032 Verbena officinalis L.
Nome comune: Verbena comune
Verbena officinalis, the Common Vervain or Common Verbena, is a perennial herb native to Europe. It grows up to a metre/yard high, with an upright habitus. The lobed leaves are toothed, the delicate spikes hold mauve flowers.
This plant prefers limey soils; it is occasionally grown as an ornamental plant but perhaps more often for the powerful properties some herbalists ascribe to it. Propagation is by root cuttings or seed. It is widely naturalised outside its native range, for example in North America.
Common Vervain is held in high esteem since the Classical Antiquity; it has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces, and it has an equally long-standing use as a medicinal plant.
Medical use of Common Vervain is usually as a herbal tea; Nicholas Culpeper's 1652 The English Physitian discusses folk uses. Among others effects, it may act as a galactagogue and possibly sex steroid analogue and abortifacient; it is reputed to help against nervousness and insomnia. "Vervain", presumably this species, is one of the original 38 Bach flower remedies, prescribed against "over-enthusiasm". In the Modern Era, it is sometimes considered a powerful "ally" of poets and writers, as its relaxing effects can relieve writer's block. As noted above, it cannot be considered safe to use during pregnancy as it might cause miscarriages.
While Common Vervain is not native to North America, it has been introduced there and the Pawnee have adopted it as an entheogen enhancer and in oneiromancy, and is often referred to as the North American version of Calea zacatechichi.
In western Eurasia, the term "verbena" or "vervain" usually refers to this, the most widespread and common member of the mostly American genus occurring there. It was called "tears of Isis" in Ancient Egypt, and later on "Juno's tears". In Ancient Greece, it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that Common Vervain was used to staunch Jesus' wounds after his removal from the cross; hence names like "Holy Herb" or (e.g. in Wales) "Devil's bane"[verification needed].
Due to the association with the Passion of Christ, it came to be used in ointments to drive out and repel "demonic" illness. 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. In the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension, the magickal group Verbena, masters of the sphere of Life, derive their name from the sacrificial herbs of Antiquity, and it is implied that this specifically means the Common Vervain in this case.
Hazlitt's Faiths and Folklore (1905) quotes Aubrey's Miscellanies (1721), to wit:
"Vervain and Dill / Hinder witches from their will."
In the series of young adult novels The Vampire Diaries, author L. J. Smith uses vervain to protect humans from vampires, in an extension of vervain's fabled magic-suppression powers against witches. In The Struggle, Volume II, the vampire Stefan instructs the human Elena that vervain can "protect you against bewitchment, and it can keep your mind clear if someone is using Powers against you." He tells her how it is prepared and used, "Once I've extracted the oil from the seeds, you can rub it into your skin, or add it to a bath. And you can make the dried leaves into a sachet and carry it with you, or put it under your pillow at night", but gives her an unprepared sprig for protection in the meantime..
A Royal Navy Arabis class sloop of the World War I era was named HMS Verbena, and in World War II a Group 1 Flower class corvette bore the same name; a Group 2 vessel of the latter class was called HMS Vervain. The only Verbena widely found in England in a native state is Common Vervain, though it is just as possible that the names reference the popular ornamental verbenas , such as the Garden Vervain.