Lemon verbena is an amazing and often underrated herb that’s highly valued for its therapeutic and health benefits. Used for centuries, if not millennia, there is a long history of its use in traditional medicine for treating colds, fever, anxiety, indigestion, spasms, and insomnia. It is also popular as an infusion for boosting the immune system and a natural aid for weight loss.

The lemon verbena plant is a woody shrub with lance-shaped, light green leaves and small white or lilac flowers. A fully grown shrub can reach up to two to three metres high. When bruised, the leaves release a powerful lemony scent, from which its name is derived.

Lemon verbena has many common names: louisa, lemon beebrush, verveine citronnelle, cedrón, zitronenstrauch, or hierba luisa, while scientifically, it is known as Aloysia citrodora or (confusingly) also Lippia citriodora or Aloysia triphylla.

Of the more popular lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena is probably the lesser known, but if properly cultivated can have a stronger lemony flavour and aroma than lemon balm or lemongrass.

Although native to South America, lemon verbena has been cultivated in Europe for centuries, where it was first taken by the Portuguese and Spanish in the 17th century, and grows well in the mountains of Greece. At the time, it was mainly cultivated for its oil but became less popular due to the discovery of the more economical lemongrass.

Nowadays, lemon verbena is still widely cultivated, mostly for its oil (used in cosmetics and candles) and for consumption as a herbal tea, given it is soothing, relaxing, naturally caffeine-free and full of health-boosting properties.

The infusion is made by steeping fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves for about five minutes. Always use freshly boiled water, as it helps extract the best flavour.

Lemon verbena health benefits

It is believed that, in ancient times, the Incas were the first who discovered its beneficial properties.

Tea company Grek’s research has revealed many academic studies have been undertaken to evaluate lemon verbena, and has found that it possesses several beneficial properties, including antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory effects.

The studies also validate some traditional therapeutic and health-boosting claims. However, more work remains to completely understand the exact workings – particularly regarding the potential synergistic effects of the various biological components.

Here are 9 health benefits proclaimed by experts:

1) Detox & immunity boost
Detoxing is a constant and vital process for removing free radicals and staying healthy, and can be stimulated by drinking lemon verbena tea.
Research has shown that lemon verbena is very rich in phenolic compounds, which are powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals, helping to reduce oxidative stress, keeping the body healthy and boosting the immune system.

Lemon verbena tea shows comparable antioxidant activity to green tea but without the bitterness. It has similar free-radical-scavenging properties as some of the best known neuroprotective plants such as Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and curcuma.

2) A popular natural slimming aid
Drinking tea, sugar-free of course, is generally beneficial as part of a weight loss program. Lemon verbena, however, is particularly suited for this task as it has been shown to suppress the appetite, helping curb those irresistible cravings for snacks or sweets. Meanwhile it also promotes the burning of fat, stimulates the breakdown of cellulite, and regulates the metabolism.

3) Reduces stress
Finding time for yourself to enjoy a delicious cup of tea relieves tension and helps reduce stress, but the components in lemon verbena give an extra boost as they have a mildly calming effect on the nervous system and help relieve muscle tension, helping to reduce nerves, anxiety, and stress.

4) Sleep aid
Many take advantage of lemon verbena’s calming effects as an aid to sleep disorders such as insomnia. The same properties that help reduce tension and stress can calm the body and mind and help one prepare for a good night’s sleep. Lemon verbena is also rich in melatonin, a hormone in our bodies that increases as night approaches, stimulated by darkness and causes you to become sleepy.

5) Promotes digestion
In many cultures, lemon verbena tea has historically been used to promote digestion, helping to soothe the tummy through its antispasmodic qualities, calming the gastrointestinal tract. By doing so, it can help reduce symptoms from, for example, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, cramping, or bloating, allowing the digestive tract to function as intended.

6) Anti-inflammatory
The biological components in lemon verbena have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, with the potential to ease joint pain or other inflammatory-induced ailments.

7) Prevents muscle damage during exercise
Studies have shown the unique qualities of lemon verbena can prevent muscle damage in athletes when taken as a pre-workout supplement thanks to the tea’s antioxidant properties combined with its ability to suppress inflammation. What’s more, taking lemon verbena as a pre-workout supplement has been shown to not inhibit the growth or development of muscle.

8) Combats fever
It has been scientifically proven that lemon verbena contains biologically active substances with antipyretic properties i.e. substances that reduce fever. Therefore, it is no surprise that in South American folk medicine, lemon verbena has a long history as a trusted herb for reducing fevers.

9) Relieves congestion
The final health benefit of lemon verbena is its property as a natural expectorant, helping to loosen up mucus and phlegm, clearing congestion in the respiratory tracts.

Despite lemon verbena’s wondrous properties, it is no replacement for a healthy lifestyle. But drinking lemon verbena tea as part of a balanced diet can be beneficial. Its protective components can help relieve adverse health symptoms, boost your immune system, and improve your overall well-being.

* Note: It is not recommended to use lemon verbena instead of or with prescribed medication without prior consultation. Also, as the effect on pregnancy is not well-established, pregnant women should exercise caution when consuming lemon verbena (or any natural supplement). If in doubt, always consult a medical professional.

* Marina Tzima is the co-founder of Grek. For more, visit grektea.com