The Verbena, or Common Vervain, is a very familiar herb on waste

ground throughout England, limited to no soil, and growing at the

entrance into towns and villages, always within a quarter of a mile

of a house, and hence called formerly the Simpler's joy. Of old,

much credit for curative virtues attached itself to this plant, though

it is without odour, and has no taste other than that of slight

astringency. But a repu
ation clings to the vervain because it used to

be held sacred, as Holy Herb, and was employed in sacrificial

rites, being worn also around the neck as an amulet. It was called

Tears of Isis Tears of Juno Persephonion and Demetria. The

juice was given as a remedy for the plague. Vervain grew on

Calvary: and Gerard says the devil did reveal it as a secret, and

divine medicine.

It is a slender plant with but few leaves, and spikes of small lilac

flowers, when wild; but its cultivated varieties, developed by the

gardener, are showy plants, remarkable for their brilliant colours.

The name Frogfoot has been applied to the Vervain because its leaf

somewhat resembles in outline the foot of that creature. Old writers

called the plant Verbinaca and Peristerium:--

Frossis fot men call it,

For his levys are like the frossy's fet.

[587] The practice of wearing it round the neck became changed

from a religious observance to a medicinal proceeding, for which

reason it was ordered that the plant should be bruised before

being appended to the person; and thus it gained a name for curing

inveterate headaches. Presently also it was applied to other parts as a


Nevertheless, the Vervain has fallen of late years into disfavour as a

British Herbal Simple, though a pamphlet has recently appeared,

written by a Mr. Morley, who strongly advises the revived use of

the herb for benefiting scrofulous disease. Therein it is ordered that

the root of Vervain shall be tied with a yard of white satin ribband

round the neck of the patient until he recovers. Also an infusion and

an ointment are to be prepared from the leaves of the plant.

The expressed juice of Verbena will act as a febrifuge; and the

infusion by its astringency makes a good lotion for weak and

inflamed eyes, also for indolent ulcers, and as a gargle for a relaxed

sore throat. The Druids gathered it with as much reverence as they

paid to the Mistletoe. It was dedicated to Isis, the goddess of birth,

and formed a famous ingredient in love philtres. Pliny saith: They

report that if the dining chamber be sprinkled with water in which

the herb Verbena has been steeped, the guests will be the merrier.

Geoffrey St. Hilaire and Pasteur praise the Vervain highly as

beneficial against ailments of the hair, the fresh juice being

especially used.

Other names of the plant are Juno's tears, Mercury's moist blood,

Pigeons' grass, and Columbine--the two latter being assigned

because pigeons show a partiality for the herb.

Verbena plants were named Sagmina of old, because [588] cut up

by the Praetor in the Capitol. When borne by an Ambassador

Verbena rendered his person inviolable. All herbs used in sacred

rites were probably known as Verbena. They were reported as of

singular force against the tertian and quartan agues; but one must

observe Mother Bombie's rules--to take just so many knots, or

sprigs, and no more, lest it fallout that it do you no good, if you

catch no harm by it.