Lemon Verbena, belongs to the plant family Verbenaceae, and is known under a number of Botanical names and synonyms: Aloysia triphylla, Lippia citriodora, Aloysia citriodora and Lippia triphylla. An essential oil is steam distilled from the aromatic leaves. Its major chemical component is Citral, from 52% – 68% (29% -38% Geranial and 23%-29% Neral).
Lemon Verbena used to be used extensively, in fragrancing and perfumery until he IFRA (International Fragrance Association) recommended that, because of its strongly sensitizing potential, lemon verbena essential oil, should not be used in fragrances. Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, in the Second Edition Essential Oil Safety tell us that this oil is also now prohibited as a fragrance ingredient in the EU. Lemon Verbena is also considered by many to have phototoxic properties.
Because of this Lemon Verbena is not recommend for use in topical applications. On the other hand, I believe that this aromatically, lovely essential oil could be used in airborne type applications, diffusers, misters, etc. so long as one takes care that it doesn’t come into contact with the skin. It certainly does have a refreshing, uplifting aroma and could be considered in cases of anxiety, insomnia, nervous tension and stress-related conditions.
In folklore it is said that, because of its purifying properties, Lemon Verbena was used to clean altars after each ceremonial ritual. The Romans are said to use the herb to make a love drink, apparently a small amount added to a lover’s drink would inspire passion. While the ancient Greeks are said to have put dried Lemon Verbena leaves into their pillows to promote pleasant dreams.
The herb is refreshing, yet soothing and calming. The leaves can be made into a very pleasant tasting soothing and relaxing tea. This can be helpful for digestive complaints, as well as helping to promote a deep and peaceful sleep. However there is a caution that, long term use or high doses could irritate the stomach.
On a subtle level, Lemon Verbena is considered to be helpful in connecting with the inner child. It helps open the mind to experiencing familiar things in a new way.
If you grow Lemon Verbena, you can harvest the leaves throughout the growing season. Dry and immediately place in an airtight jar. Then keep the jar in a cool, dark place. The leaves will retain their aroma for years. They make a great addition to an potpourri mixture.
I have seen recipes for adding lemon verbena chopped leaves to fruit salads, and today a client of mine told me that it makes a delicious ice cream. Simply infuse your cream with Lemon Verbena leaves and then make the ice cream according to your recipe. She told me that she uses herb flavoured cream to make ice cream all the time with lemon verbena, rosemary and mint being among her favourites.