Blue Vervain – Verbena Hastata: Tranq of Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

Does anyone know an Anishinaabemowin word for blue vervain? This edible and medicinal plant is highly valued for its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system. Ontario’s native blue vervains are pollinator friendly beauties.

Finding blue vervain in the wild around Haliburton was uncommon when Haliburton Flora was compiled, but I have seen numerous small wild patches so it might have gotten an upgrade to common. Much rarer is narrow-leaf vervain, verbena simplex. Both are gorgeous native plants and beneficial species for pollinators. The Europeans brought a species over to North America too – verbena officinalis. It’s easy to tell apart from our native verbana. I found no trace of the European species in Haliburton Flora. Across the pond it’s the holy herb of the Greeks and druids.

Blue Vervain – Verbena Hastata
Blue Vervain – Verbena Hastata

Edible Uses of Blue Vervain

The leaves are edible and may be made palatable when parboiled. The edible flowers can be used as a garnish or in salads.

Both the flowers and leaves are used to make tea.

Medicinal Uses of Blue Vervain

Blue vervain is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary
  • Nervous
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Antispasmodic, Astringent, Diaphoretic, Emetic, Expectorant, Nervine, Sedative, Vermifuge and Vulnerary. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a nervine for the anxious overthinkers among us. Like St. Johns Wort it has also been utilized for depression. The aerial parts are harvested when flowering and dried. The rootstalk is used medicinally as well. Officinalis is generally the species that is cited.

But that is just the start of this “holy” plant. All the typical astringent usage applies. It’s used to expel worms. It’s used in herbal mixes for epilepsy both in humans and animals. And I’ve heard it’s an antidote to poke and poison oak poisoning, but I haven’t substantiated that.

Narrow-leaf Vervain (Verbena Simplex)
Narrow-leaf Vervain (Verbena Simplex)

Alternative Uses of Swamp Verbana

It’s commonly recommended for pollinator gardens and loved by many bees, flies, butterflies and moths. The first species I planted for pollinators were blue vervain and bee balm, and they are both doing well. Both native varieties are available at places like ONPlants.ca.

Growing Wild Hyssop

The seeds can be planted outdoors in late autumn and plants can be bought from native plant nurseries in spring or late summer. They prefer full sun and moist soil. Mine has done well in a container separate from my prolific scarlet bee balm. Volunteers have popped up in its near vicinity.

ONplants.ca presently (June 2021) has the narrow leaved species that prefers dry and sandy or clay loom. I’m adding it to my list of fall seeds to Johnny Appleseed on bare roadsides before invasive plants move in. When I get that list to more than a few, I’ll post it as a separate article.

Warnings

Can interfere with blood pressure medication and hormone therapy.

Large doses can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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REFERENCES

wiki/Verbena_hastata

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

The Earthwise Herbal, Volume II: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

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