Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

Shrub
A. citrodora. Lippia citrodora. L. triphylla. Verbena triphylla.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Lemon Verbena
Aloysia triphylla
Verbenaceae

An essential oil obtained from the leaves is extensively used in perfumery[7, 61]. An average yield of 0.5% is obtained[7]. There is some evidence that the use of this oil can sensitise the skin to sunlight and so its use has been largely replaced by the tropical plant lemongrass, Cymbopogon spp.[238].

The dried leaves retain their fragrance well and so are used in pot-pourri[238].

The growing plant repels midges, flies and other insects[201]. The essential oil is an effective insecticide in 1 – 2% concentration[240].

  • Medicinal Use

    An undervalued medicinal herb, lemon verbena contains a strong lemon-scented essential oil that has calming and digestive qualities[254]. The plant has a gentle sedative action and a reputation for soothing abdominal discomfort. It has a mildly tonic effect upon the nervous system and helps to lift the spirits and counter depression[254].

    The leaves and the flowering tops are antispasmodic, febrifuge, sedative and stomachic[4, 7, 238, 240]. A tea made from the leaves has a deliciously refreshing lemon flavour and is used mainly in treating digestive disorders[4] such as flatulence, indigestion and acidity[244]. Some caution is advisable though, since prolonged use or large internal doses can cause gastric irritation[268]. The herb is also useful as a stimulant for treating lethargy or depression[244] whilst it is also used to treat feverish colds[238].

    The essential oil is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of nervous and digestive problems and also for acne, boils and cysts[238].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – occasionally cooked as a spinach[177] but more commonly used as a flavouring in salads, fruit salads etc[14, 21, 104, 183]. A delicious lemon-like flavour, it is adored by most people who try it[K].

    A delicious and refreshing tea is made from the leaves[14, 21, 103, 183]. The dried leaves will retain their lemon aroma for many years[4].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The essential oil from the plant might sensitise the skin to sunlight[238].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – we have no information for this species but suggest sowing the seed in a greenhouse in late spring. Only just cover the seed and keep in a light position, making sure the compost does not dry out. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in early summer and give some protection from the cold for at least their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of softwood, May/June in a frame. Grow on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts[K]. The cuttings root quickly and easily, though there can be losses in the first winter[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, August in a frame. Grow on for at least their first winter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts[K]. The cuttings root quickly and easily, though there can be losses in the first winter[K].
Succeeds in most moderately fertile soils if they are well-drained[200]. Prefers a light soil[219]. Requires a sunny sheltered position[166, 200]. Requires a warm damp climate[7]. A very ornamental plant[1], lemon verbena is only hardy in the milder areas of Britain[1, 11, 14], growing well in Cornwall[59]. It can withstand about 10¡c of frost[184] and survives outdoors on a wall at Kew[K]. It generally survives most winters outdoors if growing in a suitable position, though it is often cut back to ground level and then resprouts from the base in late spring[120] or early summer[238]. Giving the roots a good, thick organic mulch will confer extra protection from winter cold[244]. The plant succeeds outdoors at Howick, a garden on the coast of Northumberland. The leaves are very aromatic with a lemon scent[182], they are often used to make a drink or for their essential oils[4]. There has been considerable confusion over the naming of this species. We are following the treatment used in [11] and [200], which is also the current treatment in the 1999 edition of The Plant Finder. However, the book ‘World Economic Plants’ uses the name A. citrodora Palau (a different author to the one we cite) as the correct name. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring[219]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
S. America – Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay. Locally naturalized in the Mediterranean[50].

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.