Herbal Nerd Society Exclusive Article
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata) is often used as nervine, anti-inflammation agent, analgesic and a sedative. It largely has iridoid glycosides to thank for its effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. Blue vervain shares these compounds with other Verbena species including vervain (Verbena officinalis) which has been the focus of the majority of Verbena species medicinal research.
Iridoid glycosides are fairly common in plants. So far almost 600 types of these compounds have been found in 57 plant families. Medicinally speaking, most of them that have been studied, show some kind of anti-inflammatory effect. In scientific literature, the term is often shortened to iridoid once the full name of the compound has been introduced. In the Verbena species, the iridoids that seem to be most significant are verbenalin, verbascoside and hastatoside. These are the focus of recent animal studies which display and increase in length of time of deep sleep by increasing rapid eye movement.
Iridoids at Work
To put it very simply, iridoids inhibit enzymes of the arachidonate “cascade” (starting a messaging process) in the nervous system which reduces pain and stifles the inflammation response. Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid in our brain, muscles and liver that serves a signal system for inflammation. Iridoids stop the arachidonic acid from telling the rest of the body to send more blood to troubled area. By keeping this process reduced, our brains refocus their attention to the job at hand, keeping the nerves at ease.
More research is needed on iridoids. At the time, our bodies appear to use these compounds to soothe the brain, reduce muscle tension and protect the liver. It is easy to see why iridoid glycoside rich herbs like blue vervain are an important part of an herbalist’s pharmacopoeia. As with all herbal medicine, herbalists utilize a combination of effects from the wealth of chemical constituents as they interact with each other and the chemicals with our own bodies.
Counter-Indications for Blue Vervain
There isn’t enough information to know if blue vervain is safe to use if you are pregnant or breast feeding without first consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner.