Blue Vervain: an island native

Guys, I am so excited.

The whole point of my current blog series #medicineinourmidst is to point out that medicinal plants are all around us, no matter where we are, thriving in their native habitats and offering their medicine to us. I truly believe that the medicine each of us needs is geographically available to us.

View from Sleeping Giant trail - Kauai

So that’s my passion and my hypothesis, but I don’t exactly have proof. It is intuitive knowledge. It is what I have learned from paying attention to consistencies in mother nature. I also know that prior to globalization and industrialization we were all dependent on our geography for our health and wellness. Mother nature, being a caring mother, allows particular plants and food sources to thrive around particular groups of people and if you dig into the plants, they are usually particularly well suited to fill the gaps left by the environment.

Think of the Eskimos and how much caloric energy is expended to stay warm, so they get blubber, pure energy. Think of the PNW people, lacking in vitamin D to a point of health consequence, yet salmon fill our streams every year and are an excellent source of the very vitamin we are missing. Think of the Pacific Islanders who are exposed to significant free radicals - yet the islands are covered in fruits that are rich in antioxidants. I realize whales and salmon and fruit aren’t herbs, but I hope you get my drift.

Blue Vervain on trail

So here I am talking about food and mother nature and la la la. Like I said, I’m excited.

Next week I am teaching a class called Herbs for Nerves. In that class I will be covering herbs that repair, restore, and/or calm our nervous system. Today, on a hike, I bumped into a native island plant that I just happen to be covering in my class: blue vervain.

I am currently on Kauai, for vacation, and I’ve been exploring what is around me here. Honestly, I don’t have enough weeks here to write about all the medicine on the island. Today, on a hike with my dudes, I kept noticing this blueish purple flowering plant whose leaves reminded me of nettle. The blooms looked just like vervain, but I wasn’t sure if vervain grew in this climate so I withheld identification confidence. Later in the day I consulted some useful resources and realized sure enough, I had found blue vervain! In abundance. It is everywhere that I have hiked so far and I just picked a few leaves from a quiet roadside.

First identified on the islands in 1908 it has naturalized on all the islands of Hawai’i and has been used as medicine here for as long as it’s been here. Kauai Farmacy’s website write up on the plant says it is a well suited herb for a “type A” personality. It is an excellent nervine, meaning that it interacts with and soothes the nervous system in multiple ways, including healing. I am particularly fond of it because it is safe for children, it is a galactagogue - meaning it encourages breast milk supply, it is a diaphoretic - meaning it moves fevers, and is supportive of the liver, even used in jaundice. The reason why this is impressive is because this is a very broad medicine. I personally get very excited about plants that are safe for little ones, my reason being that as an herbalist, I believe in gentle healing, so plants that are safe enough to pass thru a breastfeeding mother’s milk, are ultra gentle, and therefore I can offer them to virtually anyone regardless of their physical state. Don’t mistake gentle for weak, vervain is a deeply valuable nervine and works very well when used properly.

Vervain has been called nettleleaf velvetberry

Other uses for the plant include: external poultice to heal wounds, intestinal worm elimination, digestive aid, insomnia, congestion in chest and throat.

If you want to try vervain out for yourself I recommend finding a tea or tincture that includes it. If you live near me, reach out, I can formulate something for you. Whatever you buy, make sure you seek quality over cost when consuming herbs… or anything for that matter.

Until next time… Xo




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