Lemon verbena is a pretty, but tender shrub
Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Lemon verbena, Aloysia citrodora, is also known as lemon beebrush. Unfortunately, it seems to have been a favorite target for taxonomists, because over the years it has been renamed several times, so it’s possible that you may find it labeled with any of the following latin names instead: Aloysia triphylla, Lippia citrodora, Lippia triphylla, Verbena triphylla and Zappania citrodora.
Also confusing is the fact that, although the common name is “lemon verbena” it is not a verbena from the scientific point of view. So it is not related to two plants which are: vervain (aka common verbena) and blue vervain (aka swamp verbena).
Lemon verbena is a tender shrub, reaching a height of 9 feet (3m) when full grown. In countries like the UK, where winters include a strong possibility of frost and snow, it is best grown in a large container, so that it can be put in a cool greenhouse or conservatory before frost occurs. The plant repels midges and other insects, and the essential oil can be used in dilute form (no more than 2% lemon verbena oil to the mixture) as an insecticide.
Lemon verbena is not fussy as to soil type or acidity, is happy with either dry or moist soil, so long as it is well drained, and will grow in full sun or partial shade. As already stated, it should be brought indoors or otherwise protected from frost, though there are surviving plants as far north as Northumberland in the UK, in a coastal garden. If you wish to try it outdoors, a position at the foot of a South facing wall will help a great deal, and a good mulch in the Fall will provide extra protection for the roots.
Lemon verbena leaves can be used in the salad bowl and for tea (it’s a common ingredient in commercially produced herbal tea blends). Dried leaves will keep their aroma for many years, and are therefore often used for pot pourri.
Medicinally, it’s surprising that lemon verbena is not used as often as might be expected. However, please note that prolonged use or large doses should be avoided, as this can cause gastric irritation
Make a standard infusion from leaves or leaves and flowering tops, using 3 handfuls of fresh or 30g (1 ounce) of dried to 500 ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Allow to stand for 3-4 hours, then strain before use.
Use a standard infusion internally for heavy colds, as a mild natural sedative, and to treat digestive disorders such as flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), indigestion and acid reflux, to lift the spirits and fight depression.
As with all herbs grown for medicinal use, lemon verbena should be grown organically so that its active constituents are not adulterated or eliminated entirely by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic lemon verbena visit the Gardenzone.
The essential oil is both a bactericide and an insecticide: used for acne, boils and cysts, and for nerve problems. Also used in dilute form (no more than 2% lemon verbena oil) as an insecticide.
I offer lemon verbena essential oil in my online shop.
As with all essential oils, lemon verbena essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.