Lemon Verbena: Flavor, Benefits, Uses, And Substitutes

What is Lemon Verbena?

Lemon verbena is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to South America. Also, it is popularly known as lemon beebrush.

This garden plant is one of the most pungent lemon-scented herbs. Therefore, if you don’t have it, another lemony herb could be a nice lemon verbena substitute.

Where to buy lemon verbena? Typically it is a garden plant that you can easily grow at home or you may find it in local vegetable stores. Some vendors sell it online, especially the dried whole leaves and oil.

What is the taste of lemon verbena?  Lemon verbena has a distinctive and unique lemony flavor that separates it from other common verities of lemons. Comparatively, it has a strong and pleasant lemony taste with an aromatic citrusy note.

Fresh lemon verbena has a fruity and penetrating aroma. The dried form of verbena also retains its flavor and aroma well.

Uses and Benefits

Lemon beebrush leaves render a wonderful lemony flavor to fish and poultry dishes, salad dressings, puddings, vegetable marinades, and beverages.

The leaves also work well in ice teas and hot tea to induce a satiating and lingering lemony aroma and flavor.

In food processing, this lemon extract is used as an aromatic ingredient in alcoholic beverages and food essences.

The leaves and flowering tops are used to make traditional medicines: an effective aid in dealing with digestive issues, muscle spasms, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.

Lemon Verbena Tea

Lemon verbena tea is the most popular beverage item from verbena. This tea is a deliciously refreshing and balmy infusion.

Many say that sipping down a cup of lemon beebrush tea is soothing, relaxing, and de-stressing. It’s rich in antioxidants and health-boosting properties. Above all, it’s caffeine-free.

Make the lemon verbena tea by steeping fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves for about five minutes in boiling water.

This herbal tea is popular for its several health benefits like managing digestive issues, joint pain, insomnia, asthma, fever, cold, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and many more.

Having one cup of lemon beebrush tea is likely safe and may give some health benefits. Short-term use of it for medical reasons is also possibly safe. Stop using tea if it causes any allergic conditions.

Best Lemon Verbena Substitutes

The commercial cultivation of Aloysia citrodora (verbena) is mostly confined to South America. For this reason, it isn’t easily available in local grocery stores in many parts of the world.

If you don’t have the means to get it or grow it by yourself, you can still mitigate its absence by using any one of the lemon verbena substitutes below.

1. Lemongrass

Lemongrass is not related to the lemon family of plants, yet this grass-like herb has a citrusy flavor and aroma like lemon verbena.

This herb is mostly used in Southeast Asian cuisines for adding a savory lemon note to dishes.

You can use lemongrass as a substitute for lemon verbena, but it has to be used differently in your cooking. Trim the top and base of the lemongrass stalks—you want to use only the bottom 4 inches without the woody-like outer cover. Use only the inner layers of the stalk that is tender and flavorful. Just add one or two stalks to your recipe; remove them from the dish before serving.

2. Lemon balm

Lemon balm is another excellent alternative to lemon beebrushes as both of them have identical flavor profiles and aromas.  This herb has a minty undertone that won’t be a compatibility issue for most recipes.

Lemon balm has a comparatively lesser pungent, lemony taste than verbena. Therefore, use it in slightly more quantity when using it to replace verbena in your recipes.

Unfortunately, lemon balm herb is also not easily available just like verbena.

You can comfortably use the lemon verbena and lemon balm interchangeably in both sweet and savory dishes.

3. Lemon basil

Lemon basil, hoary basil, Thai lemon basil, or Lao basil, is a hybrid between basil and American basil. People love it for its lovely fragrant lemon scent, a good flavoring for many dishes.

This basil is a popular ingredient in several Southeast Asian and North African cuisines.

To your advantage, lemon basil is highly versatile and easily gels well with most of the sweet and savory dishes. No wonder, why it is a good replacement for lemon verbena.

In Thai and Vietnamese cooking, lemon basil is mostly used in savory dishes, but it also works for beverages and desserts as a complementary flavor to other ingredients.

When using it as a substitution for lemon verbena, add it to your recipes toward the end of cooking to protect its flavor.

4. Lemon zest

The citrusy note of lemon zest is quite identical to lemon verbena. But it doesn’t have the slightly pungent and lemony aroma of verbena.

In a pinch, when you’re left with no better option, use lemon zest as a substitute for lemon verbena.

Lemon zest is compatible with most recipes that use lemon verbena.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does lemon verbena smell like?

Lemon verbena has a unique scent, combining the fresh smell of lemon zest, a touch of grass, and a sweet note. It's a crisp, energizing aroma similar to a mix of lemon, lime, and lemongrass.

How to make lemon verbena essential oil?

Using steam distillation, fresh lemon verbena leaves are put into a device. Steam flows through, turning the oils into vapor. This vapor becomes liquid again and is gathered as essential oil.

Does lemon verbena repel mosquitoes?

Indeed, lemon verbena's robust citrus smell, especially the component citronellal, naturally wards off mosquitoes. Having it in gardens or rubbing crushed leaves on skin acts as a repellent.

How to dry lemon verbena?

Dry lemon verbena by hanging stems upside down in a cool, airy spot or laying leaves flat on a rack. Keep it shaded, ensure ventilation, and once leaves are brittle, put them in a sealed container.

Does lemon verbena repel bugs?

Absolutely! Lemon verbena's citrus smell, thanks to citronellal, keeps bugs like mosquitoes, flies, and moths away, as they don't like the scent.

What to do with lemon verbena leaves?

Use lemon verbena leaves to add a citrusy taste to teas, drinks, desserts, and sauces. They're great in both fresh and dried forms. Also, they can freshen up potpourri with their pleasant smell.

How to use lemon verbena?

Lemon verbena brightens teas, syrups, and cocktails, adds lemony zest to desserts and sauces, and enriches potpourri and sachets with its alluring scent.

Is lemon verbena safe during pregnancy?

There's limited research on lemon verbena's safety in pregnancy, so it's best to avoid it. Some say it might be okay in small amounts, but without solid proof, caution is key. Always check with a healthcare expert.

What to do with lemon verbena?

Lemon verbena, known for its citrusy scent and taste, is perfect for adding zing to teas, drinks, and desserts. It's also great for boosting flavors in sauces and creating sweet-smelling potpourri and sachets.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, lemon verbena stands out for its vibrant flavor, making it a versatile ingredient in various culinary creations.

While its unique lemony zest is irreplaceable, in its absence, alternatives like lemon balm, lemongrass, and citrus zests can mimic its flavor profile.

Embracing lemon verbena in your cooking not only enhances taste but also invites creativity into your culinary endeavors.

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