Lemon verbena is a tender perennial notable for its very strong, aromatic, lemony scent. In fact, it is considered to be the most concentrated of all the lemon herbs, according to the Washington State University Extension. This tropical plant needs warm weather to grow and it is native to South America. Lemon verbena is often grown as a container annual in temperate climates. Lemon verbena can be used in cooking and has been used for medicinal purposes.
Lemon verbena leaves are often used in cooking. They can be steeped in tea, or ground and added to ice cream, cakes and other desserts that would be enhanced by a touch of lemon. In fact, the leaves can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for lemon rinds. Lemon verbena can also be used to flavour jellies, jams and fruit salads. The leaves of the plant can also be used in main dishes. Dried and crushed leaves complement mint, ginger, spring onions and cilantro.
Lemon verbena leaves keep for a long time, which makes them an excellent addition to any potpourri mixture. Stuff a sachet with dried lemon verbena leaves and place it where foul odours tend to accumulate, such as near a garbage can, near shoes or the diaper pail in the nursery. The plant is also used in cosmetics -- including soaps and lotions -- and perfumes.
Lemon verbena contains beneficial antioxidants and is safe when taken in small doses. Some people use lemon verbena as a natural supplement to treat problems such as indigestion, insomnia and the symptoms of colds and asthma. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of lemon verbena to treat these problems. In addition, consuming lemon verbena is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and large doses of the herb can adversely affect the kidneys.
Lemon verbena has been traditionally used as an ornamental plant in the tropics. The long, slender leaves and tall, white flower panicles are an attractive addition in any garden. Lemon verbena plants can grow to a height of 5 feet tall, so leave plenty or room for them to spread out, or limit their growth by planting them in containers. Plant them near places where people walk. The pleasant will be released as your guests brush up against the leaves.