Lemon verbena is a very fragrant flowering shrub native to South America, where it's used to make tea. While not as well known as other lemony herbs, it is well worth getting to know as it is one of the most flavorful of this class of herbs.
Common name: Lemon verbena
Synonyms: Lippia citriodora, Aloysia triphylla, lemon plant, verbena
Botanical Family: Lemon verbena is a frost-sensitive tall shrub native to Argentina and Chile with sweet, lemony scented leaves and white flowers. Several other related species are native to Africa. The leaves, which are the part of the plant that is used, are long, narrow, and shiny green with a distinct lemony aroma.
Constituents of Note: Essential oil is present in lemon verbena at levels of less than 1% and usually at 0.5% or less. Citral (geraniol and nerol) and limonene comprise about 60% of lemon verbena essential oil. The essential oil is sometimes used in aromatherapy, but the true oil is expensive and at high risk of adulteration.
Quality: Lemon Verbena leaf is medium green in color, free of all woody stems with less than 1% soft stem. Small white flowers may be present in limited amounts. The aroma of the leaf when crushed is sweet and lemony. Lemon verbena has fruity, lemony flavor.
Regulatory Status: GRAS as a natural flavoring (Title 21 172.510), Dietary Supplement
Did you know? Brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers, lemon verbena was known as 'Herb Louisa' so named in honor of Maria Louisa, the wife of King Charles IV of Spain. Lemon verbena gained popularity as an aromatic addition to finger bowls at Victorian banquets. It was also used in perfumes.
Directions: To make a tea, pour one cup of hot water over one teaspoon. of lemon verbena leaf, steep 3 to 5 minutes.
2 parts lemon verbena leaf with 1 part peppermint leaf makes a refreshing delicious iced tea
Suggested Uses: Lemon verbena makes a very tasty tea, by itself or when combined with other herbs, that is relaxing and soothing to the tummy.
Lemon verbena can also lend its lemony flavor to desserts — especially fruit dishes, sauces, vinegars and vinaigrettes. Try it in marinades for fish and chicken. Lemon verbena flavored sugar makes a nice topping on cakes and muffins or as a sweetener for tea.
Lemon verbena is also used in sachet, herbal pillows and potpourris due to its long-lasting fragrance.
For a deeply relaxing massage oil, add 2 tablespoons each of lemon verbena herb and lavender flower to a cup of warmed carrier oil such as almond or jojoba oil. Let steep for 2 to 4 hours. Strain and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for later (warm before use).
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies lemon verbena as:
Class 1: Herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately.
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
Our lemon verbena is cultivated in Paraguay or Argentina where it is native and also grows wild.
Meet Our Grower: Our Well Earth partner in Argentina grows seven organic botanicals for us, including lemon verbena leaf. The lemon verbena "field" has reverted to a grassy area of lemon verbena shrubs and small trees. The permanent and mixed cover reduces the yield but creates a more balanced, natural method of growing.
Lemon verbena is harvested mid-summer, and dried on trays in a drying room using natural gas heat. Our partner cuts and sifts the lemon verbena at their facility before sending us the finished bulk product.