Lemon verbena (botanical name, Aloysia triphylla) is among those plants that have suffered owing to their renaming. In effect, lemon verbena might also be marketed as Lippia citriodora. Irrespective of what you call this herb, it is an excellent herb that grows up to a height of two to three meters. The plant produces shiny, pointed leaves that are about 8 cm in length and somewhat coarse to touch. The leaves of lemon verbena exude a potent citrus aroma. This shrub-like herb bears light purple blooms that are bunched along the stems during summer and are not very attractive. Nevertheless, the primary attraction of lemon verbena is its foliage that exudes a potent citrus fragrance when it is bruised. In fact, the aroma of lemon verbena is the maximum during the early evening.
In tropical climatic conditions, lemon verbena grows rapidly into a graceful shrub that often grows to a height of about 15 feet. If the herb is not grown in full sunlight, it will grow tall and thin and will be deprived of the essential oils enclosed by normal lemon verbena shrubs.
In the 17th century, Spanish explorers brought lemon verbena to Europe from Chile and Argentina. In Europe, lemon verbena was cultivated for the plant's wonderful oil having a lemony aroma and was used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfumes till the time the inexpensive lemongrass oil substituted it. The herb has derived its botanical name Aloysia triphylla from Maria Louisa, who was the princess of Parma and later wife of King Carlos IV of Spain. The term ‘tiphylla' actually denoted the arrangement of the leaves or phylla of the plant, which appear in vortexes of three or tri.
Lemon verbena has a number of therapeutic uses. For instance a placid sedative tea is prepared using the leaves of the herb to comfort nasal and bronchial congestion. In addition, this herbal tea is also taken internally to treat palpitations, indigestion, stomach cramps, flatulence and nausea.
As a therapeutic herb, lemon verbena is much underrated. Nevertheless, this herb encloses an essential oil having a potent lemony aroma. This essential oil possesses soothing as well as digestive properties. Lemon verbena possesses a mild tranquilizing effect and is reputed for easing abdominal uneasiness. This herb also has a mild tonic or stimulating action on the nervous system and facilitates in lifting the spirits and combating depression. The leaves as well as the flowering tops of lemon verbena possess sedative, antiseptic, febrifuge (any medication that reduces fevers) and stomachic (any medication that is beneficial for the stomach) properties. An herbal tea prepared with the leaves of the herb possesses a delectably revitalizing lemon flavour and is primarily employed to treat digestive problems, for instance, indigestion, flatulence and acidity. Lemon verbena is also effective in the form of a tonic to treat lethargy or depression and is also employed to cure feverish colds. The pleasantly lemony smelling essential oil contained by the leaves of the herb is employed in aromatherapy in treating nervous as well as digestive disorders. In addition, the essential oil is said to be effective in treating boils, acne and cysts. People using this herb for a long period of time or in excessive amounts need to exercise a few precautions since it has the propensity to result in gastric irritation.
Apart from its medicinal uses, the essential oil enclosed by lemon verbena leaves is also widely used in perfumery and manufacture of cosmetics. On an average, the yield of this essential oil is 0.5 per cent. Since it has been found that the use of lemon verbena essential oil may make the skin sensitive to exposure to sunlight, in many cases, the use of this oil has been substituted by an inexpensive tropical plant - lemongrass (botanical name, Cymbopogon spp.). As even the dehydrated leaves of the herb hold on to their aroma for a long time, they are often used in potpourris or air freshener. The aroma of the growing herb works as an excellent repellent for flies, midges as well as other insects. In effect, when used in a concentration of about 1 to 2 per cent, the essential oil obtained from lemon verbena is an effective insecticide.
You may marinate lemon verbena in almond oil and use the combination for massage. In order to make the blend more interesting, you may add rosemary or lavender to it. You may use this essential oil in home made creams and lotions. In order to lessen puffiness in the region of the eyes, you may prepare an infusion with lemon verbena leaves and let it cool. Then drench a cotton wool in the infusion and place it over your eyes for about 15 minutes. The infusion may also be added to your bath, which will make you feel refreshing. In addition, you may use lemon verbena flower tops to prepare floral vinegar and apply it to your skin to make the skin fresh and soft.
The essential oil obtained from the leaves of lemon verbena may also be used in potpourris, sofa sacks, linen sachets and herb pillows as well as to make ink and paper fragrant. Infuse the essential oil in thawed candle wax at approximately 180°F for about 45 minutes to make the candles aromatic. Additionally, the essential oil may be used in perfumes as well as to spray over potpourris.
Apart from their therapeutic uses, the leaves of lemon verbena are sometimes cooked like spinach. However, generally the aromatic leaves of this herb are used in the form of a flavouring agent to add essence to salads, fruit salads and other similar items. As the leaves of lemon verbena possess a delicious lemony fragrance, it is loved by most people who use it for culinary purpose. In addition, a flavour and revitalizing tea is prepared with lemon verbena leaves. The dried out leaves of the herb hold on to their lemony aroma for several years. Delicately sliced tender leaves of the herb are added to drinks, confectionery, fruit puddings, cakes, apple jelly as well as home-made ice cream to add flavour and aroma. You may also infuse the leaves in finger bowls to enjoy their wonder aroma.
