The one also known as the lemon shrub Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) owes its name to its lemony aroma. Because of it, the shrub is a popular fragrant plant in the garden. Lemon verbena not only smells very refreshing, but also harbors some healing ingredients. For example, the lemon scent is associated with an extremely invigorating and appetizing effect. At the same time, Aloysia citrodora is said to have a calming effect on nerves, wounds and areas of infection in the body. We have summarized for you which components of the lemon verbena give such healing powers and what there is to consider when using the herb.
Fact sheet for lemon verbena
- Plant genus: Verbena (Aloysia)
- Plant family: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae)
- Popular names: Lemon shrub, lemon fragrance
- Occurrence: South America, Europe (naturalized)
- Parts of plants used: Leaves
- application areas:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- mild depression
- Muscle discomfort, nerve discomfort
- sleep disorders
- Nausea of pregnancy
- Digestive problems
Lemon verbena is originally native to the subtropics of South America. The plant was not introduced to Europe until the late 18th century. Spanish seafarers brought home the first copies of their expeditions to the New World. The lemon shrub first became an exotic novelty in the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid. This received between 1774 and 1781 under King Carlos III. a new location in the immediate vicinity of the Natural History Museum of Madrid and thus became not only an exhibition site for plants, but also a resource for Spanish botanical scientists who soon recognized the beneficial benefits of lemon verbena.
useful information: Maria Luisa, the wife of Carlos ’second-born son, Carlos IV., Later became the godfather for the generic name of Aloysia.
In the course of the next centuries, lemon verbena became a popular scent and ornament for flower bouquets and ornamental arrangements in gardens. British and French garden culture in particular made Aloysia citrodora an integral part of national garden design relatively early on. In addition, the lemon shrub soon became particularly popular in the kitchen. The aromatic plant still has a good reputation as an aromatic tea herb. However, because of its lemony taste, verbena is also used as an exclusive herb for soft drinks, desserts, salads, meat, fish and mushroom dishes. Even as a room fragrance and ingredient in fragrant cosmetics, lemon verbena is no stranger, which makes it clear how versatile the plant can be used.
Tip: The scent of lemon verbena attracts a wealth of beneficial organisms such as bees, bumblebees and butterflies in the garden. So if you are looking for natural pest control measures, the lemon bush provides fragrant support. However, the subtropical plant is hardly hardy with us, which is why a culture in a pot is recommended. In this way, the plant can easily hibernate indoors in autumn.
As already shown, lemon verbena belongs to the verbena family (Verbenaceae). This was named after the verbena of the same name, which is all too often mistaken for the lemon shrub. The reason for this is the fact that the botanical name of the verbena verbena is very similar to the name of the verbena. And the whitish flowers, which in both cases are grouped together in lush ears of corn, occasionally cause confusion. On closer inspection, however, significant differences quickly emerge between the two plants.
For example, verbena is a perennial that is only up to 75 centimeters high, whereas lemon verbena is a shrub that is up to 2 m high. The texture of the roughly serrated verbena leaves also differs significantly from the possibly slightly serrated lancet leaves of lemon verbena. The latter also smell unmistakably of lemon, which is due to the special composition of the essential oils in Aloysia citrodora. These are also the main active ingredient in the plant, which is why it is primarily the verbena leaves that are used to treat health complaints. For example, they can be used against:
- Respiratory problems (e.g. asthma, cold or cough),
- Muscle and nerve problems (e.g. inner restlessness, mild depression, muscle spasms, nervousness or sleep problems),
- Indigestion (e.g. loss of appetite, flatulence, intestinal colic, diarrhea or nausea during pregnancy),
- other health problems (e.g. swelling of the eyes, fever, headache or dizziness).
Ingredients and effects
Now it must be said that the healing effects of lemon verbena are somewhat weaker than those of verbena. However, this does not detract from the wide range of possible uses. Because the components from which the essential oils of lemon verbena are composed are all tried and tested active ingredients.
The fragrance Citral is the main component of the essential oils in Aloysia citrodora. However, it is not only responsible for the extraordinary aroma of the lemon verbena, it is also considered as
- and anti-inflammatory agent.
Ideal for aromatherapy or a steam bath with Aloysia citrodora for inflammatory respiratory infections. However, it should be noted that the components of Citral - in detail, the aldehydes Geranial (Citral A) and Neral (Citral B) - can occasionally lead to allergic reactions. Allergy sufferers should therefore first carefully test whether they tolerate lemon verbena.
