Aloysia citrodora is an herb that’s been around since the 17th century. It gets referred to by many names, including, Lippia citrodora, Louisa, and Verveine des Indes, to name a few. But the most common name you’ll find it under is Lemon Verbena, named for the strong lemony scent its leaves emits when bruised.
Lemon Verbena is a narrow plant that grows to be around 2-3 meters tall and is classified as a shrub. It produces small white and purple flowers. It is South American in origin and is used in many products available at any average retailer because of its unique medicinal and flavoring benefits.
History of Lemon Verbena
The first time the plant was publicly noticed was in 1767 by the French naturalist Philibert Commerson. He discovered it in Buenos Aires while circumnavigating the globe on a botanical excursion, labeling it with its first name: Aloysia triphylla. However, this plant had already been transplanted to the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid by two professors, Casimiro Gómez Ortega and Antonio Palau y Verdera, who published Lemon Verbena under a different name. In Latin, Ortega and Verdera gave it the scientific name Aloysia citrodia, but in Spanish, they named it the “Hierba de la Princesa.” The name was in honor of Maria Louisa of Parma, Princess of Asturias, the wife of the Royal Garden’s chief patron, Infante Carlos de Borbon. In time, the plant’s Spanish name would be shortened to Yerba Luisa or even just Luisa.
Lemon Verbena’s popularity grew when Gómez Ortega sent a sample of it to Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle in Paris, who then introduced it to John Sibthorpe in Britain. By the end of the 18th century, it had become a staple in bouquets, potpourri, and seasonings across Europe. It started to fall out of favor in the 19th century but still retained some popularity as part of personal gardens.
Medicinal Attributes and Health Benefits of Aloysia citrodora
Lemon Verbena’s unique characteristics give it some beneficial properties to aid a person’s health. It’s been used as a key ingredient in traditional Latin American medicines for years and has found similar uses elsewhere. For example, Lemon Verbena has a noted calming effect on upset stomachs, helping relieve constipation, indigestion, and gas.
In addition to helping with gastrointestinal distress, the plant has also been observed to help with:
- Stress – Verbascoside is a component of Lemon Verbena that’s been shown to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Infusing some of its leaves into a cup of tea relaxes the muscles and nervous system, producing a pronounced calming effect.
- Sleep – The same mechanism that helps you relax also allows Lemon Verbena to act as an effective sleep aid. It’s also rich in melatonin, a hormone produced in the body that helps us drift to sleep, so Verbena makes a perfect evening drink to overcome insomnia.
- Exercise – Taking Lemon Verbena as a pre-workout supplement helps to avoid muscle damage or inflammation. Not only does it not interfere with the development of muscle, but it also speeds up the healing process after you’ve finished exercising.
- Fevers – Studies on Lemon Verbena have found that it has antipyretic properties, meaning that it’s composed of substances that help fight a fever. If you or a loved one gets sick, some infused Lemon Verbena can help break their fever.
Lemon Verbena has further uses than just medicinal ones. Just like in 18th century Europe, it still makes for a sweet-smelling addition to any bouquet, as well as potpourri arrangements. Because of its unique, citrusy taste and aroma, it’s often used as an additive to foods; it’s most often used on proteins such as fish or poultry, but it can also enhance the flavors of puddings, icing, marinades, salad dressings, or teas.
It can be infused with other ingredients to make excellent skincare and relaxation products. It produces a much more intense aroma than its more widely known counterparts Lemon Balm and Lemongrass. The oils that can be harvested from it are infused into various aromatic merchandise such as soaps, candles, shampoo, bubble bath, and more. As an added benefit, it’s anti-inflammatory properties make Lemon Verbena derived skincare products an excellent way to combat rashes and infections. However, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor before doing so.
While Lemon Verbena is generally safe to use and consume, some caution should still be practiced. Aloysia citrodora oils are more potent than other herbal ointments and can irritate sensitive skin, causing it to break out. Additionally, if you’re someone with kidney problems, it has the potential to upset them further. Safe amounts to ingest can vary from person to person depending on age, weight, and overall health, so use it responsibly and consult a doctor if you experience any problems.
Growing Lemon Verbena
If you’d like to grow your own Lemon Verbena plant, then be prepared for a bit of work because it can be temperamental. Being a shrub native to South America, it grows best in hot, humid environments; you’ll want to keep it at temperatures of 40°F or above (though it does grow well in containers if you’re in a colder climate). It also needs a constant sunlight source, so place it in an unobstructed window where it won’t be in the shade of a tree or house. From there, you’ll need to water it regularly but make sure you carefully measure how much you give it each time. The soil should be moist, about the wetness of a wrung-out sponge—any more than that runs the risk of drowning the roots and causing the leaves to drop.
If you don’t have the time to cultivate a plant yourself, you can still reap the benefits with the tofillo Lemon Verbena tea. Produced in Crete, Greece, and brought directly to you, our Verbena tea is a multi-prize winning blend that recently won another award for best taste in France!
If you want to try the sweet, citrus taste for yourself, browse our online store and pick up a box today!