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Vervain

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 May 17, 2019.

Clinical Overview

Use

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.

Dosing

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

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse reactions. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

No toxicology studies have been reported on vervain.

Scientific Family

  • Verbenaceae

Botany

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.1, 2

A different species in the verbena family, Aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena or lemon beebrush), is used to produce the essential oil of verbena known as vervaine.1

History

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.2, 3 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.3, 4, 5 Vervain is also considered an astringent, a bitter digestive tonic, and a diuretic.5 Traditionally it has been used in Spain as a topical hemostatic and antirheumatic, and it has been mixed with other herbs for thyroid dysfunction.2

Chemistry

The most characteristic chemical constituents of vervain are the iridoid glycosides verbenalin6 and hastatoside.7 Also prominent is the caffeic acid glycoside verbascoside, which is found in a number of other medicinal plants.8 Flavonoids, such as luteolin 7-diglucuronide have been isolated in vervain9 as have rsolic acid, sterols, and several related triterpenes.3, 10 Other iridoid glycosides, sterols, and littorachalcone have been found in related verbena species (Verbena litoralis and brasiliensis).11, 12, 13

The biosynthesis of the iridoid glycosides has been studied in detail.14 Several methods have been published for the analysis of vervain constituents. High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) with postcolumn derivatization was used to quantify iridoids, flavonoids, and phenolics.15 An HPLC separation with diode array detection was used to assay the same compounds in another study.16 Micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography with mass spectrometry was used to achieve a separation and characterization of several iridoids, including verbenalin.17

Uses and Pharmacology

Cancer

Animal data

The differentiation of a human adenocarcinoma cell line was induced by verbascoside, reducing the malignant phenotype.18 Verbascoside affected telomerase activity and telomere length, as well as inducing apoptosis in a gastric cancer cell line.19 A further experiment found that verbascoside counteracted muscle fatigue in an isolated tissue preparation.20 In vitro proapoptotic activity of the essential oil and of the constituent citral has been described.21 In mice, anti-tumor effects have been demonstrated for a Verbena officinalis extract.22

Clinical data

Research reveals no use of Verbena officinalis extracts in cancer.

CNS

Animal data

Anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, and sedative properties of Verbena officinalis have been demonstrated in rodents.23

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of verbena in CNS conditions.

Other uses

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.(2)

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.24 Other reports have shown verbenalin to be active in blocking 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol acetate-induced mouse ear edema and carrageenan-induced paw edema.25 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.3

In the isolated rat heart, verbascoside increased heart rate, force, and coronary perfusion, with a marked increase in cyclic AMP levels.26 A later study found an increase in prostacyclin levels, which may be responsible for the observed effects.27

Antioxidant effects of verbascoside have been demonstrated in several models, including radical scavenging28 and pulse radiolysis methods.29 Vervain essential oil was active in an antioxidant screen, although the oil is not expected to contain verbascoside.30

Modest antiviral activity against vesicular stomatitis virus, but not herpes simplex, at a high dose of verbascoside was observed.31 Antibiotic activity caused by an effect on protein synthesis and leucine incorporation was also found with verbascoside.32 Vervain flavonoids have been studied infrequently; however, a flavonoid fraction of vervain inhibited growth of several bacterial species at relatively high concentrations.33 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.34

Dosing

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.35

Pregnancy / Lactation

Documented adverse reactions. Avoid use.36

Interactions

In an in vitro model of an infant's GI system, infusions of vervain reduced the absorption of iron, especially at a high pH.37

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.38

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of vervain. No adverse reactions were noted in infants ingesting a tea of vervain and other herbs, but the trial sample size was too small to observe anything other than major events.3

Toxicology

No toxicology studies have been reported on vervain.

