Originating from Chile, lemon verbena was introduced into Europe in the late eighteenth century and lemon verbena tea has been popular in France and Spain ever since.
Lemon verbena, lippia citriodora, is a beautiful lemon- scented deciduous shrub which, if grown in a sheltered position, can grow up to 6 ft (I .8 metres) high. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and deeply veined and they grow in whorls of three along the woody stems; they contain the aromatic oils and when bruised or crushed are refreshingly fragrant. The tiny pale pink flowers grow in loose spikes and are in bloom from July to September.
In the kitchen young lemon verbena leaves are added to fruit salads, fruit drinks and wine cups. Lemon verbena tea, when sweetened with honey and served iced, is deliciously cooling in hot weather.
Lemon verbena is not a hardy shrub and will need either to be protected during the winter months or to be brought indoors. It will grow in well-drained garden soil in a sheltered spot facing south. Lemon verbena is propagated from stem cuttings taken from an established plant at any time during the growing season.
The leaves for drying are at their best just before the flowers fully open. Pick only the perfect leaves and dry and store in the usual way.
Lemon verbena tea is very pleasant to take and is a useful remedy in mild cases of indigestion and flatulence. It is also calming and sedative and a help to those who cannot sleep due to nervous tension.
* To make lemon verbena tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water on to 1—2 teaspoons of fresh or dried herb. Leave to infuse for 5—10 minutes, then strain and sweeten with honey. To be effective a small cup of tea can be taken hot last thing at night.
Lemon verbena lotion is good for the complexion and keeps the skin clear of infection.
To make a skin lotion: Follow the same method as described above, using 2 teaspoons of dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water. Pour into screwtop bottles, store in a cool place and use within a few days.
The infusion makes a pleasant mouthwash and is good for bad breath. For tired eyes a compress using pieces of lint dipped in lukewarm infusion is refreshing.
* To make an infusion: Pour ½ cup of boiling water on to 1 teaspoon dried herb. Infuse for 5 minutes and strain. Place compresses on closed eyes and lie down and relax for 15 minutes.
* Lemon verbena with its fragrant lemony scent can be included in all potpourris. Lemon verbena sachets add a lovely perfume when laid between clothes and linen. Filled cushions keep a room smelling sweet.