Verbena officinalis L.

Last updated: 14 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Verbena officinalis L.


Verbena adulterina Hausskn., Verbena domingensis Urb., Verbena domingensis var. cubensis Moldenke, Verbena domingensis f. foliosa Moldenke, Verbena macrostachya F.Muell., Verbena officinalis var. anatolica Kereszty, Verbena officinalis f. anomala Moldenke, Verbena officinalis var. eremicola Munir, Verbena officinalis f. fimbriata Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora Hausskn., Verbena officinalis var. illyrica Kereszty, Verbena officinalis f. lobata Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. macrophylla Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. macrostachya (F.Muell.) Benth., Verbena officinalis f. micropylla Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. minima Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. officinalis, Verbena officinalis subsp. officinalis, Verbena officinalis var. orientalis Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. prostrata Gren. & Godr., Verbena officinalis var. racemosa Kereszty, Verbena officinalis var. ramosa H.Lév., Verbena officinalis var. spuria (L.) Hook., Verbena riparia Raf. ex Small & A.Heller, Verbena rumelica Velen., Verbena spicata Gilib. [Invalid], Verbena spuria L., Verbena urticifolia var. riparia (Raf. ex Small % A.Heller) Britton, Verbena vulgaris Bubani, Vitex x adulterina Hausskn. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia  Marphin choo [2]
English Vervain, holy wort, [2] common verbena, common vervain, European verbena, European vervain, herb of the Cross, holy herb, pigeon’s grass, verbain, wild verbena [3]
Thailand Nang dong laang [2]
Philippines Verbena [2]
Vietnam c[or] roi ng[uwj]a, m[ax] ti[ee]n th[ar]o [2]
France Herbe sacrée, verveine officinale. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Verbena officinalis thought to be native to the Mediterranean. It is also found at both low and higher elevations in South-East Asia, such as in Java, New Guinea, Luzon, northern Thailand and Vietnam. It was introduced for its ornamental value or traditional use in folk medicine in Europe. [2]

Botanical Description

V. officinalis is a member of family Verbenaceae. It is a perennial herb that can grow up to 100 cm tall. [2]

The stem is erect or decumbent at base, shallowly furrowed, glabrous or sparingly pubescent, tough. [2]

The leaves are opposite, ovate-oblong in outline, pinnatifid to pinnately divided, 2.5-8 cm x 0.8-5 cm, base attenuate, apex acuminate, sessile by a narrowed base. [2]

The inflorescence is spike, lax at anthesis, 5-20 cm long, solitary or combined into a lax compound inflorescence. [2]

The flowers are consist of a tubular calyx 2.5-3 mm long at anthesis, 5-toothed, densely glandular pubescent, scarcely longer than the fruit; corolla tube 3-4 mm long, corolla limb 5-lobed, 3-5 mm in diameter, pale lilac; stamens 4, inserted on the corolla tube; ovary superior, 4-celled, cells 1-ovuled, style short. [2]

The fruit is breaking up into 4 closed cocci; cocci about 2 mm long. [2]

The seedling is with epigeal germination; cotyledons herbaceous, glabrous; hypocotyl elongated, epicotyl present. [2]


V. officinalis seeds germinate only when mean temperatures are above 14°C, with day temperatures higher than 19°C. Flowering is promoted at temperatures of 16°C or higher. [2]

Chemical Constituent

Petroleum ether and chloroform extract of the aerial parts of V. officinalis has been reported to contain β-sitosterol, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, 3-epiursolic acid, 3-epioleanolic acid, and minor titerpenoids of derivatives of ursolic acid and oleanolic acids. [4]

Methanol extract of the aerial parts of V. officinalis has been reported to contain iridoid glucosides, (e.g. verbenalin and hastatoside), phenylpropanoid glycoside, verbascoside, and β-sitosterol-D-glucoside. [4]

Methanol extract fo the aerial parts of V. officinalis has been reported to contain ,4-dihydroverbenalin and daucosterol. [5]

Dried aerial part of V. officinalis extract has been reported to contain ursolic acid. [6]

V. officinalis has been reported to contain iridoid glycosides (e.g. verbenalin, verbenin, hastatoside). [7]

Plant Part Used

Aerial parts. [4][5][6]

Traditional Use

The aerial parts of V. officinalis are commonly used in European traditional medicine as digestive aid and mild diuretic, to stimulate the renal excretion of water. Furthermore, it is considered a tonic, galactagogue, emmenagogue, purgative, febrifugal, diaphoretic, astringent, anthelmintic, antihaemorrhagic, antispasmodic and antiscorbutic. [2]

Externally, it is applied as a gargle to treat throat problems and stomatitis, and as a compressor poultice against ulcers, cuts, contusions, piles and headache. [2]

Topical application as an emollient also includes the relief of itching in cases of skin disorders, sunburn and burns. In Europe, reported indications for its use are treatment of jaundice, chlorosis, dropsy, gout, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism, haematuria, fever, neuralgia and ophthalmia. [2]

In Indo-China, China, Taiwan and Korea, V. officinalis is used internally against colds, fever, inflammations, digestive and intestinal complaints, uterine problems and disorders in the urinary tract. It is also taken after parturition, as a depurative and to help to remove the placenta, in cases of oedema, anaemia, tympanitis, congestion and as antidote after insect bites. Externally, it is used as a poultice or wash to treat skin diseases, wounds, abscesses and tumours. [2]

