Blue Vervain is an often overlooked yet beloved North American wetlands herb. It’s European cousin, Verbena officinalis, has enjoyed a place in Traditional Western Herbalism as a nervine and neuro trophorestorative occasionally used to treat gallbladder and liver dysfunction as well as the early stages of fever. Many Modern North American Herbalists, such as Matthew Wood and 7Song, describe Blue Vervain as having a more potent affect than V. officinalis. Both are currently minor players in the pantheon of popular herbs for anxiety, depression, and related nervous system conditions. In truth, our modern culture probably ought to boost Blue Vervain to center-stage. Blue Vervain’s talent for assisting in the recovery from states of exhaustion has been well-documented.
Where does Blue Vervain Grow?
Verbena hastata, aka Blue Vervain, is sometimes called Swamp Vervain. It loves wetlands and moist places, like river banks and the edges of streams. It can grow up to five or six feet (1.5-1.8 m) when the soil is loamy and moist and it’s got full sun exposure. As 7-Song describes, you’ll often see Eupatorium perfoliatum and Scutellaria lateriflora (Boneset and Skullcap) growing in Blue Vervain’s company. If you’re planting Blue Vervain, look for a sunny spot that’s easy to keep well-watered. It’ll grow well from seed, root divisions, or cuttings. Blue Vervain’s roots are rhizomes and stem is square, like those of the mint family, but the double-lip of it’s flower differentiates it from the mints. Blue Vervain is a perennial that can happily withstand winters as harsh as Minnesota can dish out. You won’t need to shelter it if you get cold, dark, long winters.
One of the keys to planting a successful patch of Blue Vervain is to stratify the seeds before you plant them. This will help improve your germination rates. Blue Vervain seeds prefer a cool-temperature period before germination. Pack your nursery pots with moist soil and sprinkle the Blue Vervain seed on top of them, then keep them at coolish temperatures for three months to stratify your seeds. Be sure to keep them moist for the duration. Folks in cool-climates can keep them in the garage or outdoors in a sheltered location. If you’re living in a warmer climate, the refrigerator is a good choice. Once you’ve established a healthy planting, your Blue Vervain will likely reseed annually.
Now I’ve grown it, what do I do with it?
Harvest the aerial parts, or tops, of Blue Vervain once it’s flowered. You’ll use the leaves and flowers but discard the stems. (See 7-Song’s video on Blue Vervain for Harvesting tips.) Dry the leaves and flowers as you normally would. A dehydrator is my favorite, although tying bunches together and hanging them can work as well. You want a crispy, green leaf with a mild, bitter scent when you’re done.
Once you’ve gathered and dried a Blue Vervain, you’ll want to use it. Most folks use Blue Vervain in teas sparingly. It’s fairly bitter and can easily overwhelm your blend. Many folks prefer to include Blue Vervain in tincture blends, where a slightly higher dose is more palatable and it’s easier to take often. For tips on incorporating Blue Vervain in your next formulation, take a look at Sue’s Clinical Formulation for Blue Vervain article.
Blue Vervain can cause nausea and vomiting in large doses. Pregnant women should use caution when using Blue Vervain; in high doses Blue Vervain may induce miscarriage, although in low doses it can be protective against miscarriage
- Northwest Weeds: The Ugly and Beautiful Villains of Fields, Gardens, and Roadsides
- The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-Making Guide
- “Herbal Endocrine System” Support by Maria Noel Groves
- Blue Vervain by Friends of the Wildflower Garden Inc
- USDA Plant Fact Sheet: Blue Vervain
- 7-Song’s video on Blue Vervain
- Growit Buildit’s video on Starting Blue Vervain from Seed