Verbena, a discreet and fragrant plant
Beloved by the ancient Romans, this plant is still admired today for its several medicinal properties and its discreet charm. In this article we will help you to learn more about Verbena: often ignored during our explorations in nature, this plant is a fundamental and versatile ingredient in herbal medicine and food preparation.
Who knows if during one of your rural walks through meadows or fields you have happened to glimpse this plant: Verbena grows spontaneously and in appearance it’s herbaceous, up to 60 cm high, with small pink-purple flowers blooming up the spikes, in a discreet and simple way.
Verbena (Verbena Officinalis L.) is native to Europe and widespread in Italy up to 1400m, even though you can find it in all the temperate areas of the world. In Italy it’s also called “Erba Colombina” or “Erba Crocina” in Tuscany, it has historically been used throughout Italy for its beneficial properties in Roman times when it was considered sacred; as a consequence, all the sacred plants such as laurel, olive and myrtle were called verbena. Verbena was considered magical and sacred not only to the ancient Romans but also by the Druids of Gaul and Britain.
It’s important to make a distinction between verbena officinalis (used by Wilden.herbals for our Remedium n.5 – Focus, a product inspired by herbal and healing preparations) from its sister lemon verbena, also called lemon beebrush: this belongs to the same family of the verbena offinalis but it more used in food preparations for its strong citrus and sweet scent.
What are the properties and benefits of verbena?
Flowers and leaves of verbena have always been used as ingredients in herbal teas and preparations with draining, analgesic, antipyretic, calming and diuretic properties. The upper parts of the flowers are used in decoctions or gargling against sore throat.
In the cosmetics industry, infused Verbena is suggested as a natural decongestant for the eyes (it’s a real dark circles treatment!) or as a hair tonic.
In Italy as in Spain, in Austria up to China, traditional medicine has always made extensive use of it for cutaneous, inflammatory, gastric problems. You can easily understand why it was considered as a fundamental part in many populations’ pharmacopoeia.
How to use verbena?
You can’t go wrong if you choose verbena for a nice infusion, even better with other Mediterranean plants. If you don’t trust us, then try our Remedium n.5 – Focus designed for you to restore harmony and elevate every relaxing moment.
If you prefer to challenge yourself in the kitchen, then choose lemon verbena and immerse yourself in fragrant herbal mixes (mix it together with thyme, basil, mint and chives) to season meats and salads, or perfect for the preparation of liqueurs and digestifs. Verbena can also give huge satisfaction in pastry-making, for example to give a delicate flavour to panna cotta.
There are different hypotheses on the origin of the name verbena: it could derive from the Celtic term ferfaen, “to chase away stones” since the verbena was used to eliminate kidney stones; another guess can be the Latin verb verbenare “to hit with the rod“, suggesting the way federal treaties bestowed more attention by touching them with vervain. An clear use for the ancient Romans who used this herb to crown ambassadors after entering into alliances or, on the contrary, declared war.
Verbena is a good melliferous plant: this means it produces a good amount of a nectar which is used by bees to make honey.
Verbena is linked to Saint John the Baptist in Italy. In regional folklore a group of herbs including Verbena was collected overnight between June 23 and June 24 (Saint John the Baptist’s feast day) to be dried and traditionally used to conquer the heart of the beloved woman or even thrown in the direction of the beloved one, to overcome her resistance.
- Guida pratica alle piante officinali. Osservare, riconoscere e utilizzare le più diffuse piante medicinali italiane ed europee di Gilberto Bulgarelli, Sergio Flamigni
- Akbar S. (2020) Verbena officinalis L. (Verbenaceae). In: Handbook of 200 Medicinal Plants. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16807-0_192