In addition to its appealing citrus taste and aroma, lemon verbena has some great effects on the body and can help as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance.

Read this article to discover some of the amazing health benefits of lemon verbena.

What is Lemon Verbena?

Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a common herb with many popular culinary uses due to its lovely citrus smell and flavor.

Many studies have shown it to have beneficial antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic effects. It also may help combat multiple sclerosis, obesity, and muscular damage that occurs after intense exercise.

Chemical Composition

The main chemical components in lemon verbena are [1, 2]:

  • Verbascoside and luteolin 7-diglucuronide – chemicals that protect against UV rays and wilting.
  • Citral – a chemical that gives the plant its citrus smell and taste and has some antibacterial properties.
  • Eucalyptol (1,8-cineole) – a chemical that soothes inflammation when applied on the skin.
  • Geranial – an essential oil component with antibacterial properties.
  • Sulcatone (6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one) – a chemical used for flavoring.

Mechanisms of Action

Lemon verbena slows down fat buildup and creation by increasing adiponectin, a protein that controls fat break down [3].

The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of lemon verbena are due to the interaction of verbascoside with double layered cell membranes [4].

Verbascoside is found to localize near the boundary between water and the phospholipid membrane and decreases the particle size inside vesicles, fluid-filled membranes that transport particles in an out of cells [4].

Lemon Verbena Health Benefits

1) Can Prevent Oxidative Stress

A lemon verbena infusion protected against oxidative stress in an experimental colitis model (induced by dextran sulfate sodium) in rats by stimulating superoxide dismutase activity and decreasing fat breakdown [5].

In a study on rats administered lemon verbena extract, verbascoside increased the antioxidant capacity of the blood. This boosts the rats’ ability to fight off free radicals that would normally disrupt normal cell activity [6].

Lemon verbena extract prevented excessive oxidative stress in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial (DB-RCT) of 15 male athletes in an intense 21-day exercise regimen [7].

Lemon verbena infusion has an antioxidant level comparable to sports drinks and green tea [8].

When preparing lemon verbena for antioxidant uses, infusions made by soaking the leaves produce stronger results than making decoctions by boiling the plant [9].

While lemon verbena has many antioxidant effects, combinations of different antioxidant herb infusions produce a synergistic effect that increases the potency [10].

2) May Fight Infections

Lemon verbena reduced skin wounds severity in mice infected with Staphylococcus. Lemon verbena ointment can be a possible option for treating the skin wounds of early staph infections [11].

In petri dish lab studies, lemon verbena prevented the growth of Staphylococcus aureus [11].

Lemon verbena essential oil killed Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that causes stomach problems like ulcers [12].

Alcoholic extract of lemon verbena inhibited the growth of Candida albicans, a common stomach fungus that can cause fatigue and weight gain if it grows out of control [13].

The essential oil from lemon verbena also significantly reduced the amount of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi in mice [14].

However, lemon verbena alone had no effect on various strains of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. An inhibitory effect on some strains was seen when the lemon verbena extract was combined with an antibiotic (gentamicin) [15].

3) May Fight Inflammation

The verbascoside in lemon verbena fights inflammation by increasing the production of tyrosine phosphatase, which in turn decreases inflammation [16].

Polyphenols like verbascoside derived from lemon verbena reduce inflammatory effects by reducing reactive oxidative species, which are accumulated at the site of inflammation and cause oxidative stress to the body [3].

Lemon verbena extract causes a reduction in proinflammatory cytokines levels IFN-γ, IL-12, and IL-23 [17].

Inflammation is one of the main factors leading to the progressive worsening of multiple sclerosis (MS). In a study (DB-RCT) of 30 MS patients, long term inflammation marker levels (reactive protein levels and other inflammatory markers) decreased after lemon verbena supplementation [17].

4) Alleviates Muscle Damage and Exercise Fatigue

Lemon verbena supplementation reduced oxidative damage to fats and proteins and muscular damage in 15 male volunteers after a 21-day intense running program [18].

In another study (DB-RCT) of 15 male students, a lemon verbena polyphenol extract decreased oxidative stress in a similar 21-day aerobic exercise program. This effect was mainly due to verbascoside, a polyphenolic compound that protects against UV radiation [19].

Lemon verbena decreases and maintains levels of serum transaminases, enzymes that break down proteins into energy-storage molecules. This shows a correlation between consumption and reduction of fat build up, as well as protection of white blood cells against damage caused by exercise [18].

5) May Help With Obesity

In a DB-RCT of 54 overweight women, the group that took a lemon verbena and hibiscus sabdariffa extract experienced weight loss, decreased blood pressure, and increased feelings of fullness and satisfaction after eating [20].

Polyphenols from lemon verbena lowered fat levels in human cells [3].

6) Helps Ease Joint Pain

In a DB-RCT of 45 participants, fish oil (omega-3) and lemon verbena lowered joint pain over the course of 9 weeks. The verbascoside in lemon verbena provided antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [21].

Limitations and Caveats

Lemon verbena has been widely used to treat problems with digestion, the immune system, anxiety, sleep, asthma, colds, fever, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin conditions, and chills.

However, there is no scientific evidence for many of these effects. More human studies need to be performed before people use lemon verbena to treat the health problems listed above.

Side Effects

Although common side effects of lemon verbena have not been extensively researched and recorded, be mindful of any hypersensitivity, allergy, or skin rashes that may come as a result of interaction with the substance.

If you are pregnant, take caution and ask your doctor before using any natural supplements such as lemon verbena, as the effects of lemon verbena on pregnant women have not been well researched.

Lemon verbena supplements have caused occasional dermatitis and increased kidney irritation in patients with existing kidney diseases [22].

Verbascoside has the potential to increase chromosome abnormalities, as observed in a study on the genomic toxicity of the chemical in fat cells [23].

Forms of Supplementation

The two most popular forms of lemon verbena use are in tea and as an essential oil.

Tea made from Aloysia triphylla leaves has higher concentrations of its active ingredients and polyphenolic compounds than the original dried leaves [1].

Lemon verbena tea contains verbascoside, cirtral, and luteolin 7-diglucuronide.

Lemon verbena essential oil contains many of the beneficial chemicals of the plant, with citral making up a large percentage of the oil at 41%. Citral is the cause of the plant’s strong citrus smell and taste and has antibacterial and antifungal effects. The essential oil contains citral, eucalyptol, geranial, and sulcatone [1].

User Reviews

Some users liked how lemon verbena helped them sleep, especially when used with omega-3 fatty acids. Others said they slept better as a result of reduced pain and stiffness.

Another user said it helped with anxiety, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and gut issues.

One user complained that lemon verbena worked as a diuretic and caused them to urinate more frequently.

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