Verbena hastata L. (Swamp Verbena,Wild Hyssop, Simpler's Joy, Indian Hyssop)
One of my favorite and often used native plants is the beautiful Blue Vervain. It can be found gracefully swaying in the gentlest of breezes in many overgrown fields up and down the Kuyahoora Valley with its range covering the entire lower 48 states and into Canada. There are other members of the Verbena species, including one that is native to Europe(Verbena officinalis), but it is Verbena hastata that is most commonly used in practice by western herbalists. Matthew Wood references a civil war Dr. whom had tested several species and found Verbena hastata to be the "most powerful", although I have read of successful results when using many of the other species. When I have found it growing wild it has always been near ponds or wetland areas and, because of its thin, tall, slight appearance it is, at first, almost invisible to me growing alongside Boneset, Gravel Root and the invasive Purple Loosestrife.
Parts Used: The whole plant has been traditionally used, including the root and seeds, but the root can be very strong causing nausea so I stick to the leaves, flowers and soft stem(the stem that is easy to cut at the ends)
Qualities: Bitter, Dispersive, Cool to Neutral, Relaxing, Nervine, Diaphoretic, Digestive stimulant, Galactagogue; alleviates constriction and atrophy
I choose Blue Vervain to be second to none when it comes to muscle constriction caused by nervous tension especially in people who are intense by nature and overdriven. It's cool blue medicine eases and relaxes not just the musculature, but the soul and I, being of the nervous type myself, find it quite helpful about a half an hour before bed. It produces a calm, relaxed state of mind that allows my thoughts to ease their chatter from the day so that I may slowly drift off to sleep. It also seems to relax the tightness in my neck and shoulder which also contributes to a good night’s rest.
I have used this often with other people who are challenged by muscle soreness and pain due to either muscle tension or previous injuries especially when there is tightness at the nape of the neck. Blue Vervain is considered an antispasmodic and relieves spasm caused by overwork that is not so much physical in nature, but that is intellectual or mental activity with a perfectionistic tendency. This high intensity is more than the individual’s body can maintain and so produces a tension throughout the viscera causing the muscles to tense and knot. I see this plant as being appropriate for those of us who don't have the physical container or constitution to hold the nervous and mental energy we are inclined to create.
Blue Vervain is a tried and true menopausal and hot flash remedy appropriate for women who fit the constitutional picture of being intense and driven. Usually, in these cases, the intensity can be hormonally activated and more predominate during the second half of the cycle.
Blue Vervain has many other uses including reducing fevers by promoting sweating and cooling the exterior, speeding up sluggish digestion, and alleviating nausea or causing it if taken in too large of a dose. It can ease recurring depression or depression that arises after a debilitating illness. It restores nerve function including the capacity for synapse to occur appropriately and accurately thereby balancing serotonin and other calming, uplifting and pain relieving endorphins. It also has an anti-inflammatory and dispersive effect which makes it great to use as an infused oil on bruises, sprains, and strains.
Preparation and dosage: Vervain can be taken as a tea or a tincture. Large doses can make some people nauseous so I would suggest no more than one cup of tea 2-3 times per day or, if taking in tincture form to start with 1-5 drops and then increase as tolerated up to 20 drops 3x per day. I have read that the fresh tincture is more bitter than the dried so more likely to cause nausea at smaller doses, but I have never used anything but the fresh tincture and have no trouble taking 20 drops or sometimes even more at a time.
Cautions: The only cautions seem to be nausea if too much is taken, although this seems unlikely because it is sooo bitter no one would do this. There is also a caution during pregnancy. Large doses can be uterine stimulant, although Vervain has a history of use as a miscarriage preventative during the first trimester. I would probably suggest other calming nervines during pregnancy just to be on the safe side if someone is in their first pregnancy or has a history of miscarriage.
For more information:
The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood
The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Holmes
Indian Herbalogy of North America by Alma R.Hutchens
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech