Verbena – characteristics, cultivation and use

pink blossoms of verbena
pink blossoms of verbena

Verbena is a wild plant and is often confused with lemon verbena. The verbena also known as vervain is used in alternative medicine especially as a medicinal herb for complaints such as headache, depression or intestinal complaints. As a seasoning herb, the herb is virtually irrelevant, but it is often found as an ornamental plant in flower borders or on the balcony.

Profile of verbena:

Scientific name: Verbena officinalis

Plant family: verbena family (Verbenaceae)

Other names: common verbena, vervain

Sowing time / Planting time: April – June

Flowering period: June – October

Harvest time: June – September

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers

Location: sunny to partially shaded locations

Soil quality: lean, well drained and dry

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: mild depression, nervous restlessness, diarrhea, stomach and intestinal complaints, loss of appetite, wound healing

Use as aromatic herb: meat spice

Plant characteristics and classification of verbena

Origin and occurrence of verbena

The exact origin of verbena is unknown, however, it is suspected in southern Europe. The species is today wild in many European countries as well as in North Africa and Western Asia.

The occurrence of verbena is usually limited to light locations, such as fallow land, dry meadows, roadsides or forest clearings. As a rule, low-nutrient, dry soils are preferred.

Plant order of common verbena

The common verbena belongs to the family Verbenaceae. Other well-known representatives of this plant family are the Aztec sweet herb and the lemon verbena, with which the plant is quite often confused. It should be noted, however, that the lemon verbena belongs to a completely different genus (Aloysia). The verbena, however, belongs to the genus Verbena, which are more species-rich with more than 200 species.

Characteristics of the verbena


The perennial verbena is a typical herbaceous plant that reaches stature heights between 25 and 80 cm (10 and 32 in). Occasionally, annual plants are also known. The spindle-shaped root is usually larger than the above-ground part of the plant and can grow up to 70 cm (28 in) deep in the ground. The roots themselves are light to dark brown and contain some fine roots.


The leaves have a striking structure, are markedly lobed and hairy on both sides. Most of the lower and upper leaves are smaller than those in the middle of the plant. Basically, the leaves sit opposite to the four-edged stalk, which is also hairy.


At flowering time, which usually takes place between mid-June to early October, the plant forms whitish, pink to purple flowers. Each flower consists of five petals, which sit on a small tube. The flowers are arranged on a kind of flower spike, which are called botanically as thyrsus.


Following the flowering period, the ovary forms so-called schizocarp fruits, which disintegrate in the ripe state into four individual fruit. The schizocarps are usually up to 2 mm long (0.08 in). The seeds of verbena are usually light brown to dark brown and conspicuously grooved.

Cultivation and care of verbena

Verbena is considered a fairly undemanding plant, which neither takes up much space nor requires extra care. Nonetheless, there are a few things to keep in mind for the plant to grow optimally.


Probably the most important condition is the choice of location. Basically, verbena likes sunny locations, the plant also tolerates partially shaded locations well. However, if you want larger and more abundant iron herbs in the garden, you should place the herb to a sunny spot.


The soil should be rather lean, permeable and dry. However, nutrient-rich and loamy soil, should be avoided. If you have dense soils, you should first loosen them up to a depth of 70 cm (28 in) with conventional additives such as quartz sand.


In the field, the seeds are best sown between late April and mid-June. However, sowing by pre-culture is also possible between February and April, whereby the seeds should be grown in a nutrient-poor substrate at about 20 ° C (68 ° F). Verbena needs light to germ. The seeds should therefore be pressed only slightly into the soil. If the germination conditions are optimal, the seedlings appear after about 12 to 20 days.


When planting a distance between 25 and 30 cm (10 and 12 in) between the plants should be kept. Too short distances usually lead to unnecessary stress and increased susceptibility to disease.

The common verbena can also be cultivated well on the balcony or terrace. If possible, however, deep pots, window boxes or tubs should be chosen because the plant can form quite deep roots.


If verbena grows in the garden bed, there is no need to fertilize during the season. However, it is recommended to treat the soil with some compost or organic fertilizer before planting. If the plants are grown on the balcony, fertilization should be done every 3 to 4 weeks. A simple universal fertilizer that is mixed with the irrigation water is sufficient.


The plant specializes for dry locations and does not require regular watering. In the garden bed, however, a complete drying of the soil over a longer period of time should be avoided. On very hot days, however, during the morning or evening hours, care should always be taken that the soil is moderately moist. On the balcony, the water availability should be tested more often. Watering should be done when the potting soil is completely dry half finger deep.


At the flowering time, which is usually expected from June, the faded inflorescences should be cut back. As a result, the plant is supplied with nutrients more efficiently, which usually leads to a longer flowering time.


