Verbena officinalis. N.O. Verbenaceae.
Synonym ► Verbena hastata.
Habitat ► Waste places and on roadsides, particularly near buildings.
Features ► The tough, wiry, quadrangular, many-branched stem averages eighteen
inches high. Roughish, pinnately-lobed, serrate leaves grow distantly and opposite in pairs ; the upper ones clasp the stem. while the lower ones are stalked. Small, light lilac-coloured flowers bloom in May, along thin, wiry spikes. Very bitter in taste, a slightly aromatic odour is given off when rubbed.
Action ► Nervine, tonic, emetic and sudorific.
The herb was held in high repute by those who brought the Thomsonian system to this country. Coffin, writing ninety years ago, says ► “As an emetic it ranks next to lobelia ; it is also one of the strongest sweating medicines in nature. It is good for colds, coughs and pain in the head, and some years ago was highly esteemed as a remedy for consumption. As an emetic it supersedes the use of antimony and ipecacuanha, to both of which it is superior, since it not only produces all the good effects ascribed to the others, but it operates without any of the dangerous consequences that ever attend the use of antimonial preparations, and cramps, and even death have been known to follow their use. . . . Vervain will relieve and cure those complaints in children which generally accompany teething; it likewise destroys worms. Administered as a tea, it powerfully assists the pains of labour ; as a diuretic it increases the urinary discharge.”
The ounce to pint infusion is now used, and taken in wineglass doses. As a nervine, Scullcap and Valerian are usually added.