The term terpenes denotes secondary plant substances that have been known for their good medicinal effects for some time. Lemon verbena contains these in the form of the following monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes:
- Camphor (camphor),
In addition to the aromatic aspect of many terpenes, which, like citral, also plays a part in the citrus taste of Aloysia citrodora, the ingredients mentioned are also known for their diverse healing effects. Above all, the calming effect on the digestive tract, which comes from many terpenes, is used time and again to treat gastrointestinal upset. In this regard, camphor is also a very popular ingredient for cold preparations, since the monoterpene contained is both anti-inflammatory and highly disinfectant. Medicines for muscle strain, neuralgia and rheumatic diseases also often rely on camphor, because it also has a calming effect on the nerves and thus on nervous pain stimuli.
When it comes to the pain-relieving effects of lemon verbena, bioflavonoids should also be mentioned. Artemite and hesperidin in particular have already proven themselves in this regard as pain relievers in initial studies. But the flavonoids in Aloysa citrodora can do even more. Hespiridine is also, for example, as
- cholesterol lowering,
- and vascular protective agent known.
Artemitine also has anti-carcinogenic properties, which is why some researchers are discussing its use in cancer treatment.
useful information: The disinfectant potential of lemon verbena has already been shown to be useful in the treatment of bacterial infections. Among other things, the herb showed positive effects on the reduction of pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli - two bacteria that are considered to be the main cause of a whole range of infectious diseases, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
Application and dosage
Lemon verbena can be harvested all year round. It is advisable to only remove small amounts of leaves in order not to overwhelm the shrub with excessive pruning. An exception is the annual cut in autumn. This can also result in larger amounts of waste that are available for more intensive use of the herb.
Lemon verbena as a kitchen spice
The lemon shrub is a real jack of all trades in the kitchen. The targeted use for disease treatment does not always have to be in the foreground. Everyday use as an ingredient in dishes is also possible. Aloysia citrodora can be used to flavor both hearty and sweet dishes. The refinement of the following dishes with lemon verbena is particularly popular in the kitchen area:
- Fish dishes,
- Chicken dishes,
- Mushroom dishes,
- Salad side dishes.
The aroma develops better if the leaves are added to the pan when frying.
When it comes to desserts, there are also no limits to the creative use of the lemon bush. Whether as an ingredient for preserves (e.g. jam or jelly), pastries such as cakes or fruit desserts and yoghurts - lovers can let their experimentation run wild here. It is also an insider tip to mix the verbena with refreshing drinks. From homemade fruit juices to smoothies to cocktails, there is a lot to do with the citrusy shrub.
Recipe for delicious lemon verbena syrup
If you want to preserve the unique aroma of lemon verbena in a highly concentrated form, you can make a syrup from the annual waste. For this you need:
- 2 to 3 leafy verbena branches (approx. 10 g)
- 350 g sugar or cane sugar
- 250 ml water
- ¼ lemon to intensify the taste
- 1 pot
- 1 screw jar
- Step: Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and let the whole thing boil up to a syrup.
- Step: Then cut the lemon into thin slices and add them to the syrup together with the branches of verbena. Optionally, the leaves of the lemon verbena can also be separated from the branches beforehand.
- Step: The syrup batch is now left covered for about a week. Then strain the lemon and herbs and boil the syrup again. Finally, the syrup is filled into a heat-resistant bottle when hot. It can now be used to refine cocktails, sparkling wine, mineral water, fruit juices, smoothies or also for desserts and frosting.
Lemon verbena as a tea herb
The common use of lemon verbena is as tea herb. To do this, take five to six leaves of the plant, put them in a cup and pour hot water over the herbs. After a brewing time of about ten minutes, the leaves are sieved and the tea is drunk in small sips.
tip: The use of fresh verbena leaves is particularly recommended for making tea. Dried herbs can also be used, but the healing properties and aroma are then significantly weakened.
Except for the plant's own citrate, which can cause allergic reactions in some cases, no side effects are known for lemon verbena. (ma)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Kassahun, Beemnet Mengesha; Yosef, Wondu Bekele; Mekonnen, Solomon Abate: "Performance of Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla L.) for Morphological, Economic and Chemical Traits in Ethiopia", in: American-Eurasian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Volume 13 Issue 11, 2013, semanticscholar.org
- Cantele, Lora; Purchon, Nerys: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: Over 400 Recipes for Beauty, Health and Your Home, TRIAS, 2017
- Zimmermann, Eliane: Aromatherapy for Nursing and Health Care Professions: Course Book for Training and Practice, Georg Thieme Verlag, 2018