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LEMON VERBENA (Aloysia triphylla) is an ancient herb that originated on the Western coast of South America. Brought by 17th Century explorers, it quickly became popular in Europe for the enticing lemon fragrane that persists richly when dried. Used in all manner of perfumes, cosmetics and potpourri, it was Laura Ingalls Wilder's favorite scent (and one of mine as well). You can also use in cooking & baking, as well as for teas (hot & cold) -- and for these uses it is essential that you have organic plants.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES: Lemon Verbena's health properties are wide ranging, including promoting digestion and clearing congestion, it also elevates the mood, boosts the immune system, is anti-inflammatory and it is said will help you lose weight.

GROWING TIPS: Due to its origin, this herb requires warm temps and plenty of sunshine to bring out its delicious fragrance. Don't crowd, lest it develop mildew.

DRYING FOR TEA AND OTHER USES: When we gather herbs for fresh use, we pick early in the morning, when still kissed by dew. But when we gather herbs for drying, we are going to wait until the sun has dried the dew, so that we do not get mildew forming when we dry. Gather small bunches of the healthiest plants and tie at the ends with string with a tail. Then hang in a protected environment. For me, it is from the shutters of my interior kitchen window over my sink. No sunlight at this window but plenty of fresh air as an overhead fan circulates during warmer months. This is ideal. Otherwise, special drying racks work well. The idea is to dry quickly, without sunlight, but plenty of air circulation to keep mildew from forming. Turn if necessary to make sure the bunch dries completely. When dry, crumple the leaves from the stems and store in airtight canisters.

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