I thought it would be appropriate to follow up my article on Lemon Balm with Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla or citrodora). While not very strongly bitter, Lemon Verbena is one of the few citrus-tasting herbs that dose have a hint of bitterness. And, like Lemon Balm, it is often regarded as just a tea herb - pleasant tasting and smelling, but not really a medicinal. Actually, it is an interesting herb with its own specific actions. I love herbs that can be used both medicinally and culinarily. Even Plants for A Future lists Lemon Verbena as being too often overlooked:
Medicinal use of Lemon Verbena: An undervalued medicinal herb, lemon verbena contains a strong lemon-scented essential oil that has calming and digestive qualities. 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. The leaves and the flowering tops are antispasmodic, febrifuge, sedative and stomachic. A tea made from the leaves has a deliciously refreshing lemon flavour and is used mainly in treating digestive disorders such as flatulence, indigestion and acidity. Some caution is advisable though, since prolonged use or large internal doses can cause gastric irritation. The herb is also useful as a stimulant for treating lethargy or depression whilst it is also used to treat feverish colds. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of nervous and digestive problems and also for acne, boils and cysts.
Citrodora, specifically was named by French Botanist, Philibert Commerson in 1767, who collected it in Buenos Aires. But, it seems that the first Europeans to discover the herb were Spanish Botanists, Casimiro Gómez Ortega and Antonio Palau y Verdera. Mrs. Grieves tells us:
This deciduous shrub was introduced into England in 1784, reaching a height of 15 feet in the Isle of Wight and in sheltered localities. The leaves are very fragrant, lanceolate, arranged in threes, 3 to 4 inches long, with smooth margins, pale green in colour, having parallel veins at right-angles to the mid-rib and flat bristles along the edges. The many small flowers are pale purple, blooming during August in slim, terminal panicles. The leaves, which have been suggested to replace tea, will retain their odour for years and are used in perfumery. They should be gathered at flowering time.
All the species of Lippia abound in volatile oil.
The odour is due to an essential oil obtainable by distillation. It has not been analysed in detail.
Medicinal Action and Uses---Febrifuge, sedative. The uses of Lemon Verbena are similar to those of mint, orange flowers, or melissa, as a stomachic and antispasmodic in dyspepsia, indigestion and flatulence, stimulating skin and stomach.
One nice thing about Lemon Verbena is that it can be combined with Lemon balm not only to get the medicinal benefits of each, but the flavors complement each other well. Lemon Verbena has a much stronger lemon-like flavor, but the essential oils of Lemon balm seem (at least to me) to be more aromatic and flavor enhancing. Together, or combined with members of the mint family, they do make a nice tea. But, they make a nicer Lemon pepper Chicken, especially when combined with a little lemon zest and garlic. That gives a much more pronounced and complex flavor than lemon zest alone. Most folks though, like to use Lemon Verbena with fruit, or in cookies and cakes. Lemon Verbena can be used to flavor sugar - you do this by simply adding the dried herb to some sugar and storing it in a sealed jar until the sugar takes on the scent. It is also nice in whipped cream. Some folks like to include Lemon verbena in cocktails and other drinks. My tastes run toward the savory though, so my favorite use is with grilled fish - I think lemon flavors are essential with seafood, but especially with mild tasting, fresh water fish. Lemon Verbena can also be used as a nice substitute for soups and other dishes that call for Lemon Grass; the flavor is not identical, but it works well (to my taste).
In the words of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” As I write this, it is just a few days before the beginning of autumn… when the blue fish run off the Carolina coasts. Blue fish should be eaten as fresh as possible, because it is an oily fish with a very high metabolism. Fresh, the flesh has the blue-ish red tint of the finest tuna and very similar qualities. I love to surf fish for blues! Bluefish will hit a school of smaller fish like a bunch of piranhas, with razor sharp teeth that shred everything they can bite - when I see the little fish jumping out of the water, I cast into the schools, using cut bait or pieces of shrimp,.. Sometimes I hook two on a double rig and it is an adrenaline rush trying to reel them in! I bleed and gut them immediately, cut out the gills and put them on ice. After catching a few in the 12–18 inch range, I hurry to the grill, finish cleaning them, salt and pepper them down, stuff with lemon slices, herbs (usually parsley, chives and any lemony herbs I have on hand… once I found some juniper berries growing nearby, and that was very nice) and onions and cook them on a well-oiled, hot grill as quickly as possible. The skin usually sticks to the grate no matter how careful I am, so I basically fillet them with a fish spatula and serve them atop a fresh salad with a mustard vinaigrette dressing. That, to me, with some raw oysters and some freshly caught shrimp either fried or cooked with butter and garlic on the side and a good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or a cold beer and the sound of crashing waves, is the ideal seaside meal. I wonder if a garden of Lemon Verbena and Lemon grass, etc would help deter the mosquitoes? I know it goes well with the fish!
The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.
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