Lemon Verbena Oil: The Oldie but Goodie Culinary Herb

lemon verbena

Story at-a-glance -

  • Aside from its trademark citrusy flavor and aroma that most people today have grown to love, lemon verbena oil also has gained popularity even during early times.
  • Did you know that this is Virgil’s favorite oil? He mentioned it frequently in his works, describing it as rich and holy.

What Is Lemon Verbena Oil?

Lemon verbena oil is derived from lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora Palau), a plant from the Verbenaceaefamily and is native to South America, specifically Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay. The plant was introduced to Europe in the 17th century. By the 18th century, it was grown in the Mediterranean region and at the same time brought to North America.

People started cultivating lemon verbena primarily for culinary purposes. Its leaves, either fresh or dried, are used to add a lemony flavor to dishes. Because of its strong citrusy aroma, just half the amount of the usual lemon herbs used is enough.1

The lemon verbena plant has a thin stem with long pale green leaves and grows on an average height of 5 or 6 feet but rises up to 16 feet.2 Its flowers appear in a tubular shape and grow in clusters. It can live for a long time, though it sheds its leaves for a certain period.

Lemon verbena oil has a fresh, lemony, and sweet aroma. It's pale olive or yellow in color.

Uses of Lemon Verbena Oil

Lemon verbena has a wide variety of uses, especially in culinary practices. Its leaves are used as a replacement for lemongrass in numerous South East Asian recipes. It can also be added to any dish that needs lemon flavor, such as in chicken stuffing or salads. Tea becomes more flavorful when lemon verbena leaves are added. The leaves of the plant, when sliced, give a lemony flavor to drinks, confectionery, fruit puddings, cakes, and even to homemade ice cream.

Lemon verbena oil is commonly used in perfumes and cosmetics for an additional citrusy scent, especially in Europe. The essential oil is great when applying to ink and paper for added lemony fragrance. The dried leaves also add pleasant aroma to potpourri or air freshener and in herbal bags.3

Composition of Lemon Verbena Oil

This essential oil's chemical constituents are composed of myrcene, limonene, dipentene, citral, nerol, linalool, geraniol, and borneol.4 Its citral property has the highest prevalence, constituting about 38 to 40 percent of the oil.5

Benefits of Lemon Verbena Oil

When added to tea, lemon verbena oil may help in treating palpitations, indigestion, stomach cramps, flatulence, and nausea. It may also aid in healing skin disorders such as acne, boils, and cysts. It may even assist with in relieving puffiness and softening the skin.

Both lemon verbena plant and its oil may help with the following conditions:

  • Relieving anxiety and depression. The lemon verbena plant gives off a mild tonic characteristic. Its leaves have sedative and aphrodisiac agents that may improve your mood.
  • Improving immunity. Lemon verbena oil plays a vital role in improving liver function. It also aids in the functions of both digestive and respiratory systems.6
  • Curing abdominal discomfort. Tea made from this essential oil is believed to have a relaxing and calming effect. The warm drink is also known to treat fever, stomach pains, and intestinal spasms.7
  • Alleviation of respiratory problems. It is known to be helpful in treating cold and flu symptoms. It also helps relieve respiratory problems, as well like sinus infections, coughs, and loosens mucus plugs. Creating a lemon tea from lemon verbena leaves may help improve your mental and physical health.
  • Works great in aromatherapy and in cosmetics. Just add some of its leaves in almond oil to make the perfect massage oil. The essence of the herb is generally used to add a lemony scent in colognes, toilet water, perfumes, and soaps.8

Additionally, the antispasmodic properties of the essential oil help relieve menstrual cramps.9 The herb helps regulate the menstrual cycle.10 The essential oil may also benefit women who are already past their childbearing years.11

How to Make Lemon Verbena Oil

To extract lemon verbena oil, fresh leaves and stems of lemon verbena plant are harvested to undergo steam distillation. It produces really low yields, making it rather rare and expensive.12 It is quite difficult to find pure lemon verbena extract as most retailers offer lemongrass oil and lemon balm.13 The scent and smell of lemon verbena oil and lemongrass oil are quite similar, making the latter more in demand as a substitute.14

How Does Lemon Verbena Oil Work?

Lemon verbena oil is commonly mixed with water to create tea, but it can also be applied topically, as long as it is diluted with a carrier oil. It blends well with lemon, elemi, neroli, and palmarosa. I also suggest adding the oil to your bath water to soothe tensed muscles.

Is Lemon Verbena Oil Safe?

I recommend consulting your physician prior to ingesting lemon verbena oil. Do not forget to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil before applying it topically.15 Caution is urged when using lemon verbena oil as it can cause sensitization and phototoxicity due to its high citral content. Avoid sun exposure after applying the herbal oil as it can irritate the skin.16

Side Effects of Lemon Verbena

The plant's leaves, if used in high doses, can cause stomach irritations, so I recommend being careful when ingesting the oil as well. As a safety precaution, I recommend to always conduct a skin patch test before using lemon verbena oil. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you have a chronic disease, consult with a medical professional before using this essential oil.

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