Verbena or Vervain
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Verbena (/vərˈbiːnə/, vervain) is a genus in the family Verbenaceae. It contains about 250 species of annual and perennial herbaceous or semi-woody flowering plants. The majority of the species are native to the Americas and Asia.
The leaves are usually opposite, simple, and in many species hairy, often densely so. The flowers are small, with five petals, and borne in dense spikes. Typically some shade of blue, they may also be white, pink, or purple, especially in cultivars.
They are valued in butterfly gardening in suitable climates, attracting Lepidoptera such as the Hummingbird hawk-moth, Chocolate albatross, or the Pipevine swallowtail, and also hummingbirds, especially V. officinalis, which is also grown as a honey plant.
Verbena has longstanding use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as an herbal tea. Nicholas Culpeper’s 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses. Among other effects, it may act as a galactagogue (promotes lactation) and possibly sex steroid analogue. The plants are also sometimes used as abortifacient. Verbena has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However, according to Cancer Research UK, “there is no scientific evidence to prove…” that flower remedies can boost the immune system.
Verbena has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called “tears of Isis” in ancient Egypt, and later called “Hera’s tears”. In ancient Greece it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that V. officinalis was used to staunch Jesus’ wounds after his removal from the cross. It was consequently called “holy herb” or (e.g. in Wales) “Devil’s bane”.
Vervain flowers are engraved on cimaruta, Italian anti-stregheria charms. In the 1870 The History and Practice of Magic by “Paul Christian” (Jean-Baptiste Pitois) it is employed in the preparation of a mandragora charm. The book also describes its antiseptic capabilities (p. 336), and use as a protection against spells (pp. 339, 414).
While common vervain is not native to North America, it has been introduced there and for example the Pawnee have adopted it as an entheogen enhancer and in oneiromancy (dream divination), much as Calea zacatechichi is used in Mexico.
The generic name is the Latin term for a plant sacred to the ancient Romans. Pliny the Elder describes verbena presented on Jupiter altars; it is not entirely clear if this referred to a verbena rather than the general term for prime sacrificial herbs.
The common names of verbena in many Central and Eastern European languages often associate it with iron. These include for example the Dutch IJzerhard (“iron-hard”), Danish Læge-Jernurt (“medical ironwort”), German Echtes Eisenkraut (“true ironherb”), Slovak Železník lekársky (“medical ironherb”), and Hungarian vasfű (“iron grass”). An indeterminate vervain[verification needed] is among the plants on the eighth panel of the New World Tapestry (Expedition to Cape Cod).
In the Victorian language of flowers, verbena held the dual meaning of enchantment and sensibility.
Bibliographic details for “Verbena”
Page name: Verbena
Author: Wikipedia contributors
Publisher: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Date of last revision: 12 November 2017 10:44 UTC
Date retrieved: 8 December 2017 22:38 UTC
Permanent link: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Verbena&oldid=809925823
Primary contributors: Revision history statistics
Page Version ID: 809925823