Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
This delicately flowered, spindly self-seeding perennial is in full flower at the moment (early August). This is the perfect time of year to harvest the tops for herbal tea. Best to cut the stalk above the lowest healthy leaf (the lower leaves tend to yellow as the summer progresses) and then hang in a bunch upside down to dry passively. The flowers, leaves and stalks can then be stored and added into tea blends for a nerve-nourishing, anxiety-reducing infusion. Of course, you can always make a fresh infusion too, though this plant is not aromatic and the taste is fairly bitter and drying so is more palatable if combined with something else. My choice is often Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and/or Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) during the day time, or Oat Straw (Avena sativa), Chamomile and Spearmint in the evening.Like all bitters, Vervain has a cooling influence on the liver and being a relaxing nervine is useful in states of liver congestion (frequently as a result of issues with the heart and blood flow). And it is the same relaxing sedative action that makes it an ideal remedy for anxiety and tension - the sort of tension that results in muscle spasm of the neck. It is gentle, non-toxic and doesn’t make you feel woozy in the head.
Vervain is also one of the Bach Flower Remedies to encourage relaxation, mellowness and objectivity to those who feel stressed and highly strung. The person who would typically benefit from Vervain emotionally is one who is intense, strong-willed and enthusiastic. Generally, not able to relax, this person drives themselves to over exertion. They refuse to be beaten and will carry on for long after most would give up. They go their own way, fixed in their ideas and certain they are right. They may get carried away with their enthusiasm and cause themselves much strain.
And for a little more woo woo, it was one of the most important Druid medicines - a little aphrodisiac and a lot of meaning. Verbena was the classical Roman name for ‘alter-plants’ in general and this species in particular