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Lemon verbena is perhaps a lesser known herb, identified by its lemony scent and flavor. A member of the Verbenaceae or verbena family, it’s identified in scientific literature as Lippia citriodora, Aloysia citriodora, and Aloysia triphylla.
Because of its citrusy aroma, it can be used as a garnish in fruit salads, fish dishes, desserts, iced teas, or cocktails. But it also can be used medicinally.
Lemon Verbena as An Antioxidant
Like many herbs, verbena is high in polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds, including limonene (the reason for its lemony scent). Many of these are water-soluble, making lemon verbena tea one option to enjoy its antioxidant benefits.
Oxidative stress certainly does play a role in many diseases, so the benefits of antioxidant support are myriad. Inflammation and oxidative stress are closely linked. This study showed that lemon verbena significantly lowered eight inflammatory cytokines and CRP, a common inflammatory marker, for secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis patients.
Oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation doesn’t have to come from a disease state, necessarily. Intensive exercise induces first oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation, leading to characteristic muscle damage and soreness during recovery. Lemon verbena has been studied for athletes before and during intensive workouts, showing an increase in levels of the master antioxidant glutathione as well as decreased inflammatory cytokines, less pain, and faster recovery.
This study interestingly investigated the benefits of the antioxidants to food preservation. It found that lemon verbena can indeed act as a natural preservative, increasing the shelf life of high fat products by protecting against oxidation.
Lemon Verbena for Joint Pain
Along the lines of exercise recovery, this study investigated lemon verbena’s usefulness for joint pain, together with the traditionally anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids. It did prove beneficial, though whether this was because of the lemon verbena, the essential fatty acids, or the synergy of both was unclear.
Lemon Verbena for Sleep and Anxiety
Like other plants in the verbena family, lemon verbena is useful for insomnia. This 100-subject study demonstrated improvement not just in sleep duration, but also in sleep quality and sleep latency.
In part, this may be due to GABA receptor stimulation, which can not only benefit sleep, but is also beneficial for anxiety.
Lemon Verbena for Weight Loss
Lemon verbena has also been associated with decreased body fat, and appetite control. This study showed that lemon verbena, together with hibiscus extracts, decreased ghrelin while increasing a satiety hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1.
Lemon Verbena for Staph Infections
Also like many other herbs, lemon verbena has antibacterial properties as well. This study concludes that it is useful for early stages of skin infections with staph aureus.
How to Use Lemon Verbena
For insomnia and anxiety, diffusing lemon verbena essential oil may be effective. Fresh or dried leaves and flowers can be used in various recipes or as a tea as well.
Lemon verbena is not well studied in pregnancy or breast feeding, and should be avoided for those with kidney disease as well.