Known for its soothing aroma and bright taste, lemon verbena is a plant that’s commonly enjoyed in teas and as an essential oil.

Lemon verbena contains a variety of plant compounds that provide unique health benefits. It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional medicine systems to treat respiratory conditions, digestive issues, and more (1, 2).

This article covers 5 potential uses and health benefits of lemon verbena, all backed by science.

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Lemon verbena, also known in the scientific community as Lippia citriodora, Aloysia citriodora, and Aloysia triphylla, is a medicinal plant native to South America (2).

It contains several plant compounds, including terpenoids and phenolic compounds, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

For example, lemon verbena leaves and extract are rich in a polyphenol compound called verbascoside. According to older and newer studies, this compound has strong antioxidant activity (2, 3).

In fact, both animal and test-tube studies have shown that verbascoside may protect against cell damage and improve your body’s antioxidant defenses (4, 5, 6, 7).

In addition to verbascoside, lemon verbena contains several other plant compounds with antioxidant properties, including geranial, neral, luteolin, and limonene (8, 9).

Summary

Lemon verbena contains several plant compounds, including verbascoside, that may protect your body against cell damage.

Because lemon verbena is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, it may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.

Oxidative stress is characterized by an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production of harmful free radicals. It can lead to cell damage and increased disease risk (10).

In a 2014 study, 30 people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis received a placebo or 600 mg of lemon verbena extract with 10% verbascoside for 28 days. Lemon verbena led to significantly lower levels of a type of inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein (11).

What’s more, a recent study in 60 healthy adults demonstrated that taking 400 mg of lemon verbena extract for 10 days before and during exhaustive exercise tests decreased urine levels of an oxidative stress marker called 8-OHdG, compared with placebo (12).

Plus, the lemon verbena group had higher blood levels of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and lower levels of the inflammatory protein interleukin-6 (IL-6), indicating that taking lemon verbena might reduce oxidative stress and protect against muscle damage (12).

An older study also showed that supplementing with lemon verbena protected cells against oxidative stress and reduced exercise-induced muscle damage in healthy men who engaged in an intense, 90-minute running protocol for 21 days (13).

While these findings are promising, more research is needed to better understand how lemon verbena may reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress.

Summary

Although research is limited, some human studies suggest that lemon verbena supplements might help reduce oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in some people.

Lemon verbena contains an abundance of compounds that protect your cells from damage. This could be particularly beneficial for athletes, as exercise causes stress and muscle damage in your body.

In a study in 44 athletes, taking 400 mg of lemon verbena extract before, during, and after an exhaustive test for 15 days led to less muscle damage, faster recovery, less pain, and higher levels of the antioxidant enzyme called GPx, compared with a placebo treatment (14).

However, this study was funded by the company that produced the lemon verbena supplement. This might have influenced the results.

In another study, athletes who took 400 mg of lemon verbena extract for 10 days before and during exhaustive exercise tests had reduced muscle pain and lower levels of a marker of muscle damage called creatinine kinase (CK), compared with those in a placebo group (12).

Combined, these studies suggest that lemon verbena supplements may improve recovery and protect against exercise-induced muscle damage in athletes. Still, more research is needed before lemon verbena can be recommended as a way to support athletes.

Summary

Studies in athletes have found that lemon verbena supplements may reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and muscle pain while also promoting recovery.

Limited research suggests that lemon verbena could be helpful for those with sleep issues like insomnia. In fact, the plant has been used throughout history to treat insomnia and induce sedation (15).

One study in 100 people with insomnia demonstrated that taking 10 mL of a lemon verbena syrup before bedtime significantly improved their ability to fall asleep, total sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness, compared with those in a placebo group (16).

Further, animal studies suggest that lemon verbena may have anti-anxiety and calming effects. These properties could also benefit those with insomnia (17, 18).

Although these results are encouraging, more studies are needed to determine whether lemon verbena can act as an effective sleep aid for people with insomnia.

Summary

Lemon verbena may have sleep-enhancing effects. Limited animal research also suggests it could reduce anxiety. Still, research is limited at this time.

Some research suggests that lemon verbena could have anti-obesity effects, though research in this area is still limited.

One 6-week study fed mice a high fat diet. One group was left untreated; another got lemon verbena extract. The treated group experienced reduced fat accumulation and an improved ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes — two large phyla comprising the gut microbiome (19).

This is interesting, seeing as some studies suggest that people and animals with obesity tend to have higher Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratios than those who are considered to have a healthy weight (20).

What’s more, a study in 54 people with overweight found that taking a daily supplement with lemon verbena and hibiscus extracts for 8 weeks reduced the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin and increased the fullness-promoting hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (21).

Compared with a placebo group, those who took the supplement also experienced a greater reduction of body fat (21).

However, the supplement used contained both hibiscus and lemon verbena, so the benefits cannot be attributed to one ingredient alone. Plus, the study was funded by the company that produced the used supplement, which could have influenced the results.

Ultimately, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that any lemon verbena product can promote weight loss. For this reason, you shouldn’t use lemon verbena supplements for this purpose.

Summary

According to some research in humans and rodents, lemon verbena may have anti-obesity effects. However, human research is limited, and more studies are needed.

There are several ways you can include lemon verbena in your diet or wellness routine.

Lemon verbena has a bright, refreshing, and calming scent. As such, it can act as a natural air freshener.

You can use lemon verbena essential oil in an essential oil diffuser. Alternatively, apply it directly to your skin if mixed with a carrier oil. Although, it’s best to first test for a potential skin allergy by doing a patch test. Finally, note that essential oils should never be ingested.

You can also use the plant to make tea. Simply grab some loose lemon verbena leaves or premade tea bags online.

Additionally, you can add dried and fresh lemon verbena to dishes like desserts, soups, jams, and specialty cocktails.

Lemon verbena supplements like tinctures can also be purchased online. However, keep in mind that there’s uncertainty about their safe and effective dosing.

For example, some research suggests that lemon verbena essential oils could increase the risk of birth defects. For this reason, pregnant women should not inhale aromatherapy with verbena (22).

It’s also recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding people avoid lemon verbena extract, tincture, syrups, or tea (23).

If you’re interested in taking lemon verbena supplements, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider first. They can help determine whether the supplement is necessary and inform you of its potential safety issues.

This is especially important if you’re currently taking any prescribed medications, other herbal supplements, or have any medical conditions.

Summary

You can use lemon verbena as an essential oil, in tea, or as an ingredient in dishes like soups and desserts. Check with your healthcare provider before taking any concentrated lemon verbena product like tinctures or extracts.

Lemon verbena is a plant with impressive potential health benefits.

Some research suggests that it may help reduce oxidative stress, protect against muscle damage, improve sleep quality, and have anti-obesity effects.

However, human research remains limited at this time. More studies are needed to determine whether lemon verbena improves any aspect of human health.

If you’re interested in using lemon verbena, especially in concentrated doses, speak with your healthcare provider first, and do not use verbena in any form if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding