Verbena ( Verbena officinalis ) is a flowering plant in the verbena family. Although there are more than 250 types of verbena, verbena is specifically known as used for medicinal purposes. In addition to V. officinalis, less common varieties include blue verbena ( V. hastata ) and white verbena ( V. urticifolia ).
Verbena officinalis is a perennial plant with delicate serrated leaves and small, five-petalled inflorescences. Although verbena is odorless, alternative practitioners believe that verbena has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties with health benefits.
Verbena officinalis should not be confused with lemon verbena, a garden herb used in cooking that also has medicinal properties.
What is verbena used for?
The medicinal use of verbena dates back to the 18th century book Sauer's Herbal Cure , where it is said to help treat kidney stones. In fact, the name "verbena" is believed to be derived from the Celtic word ferfaen , which means "to drive away stones."
Verbena became popular again in the 1930s as one of 38 flowering plants used in a homeopathic tincture called Bach's Flower Remedy, the varieties of which are still for sale today. Some of the purported benefits of verbena include:
- General aches and pains
- Digestive dysfunction
- Upper respiratory symptoms
- Urinary tract infections
- Depression and anxiety
As with many homeopathic medicines, some health claims are better supported by research than others.
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Several studies have examined the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of Verbena officinalis both topically and orally. The results were largely mixed.
A 2006 study in Spain showed that an extract of V. officinalis applied topically in rats it was just as effective in relieving swelling (swelling) as traditional anti- inflammatory medications , but it was much less effective in relieving pain .
Anxiety and insomnia
Verbena tea has long been believed to have a calming effect, relieve stress, and promote sleep. This effect was first described in the 1652 book The English Physician , in which verbena was used as a tea to treat "excess enthusiasm."
Although there has been little research examining these effects in humans, there is evidence that V. officinalis not only reduces anxiety and insomnia , but may also prevent the occurrence of epileptic seizures . These effects are attributed to a sugar molecule in verbena known as verbenalin, which is believed to have psychoactive properties.
A 2016 study published in Frontiers of Pharmacology reported that V. officinalis extract given at a dose of 100 to 500 milligrams per kilogram reduced the frequency and duration of tonic-clonic seizures in mice .
Furthermore, mice injected with the extract slept longer than mice injected with placebo. Anxiety, measured by movement through the maze, was also found to improve.
While it is not clear whether the same effect will occur in humans, this suggests that V. officinalis may have positive effects on the central nervous system and the adrenal glands (which produce stress hormones).
Treating infectious diseases, both common and serious, is becoming increasingly difficult due to growing resistance to antibiotics . Long used to treat upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, verbena is believed to have antimicrobial properties that can help overcome these problems.
In a 2016 study, various parts of V. officinalis were able to kill 24 strains of disease-causing bacteria. Stem extracts of V. officinalis were able to kill Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in vitro, according to research more effective than the antibiotic amoxicillin .
Likewise, the leaves of the plant showed significant activity against Citrobacter freundii. The root proved to be very effective against Bacillus subtilis .
While it's unclear if the same results will be seen outside of a test tube, the study demonstrates verbena's long-established efficacy in treating minor cuts and skin infections.
Of all the conditions that verbena has long been considered curable, kidney stone prevention is one of the least supported by research. This is mainly due to the fact that it is difficult to measure how effective a treatment is without causing disease. To date, there is little evidence that it has any effect.
A study from China showed that mice given verbenaline injections showed no changes in kidney structure or function compared to mice given placebo .
Verbena appears to increase urine production, which can actually help prevent kidney stones. But this is not due to an increase in the amount of water and sodium in the urinary tract, as most diuretics work, but to irritation of the kidneys. In fact, it can damage the kidneys more than it helps, especially in the long run.
One of the boldest claims from herbalists is that verbena can help treat colorectal cancer. These claims have been largely supported by studies that have shown that polysaccharides (a type of long-chain carbohydrate) in verbena alter the activity of colorectal cancer cells in vitro.
A 2017 study in China found that V. officinalis polysaccharide extract disrupted the proliferation of colorectal cells, preventing them from adhering to healthy cells .
Without means of attachment to healthy cells, the tumor cannot metastasize and affect distant organs. This suggests that verbena polysaccharides could one day be used to isolate and control tumors in people with colorectal cancer, increasing survival. However, more research is definitely needed in this regard.
Possible side effects.
As an herb, V. officinalis is considered safe to consume with some side effects such as indigestion and gas.
The herb also produces an oily substance that can cause contact dermatitis, but it is usually mild with a localized rash and redness. Before using verbena tincture, always apply a little to the skin and wait an hour to see if a rash appears. Serious anaphylactic reactions are rare.
It is not known if verbena interacts with other medications. Inform your doctor of any supplements you are taking to avoid possible interactions.
People with kidney disease should avoid taking verbena. The verbenalin in the plant can irritate the kidneys when consumed in excess, causing inflammation and possible deterioration.
Little is known about the long-term safety of verbena supplements. For this reason, they should not be used by children, pregnant or lactating women, or to treat any serious medical condition.
Self-treatment of any medical condition without involving a qualified healthcare provider or avoiding standard treatment is not recommended and may cause you harm.
Selection and preparation
There are no recommendations for the correct use of verbena in the treatment of diseases. Supplements are generally sold in capsule form, but are also available in tinctures, extracts, astringents, teas, powders, and dried herbs.
Capsules are available in dosages ranging from 150 to 1000 milligrams. When received in this range, they are generally considered safe. Verbena supplements are for short-term use only.
Nutritional supplements in the United States are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals. They are not required to undergo rigorous testing or research and therefore may vary in quality.
This is especially true for the use of traditional Chinese herbs and other home remedies. According to the National Center for Complementary and Holistic Health , some Chinese herbal products are safe while others are not. There were reports that some products were contaminated with drugs, pesticides, or heavy metals or did not contain the listed ingredients.
To ensure quality and safety, buy supplements only from reputable manufacturers, ideally those who voluntarily submit their products for testing to an independent certification body such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab.
Don't be fooled by claims that a supplement can treat or treat a specific health condition. Under the law, food additive manufacturers cannot make such claims.
Can you grow your own verbena?
Verbena can certainly be grown in home gardens, but be sure to buy seeds of V. officinalis and not ornamental varieties such as V. bonariensis . The plant grows well in both full and partial sunlight and in well-drained soils.
V. officinalis grows 12 to 36 inches tall and develops clusters of small white or purple flowers. The growing season is from mid-summer to early fall.
If used to make tea, avoid spraying herbs with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Once harvested, you can use the herb fresh or dry it in a dehydrator for future use.
Frequently asked questions
Verbena herbal supplement is used in the following conditions:
- Aches and pains
- Kidney stones
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Urinary tract infections
However, there is limited evidence to support the use of verbena to prevent or treat any medical condition.
Verbena supplements are generally considered safe and have few side effects. The most common side effects of verbena are indigestion and gas. For some people, touching verbena can cause a skin rash.
People with kidney disease should not take verbena because the chemicals in it can irritate the kidneys and cause inflammation. Pregnant or nursing women and children should also avoid taking verbena supplements, as little is known about its long-term safety.