Culinary Arts

What Is Lemon Verbena? Learn How to Cook With Lemon Verbena

Written by MasterClass

Jun 25, 2019 • 2 min read

Although the lemon verbena plant might look like common grass at first glance, once the intense fragrance is released from this unique shrub its true potential is revealed. Beloved by gardeners and tea makers alike, lemon verbena makes a wonderfully fragrant addition to any herb garden.


What Is Lemon Verbena?

Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a perennial shrub in the Verbenaceae family of plants, used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Also known as lemon beebrush and lippia citriodora, lemon verbena is recognizable by its long, pointed leaves and rough texture.

Native to South America, this herb is grown in the wild of Peru and Chile and takes best to warm climates with full sun exposure. The lemon verbena plant grows up to 9 feet high and sprouts white flowers. The leaves of the lemon verbena plant release a potent lemony scent when bruised or rubbed, making it a popular addition to herb gardens.

What Does Lemon Verbena Taste Like?

Lemon verbena has a bright, slightly sweet, herbaceous flavor with a distinct hint of lemon. Despite its strong lemon scent, this citrusy herb has a far less aggressive lemon flavor than lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon mint, and lemongrass.

What Are the Culinary Uses for Lemon Verbena?

This lemon-scented herb has a number of culinary uses ranging from rich roasts to sweet citrusy desserts and jams. Lemon verbena can be used to make flavorful olive oil-based salad dressings, subtle lemon ice cream, and lemon verbena jelly, as well as season poultry dishes, salsa verde, and soups. It can be used in place of lemon zest or dried lemon as a more subtle addition to dishes, or infused into pantry ingredients like sugar and vinegar.

In Europe and other global destinations, tea lovers combine lemon verbena leaves with hot water to create a popular herbal tea known as Louisa in England, “te de cedron” in Mexican kitchens, and Luiza in Greek households. This kind of tea is also popular among French, Spanish, and Italian drinkers. Lemon verbena can also be used to make a flavorful iced tea or lemonade made with fresh lemon juice, lemon verbena, simple syrup, and mint leaves.

What Are the Health Benefits of Lemon Verbena?

Lemon verbena tea made with fresh lemon verbena leaves and boiling water is commonly used to relieve the symptoms of colds including chills, fever, and congestion. Lemon verbena essential oil is also used topically to relieve muscle pain.

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