Verbena officinalis

Verbena Family [Verbenaceae]  

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6th July 2006, Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
About three feet tall.

6th July 2006, Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Any branches are mostly near the top emerging upwards at 45 degrees to the main stem. The upper stem is mostly bereft of leaves save for two that emerge below the branch.

6th July 2006, Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, North Wales Photo: © RWD
Flowers in opposite pairs near the tip of each shoot.

6th July 2006, Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Stems are square, reddish on two opposite sides, greenish on the other, with very short fine hairs. Flowers are pinkish white with five petals.

6th July 2006, Great Ormes Head, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Leaves are reminiscent of those of Mugwort, deeply lobed with rounded ends.

Distinguishing Feature : a rather straggly bush-like plant with stiff square stems, and a spike of 5-petalled pale-lilac flowers held closely to the stem on short stalks. Has very few branches, those it does have emerge in pairs at 45 degrees upwards near the top of the stem.

Although there are hundreds of garden plants in the Verbena family, Vervain is the only one that makes an appearance in any Wild Flower book. Vervain is a native plant of India and there it has long been associated with traditional treatments as a relaxant, nerve tonic, galactogogue, diaphoretic, anti-spasmodic and hepatic. The Chinese use Vervain for migraine and female sex hormone fluctuations. Many of the compounds found in Vervain shown below are thought to be responsible for these actions.

In many parts of Europe the methanol extracts of aerial parts of Vervain (which contain Verbenalin, Hastatoside, Verbascoside and β-Sitosterol-D-glucoside) are used to treat the early stages of fevers, colds and nervous disorders as well as tooth decay and halitosis.


Vervain contains Verbenol, a pleasantly smelling terpene that has chemical similarities to that of Myrtenol contained within Bog Myrtle. It is valued as a food flavourant, and has also been utilised (together with Myrcene and Exo-brevicomin [neither of which are produced within Vervain) as a pheromone attractant for male mountain beetles. Verbenol exists in two isomeric forms, cis- and trans- verbenol which themselves can exist in differing stereo-isomeric forms, the (S) and (R) enantiomers.


A herbal tea made from Vervain has traditionally been used for the treatment of insomnia and other nervous conditions. The active principles responsible for these pharmacological effects are the glycosidic iridoids Verbenalin and Hastatoside, which Vervain contains. Both increased the amount of non-REM sleep after being administered to patients at night time. Both also increased the delta-wave activity in the brains during the non-REM sleep. Glc is an abbreviation for the monosaccharide Glucose In addition, Verbenalin exhibits uterine stimulant activity and has a direct action on smooth muscles. It is used as a drug by the veterinary profession.


Vervain also contains two glycosides of phenyl-propanoids, Verbascoside and Eukovoside. Verbascoside , as its name suggests, was first found in Verbena. These, as well as Aucubin (aka aucuboside), are thought to possess galactogogue and emmenogogue actions. Eukovoside, a phenylethanoid glucoside, also occurs in Eyebright.

  Verbena officinalis  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Verbenaceae  

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Verbena officinalis

Verbena Family [Verbenaceae]  

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