Verbena is considered a hardy perennial. However, the aboveground plant parts are only slightly frost tolerant and die off quite quickly. Many plants sprout in late spring, some others die completely and remain one year old.

Pests and diseases

Verbena as a plant is quite tough. In case of unfavorable site conditions or inadequate care, the plant can be attacked by aphids, snails and some fungal diseases, as e.g. mildew. In case of large-scale infestation with mildew, the entire plant should be removed.

purple flowers of verbena
purple flowers of verbena

Verbena and its use

Verbena in the kitchen

Verbena has a rather bitter taste and is therefore rarely used in the kitchen. Occasionally it is used to season hearty meat dishes.

Verbena as a medicinal herb

As a medicinal herb, verbena has enjoyed an excellent reputation for many hundreds of years. Already in the 1st century the herb was described by Dioscorides, a famous Roman physician.

In old herbal books verbena was used for both internal and external complaints. For example, it was used to treat snake bites, bladder weakness, fever or colds. Even with external complaints such as tumors, blemishes and mouth rot, medicine was prepared from the herb. The herb was used as a tea, as a wine extract and as an ingredient for the termed universal remedy Theriak. Verbena was also mentioned as a means of expelling “evil spirits”, which probably indicates the treatment of mental disorders.

For many of the fields of application at that time, the herb is barely used today. However, verbena contains many medically valuable ingredients that allow use as a natural remedy. Among the most important ingredients include the bitter substances and flavonoids.

Verbena can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • anemia
  • badly healing wounds
  • bladder stones
  • boil
  • bronchitis
  • bruises
  • catarrh of the upper respiratory tract
  • cuts
  • diluting blood
  • eczema
  • edema
  • eye infections
  • fever
  • gallen weakness
  • gout
  • heartburn
  • kidney stones
  • lactation
  • light burns
  • liver weakness
  • menopausal symptoms
  • migraine
  • nervousness
  • neurasthenia
  • promoting menstrual
  • regulating the menstrual cycle
  • rheumatism
  • sore throat
  • spleen diseases
  • tonsillitis
  • ulcers
  • weakness
  • whooping cough
  • wounds

Medicinal properties

  • analgesic
  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antispasmodic
  • astringent
  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • stimulating
  • sweaty
  • toning

Nowadays, verbena is rarely used as a medicinal herb, although it is still a valuable medicinal plant.

The conventional medicine rejects the use of the verbena, because the effects are not proven.

However, folk remedies like to use verbena. It is primarily used as a weed, but it is also used for a variety of internal purposes. The plant can be used internally as a tea or tincture.

Preparation of a verbena tea

Time needed: 5 minutes

This is how to prepare a verbena tea by yourself

  1. put two teaspoons of dried or fresh herb in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. leave to draw for 5 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

Verbena tincture

You can also make a tincture of verbena.

From the tincture you take 10 to 50 drops three times a day.

Internal applications with verbena

Verbena can be used for colds. Folk medicine also uses it to strengthen the digestive organs and metabolism. The blood should be cleaned, diluted and regenerated. The herb is said to strengthen the nerves and relieve migraine.

In addition, it is used in folk gynecology to regulate the period cycle. It should also relieve menstrual problems and menopausal symptoms. Also, a promotion of milk production is said to him.

External use of verbena

Verbena is especially popular in the external treatment of wounds. Previously, it stood as a remedy for war and combat injuries in high regard. Except for injuries, it can also be used to treat eczema and ulcers. Externally you can soak compresses with the tea and put on wounds. You can also make ablutions with the tea or put on envelopes. Partial baths can also be done with its tea.

Verbena in TCM

Verbena has recently been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There it is described as a medicinal herb with the organ reference heart, liver and lung. It is usually used there for the treatment of nervous restlessness, stress or mild anxiety disorders. As a therapeutic agent are usually teas, cold extracts or tinctures in question.

Side effects

There are no known side effects that could be expected with the use of verbena preparations.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Verbena – What is there to pay attention to?

Verbena is quite popular among many gardeners and herbalists. In the garden, it is often planted as a graceful honey plant, whereas healers recommend the herb for numerous ailments.

Of importance for gardeners are especially seeds and fresh plants. Unfortunately, seed is rarely offered in plant centers or specialty stores. The search can be helpful in online shops or marketplaces. The price per package is about 2 to 4 €/$.

In contrast, fresh plants are usually available at many plant dealers in late spring. It should be ensured that the leaves are richly green and have no aphids. Above all, aphids are quite difficult to recognize at a glance. The price per plant is about 3 to 5 EUR / $.

Pay attention to the botanical name Verbena officinalis.

For medical applications, dried verbena and tinctures of the plant can be purchased. Some tea manufacturers also use the herb for various tea blends. It should be urgently ensured that the common verbena is actually chosen. In many cases, lemon verbena is also offered as verbena, but it has a different range of uses.

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