A Haitian Treasure: Vèvenn (Vervain)

If you are Haitian and have ever experienced a big shock (sezisman or chok in Haitian Kreyol), then chances are that you've been handed a cup of te vèvenn, or vervain tea.

VèvennVerbena officinales, is a beautiful flower of the Verbenaceae family that is known for its calming and digestive effects. Vervain is native to the Americas, as well as Asia. This plant is used as an ornament, as a popular perfume constituent, as a flavor in various liqueurs, and most traditionally as a healing tea. We like to use the aerial part of this herb, during its flowering stage for the most potent effect.
Source: Google Image search

Haitians traditionally use this herb for helping each other move through grief. Commonly given to folks directly after hearing bad news (such as the death of a loved one), vèvenn is thought to help calm down the intense mental/emotional/physical/spiritual reaction of that news. Haitians also use this herb to help cleanse the blood. So that can mean figuratively, in the sense that vèvenn helps rid the body of toxins, spells, or bad luck. It can also refer to vèvenn's ability to help the body fight off various forms of rheumatisms, or infections. This herb is a powerful anti-inflammatory and bitter, meaning it has a strong effect on the liver and gall bladder, which are moving organs; they literally cleanse, move, and store blood.

In Traditional Chinese medicine, vervain is known for being detoxifying and cleansing, with a particular affinity to the liver (which processes emotional disturbance), the spleen (which rules the blood), and the bladder meridian (which runs up and down the entire body).

In Naturopathic medical school, I took a special course on Flower Essences, a German system of medicine that looks at the energetic properties of flowers, to help address mental/emotional dysregulation in people. In that class, we learned that Vervain has historically been used to help people move through intense emotion, passion, and grief. From a classical Western herbalism perspective, we believe vervain to be drying, anti-spasmodic, and relaxing. It is thought to stimulate mental and spiritual clarity, and to stop the negative physical manifestations of grief and other types of intense emotion, in the body.
Image source: Google search
Important constituents:
  • glycosides
  • caffeic acid
  • volatile oils (hence the fragrance)
  • saponins
  • mucilages
  • verbanalol, tannins, and alkaloids (causing its extreme bitterness) 

Vervain tea can be helpful for the following conditions:
  • anxiety, depression, grief
  • indigestion, constipation, liver and gall bladder disease (due to its bitter constituents)
  • most inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout
  • insomnia
  • irregular menstruation, menopausal symptoms
  • low breast milk production
  • sinus infections
How to prepare this lovely herb?
1. Vèvenn tea is best prepared as an infusion (the style known as tisane):
  • Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of Vèvenn flower.
  • Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, then let it cool.
  • Drink up
2. Another way is by tincture, which entails infusing the flower in a preparation of alcohol.
  • This is best done by a herbal processing facility or by an herbalist.
  • Take 1-3 dropperfuls per day.

Definitely avoid this herb during the early stages of pregnancy as vèvenn increases contractility.

In health,
Dr. Naika

The "Haitian Treasures" series was created by Dr. Naika in 2012. This series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which Dr. Naika calls "Haitian Treasures". In this series, Dr. Naika explores the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Naika's lifestyle blog, Naika in Balance. Dr. Naika's work is copyrighted. Please do not copy or repost Dr. Naika's work without citing her content as the original source.