Family • Verbenaceae - Verbena officinalis L. - COMMON VERVAIN - Ma-pien Ts'ao

Scientific names

Verbena officinalis L.
Verbena halei Small
Verbena officinalis var. halei (Small)

Common names

Verbena (Engl., Tag,)
Common vervain (Engl.)
Herb of the cross (Engl.)
Ma-pien ts’ao (Chin.)

Verbena is a more or less hairy herb, growing up to 90 centimeters in height, erect, but decumbent at the base. Leaves are 5 to 10 centimeters long, variously lobed and narrowed to the base; the lower ones are stalked, pinnatifid or coarsely toothed, more or less hairy, and usually hoary on the nerves beneath; this upper ones are without stalks and 3-lobed. Flowers are small, 4 to 6 millimeters long, without stalks and borne on dense, bracteate heads which elongate as the fruit ripens. The calyx is twice as long as the bracts and half as long as the corolla tube, minutely 5-toothed, and glandular- hairy. The corolla is blue or lilac, and hairy, with spreading limb; the lobes are subquadrate, with a hairy throat. Fruit is dry, ultimately spreading into four 1-seeded nutlets which are oblong and dorsally smooth, their under faces covered with minute, white flaking cells.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Verbena officinalis / Plants For A Future

(2) Novel neuroprotective effects of the aqueous extracts from Verbena officinalis Linn / Sau-Wan Lai et al / Neuropharmacology / Vol 50, Issue 6, May 2006, Pages 641-650 / doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2005.11.009

(3) Antiinflammatory activity and chemical composition of extracts of Verbena officinalis / PTR. Phytotherapy research ISSN 0951-418X / 2000, vol. 14, no6, pp. 463-465

(4) Effects of differential extraction of Verbena officinalis on rat models of inflammation, cicatrization and gastric damage / Planta Med. 2007 Mar;73(3):227-35.

(5) Antioxidant and Antifungal Activity of Verbena officinalis L. Leaves / E Casanova et al /Plant Foods for Human Nutrition • Volume 63, Number 3 / September, 2008 / DOI 10.1007/s11130-008-0073-0

(6) Studies on the chemical constitutents in herb of Verbena officinalis / Tian J, Zhao YM, Luan XH / Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2005 Feb;30(4):268-9.

(7) Studies on chemical constituents of aerial parts of Verbena officinalis L / Zhang T, Ruan JL, Lu ZM / Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2000 Nov;25(11):676-8.

– A weed in waste places in and about towns, at low and medium altitudes, only in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Viscaya Provinces in Luzon.
– Introduced, cosmopolitan in subtemperate and subtropical regions.


– Bitter tasting, refrigerant.
– Eases out lymphatic circulation.
– Considered analgesic, antibacterial, anticoagulant, anticontusive, antifebrile, antispasmodic, antitumor, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, galatagogue, stimulant, tonic.

• Contains verbenalin, transferase, amygdalase, and tannin
• Study yielded four compounds: apigenin, 4′-hydroxywogonin, verbenalin and hastatoside.
• Study of methanol extract of aerial parts yielded 3,4-dihydroverbenalin and daucosterol.


Parts utilized
· Entire plant.

– Leaves areparboiled, seasoned, eaten.
– Leaves used as tea substitute.
– Flowers: as garnish.

· Used for amenorrhea, difficult menstruation.
· Used for high fever during influenza, malaria, hepatitis, hepatic sclerosis, nephritis, edema, urinary tract infection, urinary tract lithiasis, sprains, eczema, dermatitis.
· Infusion of plant given against colic, ophthalmic, ulcers of the mouth.
· Plant used as cephalic, vulnerary, aperative, purgatie, and a cure for pleurisy.
· Fresh leaves used as febrifuge and tonic, and as rubefacient in rheumatism, and diseases of the joint.
· Decoction of dried material used as wash for eczema and dermatitis.
· Poultice of pounded fresh material for sprains and contusions.
· Used for headaches, fever, insufficient lactation.
· Used to assist contractions during labor.
· Root used for dysentery.
· Mohammedan physicians considered it tonic, astringent, and useful for paralysis and amenorrhea, and used a plaster of the leaves to promote wound healing.
· Ointment used for swelling of the womb.
· In Indo-China, plant is used for nervous complaints and as deobstruent for dropsy.
· Root used as a remedy for scrofula and snake bites.
· In Tuscany, reported to be used as a poultice for liver complaints; taken internally for the same complaints and for leprosy.
· In China, stalk and leaves believe to act on the blood – relieving congestion, obstructions, dropsical effusions, hematoceles. Also used as emmenagogue, anthelmintic, antiscorbutic, and antimalarial.
· Root considered astringent and used in dysentery.
· Plant used as vulnerary, detersive, aperative, and febrifuge.
· Oil considered siccative.

Study Findings
• Anti-Inflammatory: Study isolated ß-sitosterol, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, 3-epiursolic acid, 3-epioleanolic acid and showed the ether, chlorofom and methanol extracts of VO to have antiinflammatory activity
• Neuroprotective: Study of aqueous extracts of V officinialis showed novel neuroprotective effects supporting its folkloric use and a potential as a neuroprotective agent against neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s Disease.
• Gastroprotective / Antioxidant / Antiinflammatory: Study showed extracts to exhibit antiinflammatory activity and reduction of gastric damage. It also showed improved wound healing suggesting the presence of some lipophilic active principle.
• Volatile Constituents: Study of of aerial parts of VO yielded volatile constituents: 3-hexen-1-ol, 1-octen-3-ol, linalool, verbenone and geranial.
• Antioxidant / Antifungal: Study of 50% methanolic extract and caffeoyl derivatives showed excellent and readily available sources of antifungal and antioxidant compounds.
• Antibacterial: In a microbiological assay, V. officinalis showed activity against E. coli, S. epidermis, S. aureus, B. subtilis.
• Contragestational: Study evaluated the mechanism of contragestational effect of an alcohol extract of V. officinalis. Data showed VO at certain concentrations directly damaged trophoblast cells and inhibited HCG secretion, providing theoretical evidence for the clinical contragestational application of VO.

Extracts and teas in the cybermarket.