If we were to line up all of the citrus-tasting herbs and ask the most lemony to step forward, lemon verbena would advance with no arguments from even the best of the rest. Fresh or dried, this humble looking herb is a blue ribbon winner when it comes to ramping up the flavor of a good cup of brew or enhancing the aroma of a serious blend of potpourri. In fact, women once carried lemon verbena in their pockets, sleeves and hats to serve as a natural perfume. This botanical is mentioned as the favorite plant of Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in the novel, Gone With the Wind.
What does it do?
A cup of lemon verbena tea has earned praise for effectively reducing fevers, strengthening the nervous system and quelling spasms of the colon. A proven expectorant, this green medicine is on call to break up congestion when the need arises. The essential oil is employed by aromatherapists in massage formulas to enhance liver function, ease digestive stresses and bring comfort to both the anxiety-ridden and depressed mind.
About the herb
Like a well-travelled hitchhiker, lemon verbena is a roadside regular growing along the highways and byways of its native stomping grounds across Argentina, Chile and Peru. Enamored by its delightful aroma and taste, Spanish explorers introduced it to Europe during the 1600’s, where its oil became a favorite in perfumes and colognes. This rising star was honored with the botanical name Aloysia triphalla, derived from Princess Mary Louise of Parma and the three-leaved arrangement at each node along its stem. This deciduous shrub rises six feet skyward and an equal length from side to side. During late spring and summer, sprays of delicate lavender or white blooms join its thin, pointed aromatic leaves. Lemon verbena fares well as a potted houseplant where it exudes its heavenly scent day and night.
Mix finely crumbled dried leaves into rice dishes just before serving for a unique tasting treat. This versatile garden ingredient can also enhance the flavor of cake mixes, breads and soups. Or just sit and sip a blend that matches a pair of genuinely “scent”uous herbs—lemon verbena and peppermint—to soothe stomach and mind.
Place ½ cup of each herb in a teapot and add 2 cups of boiled water. Strain after 5 minutes and enjoy a cup for you and one for a friend!