I was rifling through photos looking for some good florals for a gift I’m working on, and I came across this beauty. Verbena. It is a flower I’ve always liked. So graceful on their long, long stems, waving softly in the breeze.
This shot was taken in a traditional herbalist style garden in England, but before spotting it there I had not known anything about its uses. It turns out there is a long history attached to this one, spanning a whole variety of divine and supernatural associations, as well as folklore and traditional medicine remedies.
There is also a lot of symbolism associated with the verbena flower. The language of flowers has long been used as a subtle or secret way to convey meaning. Some people use them to make a request for prayers or well wishes. Verbena flowers are also symbolically used to represent healing, creativity, and happiness. They are even used for protection against harm and evil.
Verbena has a lot of different names around the world, including Holy Herb, Herb of the Cross, Devil’s Bane. These three possibly something to do with the belief that verbena was one of the flowers used to staunch the bleeding when Jesus was lifted down from the cross.
Ancient Egyptians called it ‘tears of Isis’, believing the verbena flower grew from the tears of the fertility goddess, Isis. That ties in neatly with the purported galactagogic (promoting lactation!) and emmenagogic (promoting bloodflow and bleeding!) properties attached to it in folkloric medicine. It also makes sense of some of the other names given to verbena – Iron-Hardener, Medical Ironwort, True Ironherb and other slight variations on a similar theme.
In herbalism and folk medicine it is thought to be effective for treating a wide variety of ailments, including ear aches, arthritis pain and headaches. As a powerful emmenagogue it can also be helpful to women suffering with their periods, but should be strictly avoided by pregnant women because of serious risk of pre-term labour.
I never fail to be amazed at the incredible properties of plants – flower power is exactly right! There is so much more I discovered, just spending a little time searching for information.
I don’t necessarily believe everything that has been claimed, but I do find it fascinating, seeing how the perception of one little plant has evolved and grown across different times and cultures. Now I’m wondering how many other interesting flowers I’ve appreciated for their beauty but completely under-estimated. I might have to take another look through my archives.