Scientific Name(s): Verbena officinalis (L.) Wettst.
Common Name(s): Enchanter's plant, Erba croce, Erba dei tagli, Herb of grace, Herb of the cross, Juno's tears, Pigeon's grass, Pigeonweed, Prostrate verbena, Verbena, Vervain, Yerba de Santa Ana
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 8, 2022.
Vervain has been used for many conditions, including stimulation of lactation and treatment of dysmenorrhea, jaundice, gout, kidney stones, and headache; however, there are few clinical trials of vervain or its components.
There is no clinical evidence to support specific dose recommendations for vervain. Traditional use for its astringent properties required 2 to 4 g daily in an infusion.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Documented adverse reactions. Avoid use.
None well documented.
Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.
No toxicology studies have been reported on vervain.
Vervain is a slender perennial plant with small, pale lilac flowers borne on leafless spikes. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean region but has been widely cultivated throughout eastern Europe, North Africa, China, and Japan.(Lai 2006, USDA 2022)
A different species in the verbena family, Aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena or lemon beebrush), is used to produce the essential oil of verbena, also known as vervaine.(USDA 2022)
The name verbenae was originally used in ancient Roman times to describe all plants used on altars for their aromatic qualities. Legend has it that Jesus' wounds were attended to with vervain after his removal from the cross. Vervain is listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China.(Calvo 2006, Lai 2006) The aerial parts have been used traditionally for many conditions, including stimulation of lactation and treatment of dysmenorrhea, jaundice, gout, kidney stones, headache, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.(Calvo 2006, Guarrera 2005, Owen 2001) Vervain is also considered an astringent, a bitter digestive tonic, and a diuretic.(Owen 2001) Traditionally it has been used in Spain as a topical hemostatic and antirheumatic, and it has been mixed with other herbs for thyroid dysfunction.(Lai 2006)
Vervian is a rich source of iridoids, phenylpropanoid glycosides, phenolic acids, flavonoids, terpenoids, and essential oil.(Kubica 2020) The most characteristic chemical constituents of vervain are the iridoid glycosides verbenalin(von Karrer 1946) and hastatoside.(Rimpler 1973) Also prominent is the caffeic acid glycoside verbascoside, which is found in a number of other medicinal plants.(Bianco 1984) Flavonoids, such as luteolin 7-diglucuronide have been isolated in vervain(Carnat 1995) as have ursolic acid, sterols, and several related triterpenes.(Calvo 2006, Deepak 1988) Other iridoid glycosides, sterols, as well as littorachalcone have also been found in related verbena species (Verbena litoralis and brasiliensis).(Li 2003, Li 2003, Ono 2006)
Uses and Pharmacology
The differentiation of a human adenocarcinoma cell line was induced by verbascoside, reducing the malignant phenotype.(Li 1997) Verbascoside affected telomerase activity and telomere length, as well as inducing apoptosis in a gastric cancer cell line.(Zhang 2002) A further experiment found that verbascoside counteracted muscle fatigue in an isolated tissue preparation.(Liao 1999) In vitro proapoptotic activity of the essential oil and of the constituent citral has been described.(Liao 2009) In mice, anti-tumor effects have been demonstrated for a V. officinalis extract.(Kou 2013)
Anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, and sedative properties of V. officinalis have been demonstrated in rodents.(Khan 2016) It was concluded that a V. officinalis aqueous extract at a dose of 200 mg/kg could have an antidepressant effect in adult rats.(Bekara 2020)
An aqueous extract of verbena prevented extracellular accumulation of beta-amyloid peptide, a factor considered to trigger neuronal death in Alzheimer disease. Decreased destruction of neurites and decreased neuronal apoptosis were also observed.(Lai 2006)
The anticonvulsant effects of the aerial parts of V. officinalis extracts in mice was demonstrated. These effects may be related to potentiating the GABAergic system.(Rashidian 2017)
The anti-inflammatory activity of a vervain extract and several fractions in a carrageenan paw edema model was reported; however, specific triterpenes, iridoids, and phenolics isolated were not bioassayed to identify which were active.(Deepak 2000) Other reports have shown verbenalin to be active in blocking 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol acetate-induced mouse ear edema and carrageenan-induced paw edema.(Recio 2004) In comparison with piroxicam gel, a 3% preparation of 50% methanolic verbena extract produced better anti-inflammatory results, while the same preparation had less analgesic activity than methyl salicylate ointment.(Calvo 2006)
In the isolated rat heart, verbascoside increased heart rate, force, and coronary perfusion, with a marked increase in cyclic AMP levels.(Pennacchio 1996) A later study found an increase in prostacyclin levels, which may be responsible for the observed effects.(Pennacchio 1999)
The antioxidant effects of verbascoside have been demonstrated in several models, including free radical scavenging(Wang 1996) and pulse radiolysis methods.(Li 1996) Vervain essential oil was active in an antioxidant screen, although the oil was not expected to contain verbascoside.(Mantle 1998)
Modest antiviral activity against vesicular stomatitis virus, but not herpes simplex, at a high dose of verbascoside was observed.(Bermejo 2002) Antibiotic activity caused by an effect on protein synthesis and leucine incorporation was also found with verbascoside.(Avila 1999) Vervain flavonoids have been studied infrequently; however, a flavonoid fraction of vervain inhibited growth of several bacterial species at relatively high concentrations.(Hernandez 2000) Methanol extracts (80%) of the leaves from V. officinalis showed good in vitro antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella typhi.(Sisay 2019)
The efficacy of a verbena extract in reducing gingivitis was compared with placebo in a clinical trial (n=260), with reductions in plaque and gingival indices reported.(Grawish 2016)
One study demonstrated that 80% methanol root extracts of V. officinalis given to mice, produced promising antidiarrheal activity which supports the acclaimed traditional use of the plant material for treatment of diarrheal diseases.(Sisay 2019)
There is no recent clinical evidence to support specific dose recommendations for vervain. Traditional use for its astringent properties required 2 to 4 g daily in an infusion.(Gruenwald 2000)
Pregnancy / Lactation
Documented adverse reactions. Avoid use.(Newall 1996) Evidence-based toxic effects on the reproductive performance of pregnant female rats and dose-dependent risk potentials to the fetuses have been observed. Glycosylated flavonoids such as apigenin and luteolin could be responsible for reported prenatal developmental toxicity.(Fateh 2019)
In an in vitro model of an infant's GI system, infusions of vervain reduced the absorption of iron, especially at a high pH.(Zaida 2006)
Verbenone, a constituent of vervain, was demonstrated to be converted via CYP-450 2A6 to 10-hydroxyverbenone. It is unclear if the metabolite is active, inactive, or toxic.(Miyazawa 2003)
Little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of vervain exists.
No human toxicology studies have been reported on vervain. However, an aqueous extract of V. officinalis has shown mutagenic effects against different strains of Salmonella, as demonstrated by the Ames test. However, no in vivo clastogenic and myelotoxic effect on the bone marrow micronucleus of rats was noted. This suggests that the benefits of using V. officinalis in traditional practice should outweigh risks.(Fateh 2019)
- Aloysia triphylla
- Lemon beebrush
- Lemon verbena
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