In Vietnam, a decoction of V. officinalis is used against dropsy and a poultice against tumours on the scrotum, whereas it is also considered to be useful to regulate menstruation. In Thailand, V. officinalis is used in the treatment of liver and gall bladder complaints, colds, fever, bronchitis and mental disorders, whereas the leaves are applied externally to treat rheumatism, wounds and eczemas. [2]

In India, the fresh leaves are used as a febrifuge, tonic and as a rubefacient to treat rheumatism or other diseases of the joints, whereas the root is believed to be useful in the treatment of scrofula and snake bite. [2]

V. officinalis is applied as an insecticide. [2]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

Carbon dioxide extraction of V. officinalis provided the strongest antioxidant activity on rat models of inflammation, cicatrization, and gastric damage. [8]

Methanol extract of V. officinalis at 50% with caffeoyl also has been reported to exhibit antioxidant activity as it possessing radical scavenging properties. [9]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Carbon dioxide extract of V. officinalis has been demonstrated to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity with lipophylic actives principles being the likely source of these properties. [8]

Methanolic extract (50%) of V. officinalis has been demonstrated to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity using carrageenan-induced edema and formalin testing. The edema inhibition of the preparation containing extract at the doses of 1-3% w/w was significantly different from piroxicam gel. The anti-inflammatory effect of V. officinalis at a dose of 3% w/w was similar to the effect of piroxicam gel 3 h after carrageenan injection. [10]

Wound healing activity

This same carbon dioxide extract of V. officinalis also demonstrated wound healing properties. [8]

Antifungal activity

Methanolic extract (50%) and caffeoyl derivatives of V. officinalis could potentially be considered as excellent and readily available sources of natural antifungal compound. [9]

Analgesic activity

Methanolic extract (50%) of V. officinalis has been demonstrated to exhibit a mild analgesic activity. The analgesic activity of topical preparation with more than 2.5% w/w was observed in the early phase. This activity was observed in concentrations of more than 2% w/w in the late phase. The topical analgesic activity of the extract was less than the analgesic activity of methyl salicylate ointment. [10]

Anticancer activity

V. officinalis contains citral which has been found to induce apoptosis in tested hematopoietic cancer cell lines. [11]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

The extract of V. officinalis may cause allergic skin reactions in some individuals. [12]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

Based on reports that V. officinalis tea may interfere with iron absorption, it should be avoided in children and those with compromised nutritional status. [13][14]

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

V. officinalis lessens the effects of Warfarin. [15]

V. officinalis has an anticoagulant properties that may interfere with similar medications. [16]

V. officinalis tea or infusion has been found to interfere with iron absorption. [13][14]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Verbena officinalis L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 26; cited 2017 Feb 14]. Available from:
  2. Chuakul W, Soonthornchareonnon N, Saralamp P. Verbena officinalis L. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 491-493.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 718.
  4. Deepak M, Handa SS. Antiinflammatory activity and chemical composition of extracts of Verbena officinalis. Phytother Res. 2000;14(6):463-465.
  5. Zhang T, Ruan JL, Lu ZM. Studies on chemical constituents of aerial parts of Verbena officinalis L. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2000;25(11):676-678. Chinese.
  6. Liu CH, Liu Y. [Determination of ursolic acid in herba of Verbena officinalis by HPLC]. Zhongguo Zhong You Za Zhi. 2002;27(12):916-918. Chinese.
  7. Rimpler H, Schäfer B. Hastatoside, a new iridoid from Verbena hastata L. and Verbena officinalis L. Tetrahedron Lett. 1973;17:1463-1464.
  8. Speroni E, Cervellati R, Costa S, et al. Effects of diffeential extraction of Verbena officinalis on rat models of enflammation, cicatrization and gastric damage. Planta Med. 2007;73(3):227-235.
  9. Casanova E, García-Mina JM, Calvo MI. Antioxidant and antifungal activity of Verbena officinalis L. leaves. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2008;63(3):93-97
  10. Calvo MI. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity of the topical preparation of Verbena officinalis L. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(3):380-382.
  11. Dudai N, Weinstein Y, Krup M, Rabinski T, Ofir R. Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines. Planta Med. 2005;71(5):484-488.
  12. Del Pozo MD, Gastaminza G, Navarro JA, Munoz D, Fernandez E, Fernandez de Corres L. Allergic contact dermatitis from Verbena officinalis L. Contact Dermatitis. 1994;31(3):200-201.
  13. Hurrel RF, Reddy M, Cook JD. Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages. Br J Nutr. 1999;81(4):289-295.
  14. Zaida F, Bureau F, Guyot S. Iron availability and consumption of tea, vervain and mint during weaning in Morocco. Ann Nutr Metab. 2006;50(3):237-241.
  15. Taylor S. Advances in food and nutrition research. Volume 50 Amsterdam: Elsevier Science and Technology Publishing, 2005; p. 282.
  16. Argento A, Tiraferri E, Marzaloni M. Oral anticoagulants and medicinal plants. An emerging interaction. Ann Ital Med Int. 2000;15(2):139-143. Italian.