Lemon Verbena, Herb Louisa, herba Luisa
Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Central America. Introduced to Europe in 18th Century though Spain. Popular garden plant though out the world.
Historical Botanical Names:
Botanical literature shows a variety of names, including Lippia citriodora and L. triphylla. Verbena triphylla and Aloysia triphylla. A search of the taxonomic sources provides some clarification. It seems that the plant was first classified from specimens mainly growing in the Royal Garden at Madrid. A French botanist published a description in 1784, and a Spanish botanists in 1785, naming it Aloysia in honour of Maria Luisa, princess of Parma and wife of Charles IV of Spain. The plant was later found in the wild by botanists working in South America, who gave it the genus name Lippi, in memory of a French-born Italian naturalist, Augustin Lippi, murdered in Abyssinia in 1709.
A deciduous shrub, growing to a maximum of 5 metres. The leaves are very fragrant, lanceolate, arranged in threes at each node, hence one name origin Aloysia triphylla. 6 to 8cm long, with smooth margins, pale green in colour. The many small flowers are pale purple, blooming during late summer in slim terminal panicles.
Warm climates, sandy soil, and protection from the wind. Grow in full sun in cooler areas and semi-shade in hotter climates. In cooler climates Lemon Verbena requires frost protection. Temperatures below –6degrees Celsius will kill Lemon verbena. Usually grown from softwood cuttings, taken just as buds shoot in Spring. 2-5cm long. Prune in early Winter, to shape the bush and remove dead wood. Grows well as container plant.
Leaves, dried and fresh. Constituents known: Citral (30-35%) nerol and geraniol
Actions & Medicinal Use:
Ferbrifuge, sedative, stomachic, antispasmodic in dyspepsia, indigestion and flatulence, stimulating skin and stomach. 100gm to 1 litre infused in hot water for 3- 5 minutes. Wineglass full 3 xs daily. Has shown anti-candida albicans activity.
Domestic & Historical Use:
Considered the Queen of Aromatic Herbs. The dried leaves are used in sachets and Potpourri. They can retain their odour for years. Oil distilled from plant is used in perfumery. A popular drink in Spain, where it is known as ‘Luisa’
Some constituents of lemon verbena oil have shown to be powerful skin sensitises. Photo toxicity could occur on skin exposed to sunlight. So only use the lemon verbena oil as whole oil used on the skin in the evenings.
Add smaller leaves to fruit salads, lemonade, baked apples and sponge cakes or shred it on top of Vanilla ice cream. Lemon verbena can be used with poultry, fish, and stuffing recipes, jams and a refreshing sorbet.