Index Terms

  • Aloysia triphylla
  • Lemon beebrush
  • Lemon verbena

References

1. Verbena officinalis L. USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, Oct 1, 2007). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
2. Lai SW, Yu MS, Yuen WH, Chang RC. Novel neuroprotective effects of the aqueous extracts from Verbena officinalis Linn. Neuropharmacology. 2006;50(6):641-650.16406021
3. Calvo MI. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity of the topical preparation of Verbena officinalis L. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(3):380-382.16723201
4. Guarrera PM, Forti G, Marignoli S. Ethnobotanical and ethnomedicinal uses of plants in the district of Acquapendente (Latium, Central Italy). J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;96(3):429-444.15619562
5. Owen N. Verbena officinalis L. Vervain. Br J Phytother. 2001;5:114-117.
6. von Karrer P, Salomon H. Verbenalin. Helv Chim Acta. 1946;29:1544-1554.
7. Rimpler H, Schafer B. Hastatoside, a new iridoid from Verbena officinalis and Verbena hastata (Verbenaceae). Tetrahedron Lett. 1973;17:1463-1464.
8. Bianco A, et al. Iridoid and phenylpropanoid glycosides from new sources. J Nat Prod. 1984;47:901-902.
9. Carnat A, Carnat AP, Chavignon O, Heitz A, Wylde R, Lamaison JL. Luteolin 7-diglucuronide, the major flavonoid compound from Aloysia triphylla and Verbena officinalis. Planta Med. 1995;61(5):490.7480218
10. Deepak M, Handa SS. 3α, 24-dihydroxy-urs-12-en-28-oic acid from Verbena officinalis. Phytochemistry. 1998;49:269-271.
11. Ono M, Oishi K, Abe H, et al. New iridoid glucosides from the aerial parts of Verbena brasiliensis. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2006;54(10):1421-1424.17015981
12. Li Y, Ishibashi M, Satake M, Oshima Y, Ohizumi Y. A new iridoid glycoside with nerve growth factor-potentiating activity, gelsemiol 6'-trans-caffeoyl-1-glucoside, from Verbena littoralis. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2003;51(9):1103-1105.
13. Li Y, Ishibashi M, Chen X,Ohizumi Y. Littorachalcone, a new enhancer of NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth, from Verbena littoralis. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2003;51(7):872-874.
14. Damtoft S, Jensen SR, Nielsen BJ. Biosynthesis of the iridoid glucosides cornin, hastatoside, and griselinoside in Verbena species. J Chem Soc Perkin Trans. 1983;1:1943-1948.
15. Calvo MI, San Julian A, Fernandez M. Identification of the major compounds in extracts of Verbena officinalis L. by HPLC with post-column derivatization. Chromatographia. 1997;46:241-244.
16. Deepak M, Handa SS. Quantitative determination of the major constituents of Verbena officinalis using high performance thin layer chromatography and high pressure liquid chromatography. Phytochem Anal. 2000;11:351-355.
17. Suomi J, Wiedmer SK, Jussila M, Riekkola ML. Determination of iridoid glycosides by micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography-mass spectrometry with use of the partial filling technique. Electrophoresis. 2001;22(12):2580-2587.11519962
18. Li J, Zheng Y, Zhou H, Su B, Zheng R. Differentiation of human gastric adenocarcinoma cell line MGc80-3 induced by verbascoside. Planta Med. 1997;63(6):499-502.9434599
19. Zhang F, Jia Z, Deng Z, et al. In vitro modulation of telomerase activity, telomere length and cell cycle in MKN45 cells by verbascoside. Planta Med. 2002;68(2):115-118.
20. Liao F, Zheng RL, Gao JJ, Jia ZJ. Retardation of skeletal muscle fatigue by the two phenylpropanoid glycosides: verbascoside and martynoside from Pedicularis plicata Maxim. Phytother Res. 1999;13(7):621-623.10548760
21. De Martino L, D'Arena G, Minervini MM, et al. Verbena officinalis essential oil and its component citral as apoptotic-inducing agent in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2009;22(4):1097-104. PMID: 20074474.20074474
22. Kou WZ, Yang J, Yang QH, et al. Study on in-vivo anti-tumor activity of Verbena officinalis extract. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2013;10(3):512-7. PMID: 24146482.
23. Khan AW, Khan AU, Ahmed T. Anticonvulsant, Anxiolytic, and Sedative Activities of Verbena officinalis. Front Pharmacol. 2016;7:499. PMID: 28066246.28066246
24. Deepak M, Handa SS. Anti-inflammatory activity and chemical composition of extracts of Verbena officinalis. Phytother Res. 2000;14(6):463-465.10960904
25. Recio MC, Giner RM, Manez S, Rios JL. Structural considerations on the iridoids as anti-inflammatory agents. Planta Med. 1994;60(3):232-234.8073089
26. Pennacchio M, Alexander E, Syah YM, Ghisalberti EL. The effect of verbascoside on cyclic 3′,5′-adenosine monophosphate levels in isolated rat heart. Eur J Pharmacol. 1996;305(1-3):169-171.8813548
27. Pennacchio M, Syah YM, Alexander E, Ghisalberti EL. Mechanism of action of verbascoside on the isolated rat heart: increases in level of prostacyclin. Phytother Res. 1999;13(3):254-255.10353173
28. Wang P, Kang J, Zheng R, et al. Scavenging effects of phenylpropanoid glycosides from Pedicularis on superoxide anion and hydroxyl radical by the spin trapping method(95)02255-4. Biochem Pharmacol. 1996;51(5):687-691.8615906
29. Li W, Zheng R, Su B, et al. Repair of dGMP hydroxyl radical adducts by verbascoside via electron transfer: a pulse radiolysis study. Int J Radiat Biol. 1996;69(4):481-485.8627130
30. Mantle D, Anderton JG, Falkous G, et al. Comparison of methods for determination of total antioxidant status: application to analysis of medicinal plant essential oils. Comp Biochem Physiol. 1998;121B:385-391.
31. Bermejo P, Abad MJ, Diaz AM, et al. Antiviral activity of seven iridoids, three saikosaponins and one phenylpropanoid glycoside extracted from Bupleurum rigidum and Scrophularia scorodonia. Planta Med. 2002;68(2):106-110.11859457
32. Avila JG, de Liverant JG, Martinez A, et al. Mode of action of Buddleja cordata verbascoside against Staphylococcus aureus. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;66(1):75-78.10432210
33. Hernandez NE, Tereschuk ML, Abdala LR. Antimicrobial activity of flavonoids in medicinal plants from Tafi del Valle (Tucuman, Argentina). J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):317-322.11025172
34. Grawish ME, Anees MM, Elsabaa HM, Abdel-Raziq MS, Zedan W. Short-term effects of Verbena officinalis Linn decoction on patients suffering from chronic generalized gingivitis: Double-blind randomized controlled multicenter clinical trial. Quintessence Int. 2016;47(6):491-8. PMID: 26824082.26824082
35. Gruenwald J, ed. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Medical Economics Company;2000:804.
36. Newall CC, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
37. Zaida F, Bureau F, Guyot S, et al. Iron availability and consumption of tea, vervain and mint during weaning in Morocco. Ann Nutr Metab. 2006;50(3):237-241.16508250
38. Miyazawa M, Sugie A, Shimada T. Roles of human CYP2A6 and 2B6 and rat YP2C11 and 2B1 in the 10-hydroxylation of (-)-verbenone by liver microsomes. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31(8):1049-1053.12867494

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This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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