy for when the fire and wind elements combine to create a negative feedback loop or when “there is a fire beneath the wind.” This can look like nervousness and anxiety leading to a high drive, burnout, and exhaustion.
From the physiomedicalist perspective, Blue Vervain balances the wind/tension tissue state. This pattern can be boiled down to two words: elevated vata. When there is wind/tension, there is psychological and mental tension combined with cramping and pain. Through Blue Vervain’s relaxant effects, it balances this tissue state and leads to greater balance.
Psychological and Emotional Aspects
Although herbalists make flower essences using all sorts of herbs these days, Blue Vervain was one of the original Bach flower essence remedies. This herb has a specific indication for people with mental excess, who get stuck in their head, think too much, and are extremely driven. Despite feeling burned out and exhausted, the Blue Vervain archetype keeps pushing forward. In the words of Matthew Wood, “Blue Vervain is for the avid list maker.” This person always has their to-do list and is adding yet another item to it. They tend to be really hard on themselves, and because they have such high ideals, they end up being hard on others since they expect to live up to the nearly impossible standards they set for themselves. This pattern commonly leads to conflict in relationships. “Rest” is an unspoken word, and the burnout they feel leads to psychological and physical tension with patterns of nervousness, anxiety, and exhaustion.
I like to think of the Blue Vervain person as someone with an excess of wind and fire. Their minds are running a million miles a second with all the stuff they have to do, all of which is striving towards some lofty goal or accomplishment. They don’t take care of themselves and might push themselves past their limits… perhaps fueled by an excess of caffeine, which surely doesn’t help their situation. That excess of wind fuels the fire, and the fire whirls the winds, and a vicious cycle begins until they just completely burn themselves out. In this way, it is the perfect remedy for the overworked and burned-out.
Astrologically, I place Blue Vervain under the domain of Venus. You can view this correspondence with its dainty and graceful morphology, relaxant effects on the wind/tension tissue state, affinity for the female anatomical reproductive system, and overall softening influence on the mind and body.
Venus is known as “the great relaxant” in medical astrology. When you have an excess of Venus in your chart or constitution, your tissues may be overly lax and leak fluids, tending towards the damp/relaxation tissue state. Alternatively, your muscles may be tight and contracted if you have a Venus deficiency. With its antispasmodic actions, Blue Vervain works as a sympathetic venusian remedy to ease tension in the body and mind.
Since the Blue Vervain archetype is so rigid, they can struggle quite a bit in their relationships since they tend to project unrealistic ideals onto the people in their lives. Additionally, they can have difficulty accepting people for how they are instead of how they want them to be. Since Blue Vervain is ruled by Venus, the planet of relationships, it can introduce a sense of ease and relaxation into the way you relate to others.
Lastly, Blue Vervain is a specific remedy for the female anatomical reproductive system and supports menstrual and menopausal complaints. In a way, you can see that Blue Vervain is a Venusian remedy that balances an excess Mars. This is exemplified with its cooling and relaxant effects on fevers, psychological irritation, hot flashes, and the ability to mellow out fiery and driven dispositions prone to exhaustion.
Blue Vervain is distinctly ruled by the Air Element – something you can observe through its morphology, herbal actions, energetics, and tissue state affinity. Morphologically, Blue Vervain is tall, skinny, and spindly. The upward movement of this plant indicates its psychological application for mental excesses, such as too much thinking, rumination, and mental stress.
Blue Vervain is a nervine sedative with a clear effect on the mental and psychospiritual faculties. An interesting doctrine of signatures that allude to this property is Blue Vervain’s purple flowers, which are associated with the top of the head, crown chakra, brain, mind, and general higher centers. You can also see its correlations to the Air Element through its ability to modulate excess Wind (or vata) in the body and mind through its relaxant and antispasmodic effects, as well as its affinity for the nervous system.
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Growing Blue Vervain
Blue Vervain is in the Verbenaceae family and is native to North America. This medicinal herb grows well in cool climates and can be found in parts of the United States and Canada. Verbena officinalis is natural to Europe and has a longstanding history there as well. Blue Vervain has a thin square stem and flowers that gather into a narrow cone-like shape at the top. This plant is beautiful, hardy, and easy to grow- making it the perfect medicinal herb to add to your garden.
You can grow Blue Vervain from root cuttings or seeds. If you prefer to use the root, you should wait until the fall to cut the plant back and divide the roots for future propagation. If you would rather grow Blue Vervain from seeds, you should grow them in the early spring so that they can receive a cold stratification. This helps “wake” the seeds up and prime them for healthy growth later in the season. Because Blue Vervain self-seeds, you will likely find flowers popping up around your garden the following year.
The medicinal parts of Blue Vervain are the aerial leaves and flowers. To prepare a plant medicine using Blue Vervain, simply pick off the leaves and flowers and proceed with your preparation.
Because Blue Vervain tastes so bitter, you are best off preparing it into a tincture to increase client compliance. You can tincture Blue Vervain fresh or dry. However, if you prefer to dry the plant, ensure it does not get too hot, or the medicinal compounds will degrade and lose their potency. For this reason alone, I prefer to tincture Blue Vervain fresh.
To prepare a fresh Blue Vervain tincture, use 60% alcohol. To tincture it dry, use 40-50% alcohol. Because it is a nauseant bitter, it can upset the stomach in large doses. While not toxic, it can lead to mild gastric upset. If this occurs, simply lower the dosage. Blue Vervain is an emmenagogue herb, and thus is contraindicated during pregnancy.
From its tall and rigid stance in the garden to its acrid taste and antispasmodic actions, Blue Vervain provides you with lots of signals that it is helpful for a particular pattern: tension.
Whether you struggle with mental rumination, a tense and frozen neck, or the inability to slow down and rest, Blue Vervain teaches you that you do not have to work until your tank is empty. Rather, it is with a full cup that you are able to experience the daily joy and peace life has to offer, all while reaching your goals.
Overwork and Stress Tincture Formula
20% Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
20% Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
20% Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
20% Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
20% Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
This formula combines mild adaptogenic plants that help restore the vital force along with specific nervines that regulate the nervous system to increase calm and relaxation.
Blue Vervain, Chamomile, and Agrimony settle tension and nervousness, while Ashwagandha and Shatavari replenish the endocrine system and strengthen vitality. This formula is indicated for when you feel burned out, exhausted, and tired out by a busy mind and busy life. Take 30 drops 3 times a day and adjust dosage as needed.