Habitat and cultivation
Lemon verbena thrives in almost all fairly rich soils provided the soil has a proper drainage system. This shrub has a preference for a light (loamy) soil and needs a sunlit, but sheltered position. Lemon verbena also needs a climatic condition that is warm and humid. This species usually endures most winters in the open, provided the plants are grown in an appropriate position. Nevertheless, in most cases, lemon verbena plants are cut to the level of the ground and it sprouts once again from its base during the later part of spring or early part of summer. It is advisable that you provide an additional good, dense organic mulch to the plant as it will help to protect the shrubs better during the cold months.
The leaves of lemon verbena are extremely fragrant having a lemony aroma and are generally used to prepare a beverage or used for the essential oils enclosed by them. If the shrubs require any pruning, it is best to carry them out during spring. Lemon verbena is particularly honey fungus resistant.
Lemon verbena is propagated by its seeds, which need to be sown in a greenhouse in the later part of spring. Simply cover the seeds and place them in a position where there is light ensuring that the compost does not dehydrate. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently to be handled, prick them individually and plant them in separate pots. Keep growing the seedlings in the pot inside a greenhouse for a minimum period of their first winter. You may transplant them in their permanent positions outdoors in early summer and provide some kind of shelter from cold for a minimum period of their first winter out in the open.
Additionally, lemon verbena can also be propagated by means of softwood cuttings done in May or June and planted in a frame. At least for their first winter, the new plants need to be grown in a greenhouse and planted in their permanent positions outdoors during late spring when the last anticipated frost of the season has passed. Cuttings made from softwood root soon and without any problem, although some plants may be lost during their first winter. Cuttings on semi-mature wood should be done in August and planted in a frame. As in the case of softwood cuttings, these cuttings should also be grown in a greenhouse during their first winter and planted in their permanent positions outdoors after the last anticipated frost of the season.
It is advisable that you should grow lemon verbena in a temperate and sheltered location since this species does not have the aptitude to endure frosts and requires protection during the winter months. However, the situation is somewhat different in the mildest regions where the shrubs are able to endure winter without extra protection. Unless you plan to grow this plant in a pot and keep it in a greenhouse or conservatory throughout their first winter, it is prudent to propagate the species from softwood or semi-hard wood cuttings. In fact, the plant will not grow to its maximum height when it is grown in a pot or container.
The shrub may be pruned during mid-spring or you may get rid of the dead wood and cut the principal stems to approximately 12 inches from the ground level to ensure that the shrub remains compact. While it is possible to grow lemon verbena from its seeds, it is simpler to take cuttings of softwood during the later part of spring and grow them under the cover of glass throughout their first winter.
The main chemical components of lemon verbena are:
Side effects and cautions
People taking herbal preparations with lemon verbena ought to be cautious regarding is usage for prolonged periods. It has been found that long-term usage of the herb's leaf in excessive doses may result in stomach irritations.
Collection and harvesting
Although the leaves of lemon verbena may be collected any time in the year, it is best to harvest them just when the herbs start blooming. Following collection, the leaves are usually dried up for use when necessary. The fresh leaves of this herb may be used to add essence to vinegar and oil.
Here we present a recipe for making a characteristic moist potpourri, which you may utilize in the form of a guide while making your personal recipe. To prepare this moist potpourri the most essential item you require is genuinely scented rose petals. In case you do not get really aromatic rose petals, you may recompense by including about four to eight drops of the rose oil essence when you have completed making the potpourri and just before curing it.
The ingredients required to create this typical moist potpourri include:
Dry rose petals until they have a leathery texture. Place the rose petals in layers along with layers of salt in a large glass crock having a broad mouth and end the arrangement with a layer of salt. Next, place a weight, other than a metal, on the contents of the jar. Place the jar in a place away from light and moisture and that is well ventilated for a period of about 10 days. During this period, stir the contents of the jar at least once every day.
As the mixture become dry, crush the portion that has formed a caked mass and, subsequently, blend the other ingredients with the dry mixture. Then close the lid of the jar tightly and leave it for about six weeks for curing. During this period, shake the mixture from time to time. When the potpourri is finally prepared transfer it into an attractive jar and keep it sealed most of the time. Only uncover the jar when you wish to perfume any room.
Below, we list the ingredients required for making a typical dry potpourri, which you may utilize as a standard for making your personal recipe. It is worth mentioning here that all dry potpourris rely on essential oils for their aroma. Therefore, you may include one or more of the ingredients listed below to prepare your personal dry potpourri.
The ingredients that you may require to create an individual dry potpourri may include the following:
Mix all the ingredients in a big crock or a jar having a broad mouth. Add the essential oil of styrax in measure of one drop once at a time and stop adding any further oil when you are sure that the aroma is sufficiently potent. Seal the jar and store the mixture in a dry, dark and ventilated place which is also warm. During this period, you need to shake the contents of the jar at least once every day.
Finally, move the aromatic mixture in an attractive jar having a tight fitting lid. You may open the lid whenever you desire to make the room fragrant.