At a few nutrition centres in Kigali, like Amazon Nutrition Cabinet, Remera, lemon verbena is sold in powder form. However, because of the inadequate information people have concerning the plant, it’s rarely sold—or used.
In brief, the lemon verbena plant is native to South America. Also known as lemon beebrush, its scientific name is ‘aloysia citriodora’. Verbena leaves are about eight cm long, glossy, pointed and slightly rough to the touch. This perennial shrub has an overpowering lemon scent, especially when the flowers and leaves are touched.
It was taken to Europe by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the 17th Century and cultivated for its oil.
Private Kamanzi, a dietician and nutritionist at the clinic, says the plant’s importance is not to be taken lightly as it comes with numerous health benefits. The plant is medicinal, among other things.
Among the benefits, the plant is used for digestive disorders including indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. Additionally; it’s also used for joint pain, insomnia, curing skin conditions, among others. It is a stomachic and therefore good for relieving heartburn. It is also great for soothing anxiety.
Kamanzi says lemon verbena is a good source of potassium, which is an essential mineral salt that is used for blood and food circulation around the body.
He says, for instance, when one suffers from a stroke or heart attack, using the leaves helps increase the concentration of potassium in the body, hence, regulating and balancing blood and other fluids within.
It’s a good source of antioxidants such as selenium and Vitamin C, which are important as they protect our bodies from various cancers, Kamanzi says.
“It also helps improve digestion and the state of the digestion system in general because of the presence of Vitamin K,” he says.
People who suffer with constipation, bloating and other gastrointestinal problems are advised to use lemon verbena.
Also, Kamanzi says, the plant helps increase blood concentration in the body, making it an asset when fighting anaemia.
Dieudonne Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA), says lemon verbena has great effects when it comes to the body and works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substance.
Some studies have shown that lemon verbena has beneficial antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antiphrastic effects when consumed. These help to combat multiple conditions, including obesity and also muscular damage that happens after intense exercise.
When it comes to stress, he says, consuming the plant helps keep mental illness at bay.
Moreover, if one has a wound, lemon verbena can be used as it helps reduce skin wound severity, thus preventing further infection.
Bukaba says that it also helps inhibit the growth of candida albicans, an opportunistic pathogenic yeast that is a common member of the human gut flora. It does not thrive outside the human body.
Kamanzi says one can also use the leaves of the plant to cure some conditions. For instance, he says, boiling the leaves of this plant and drinking the water helps reduce bad cholesterol in the body.
“When one has high blood pressure, the plant works wonders because it helps normalise hypertension,” he says.
He notes that this can happen if one uses 60 grams of the plant on a daily basis and, it should be done seven days consecutively.