If there was one plant I could take home from Govinda Valley it would be the verbena tree. I've fallen in love with this herb since rediscovering it in the terrace gardens at Govinda Valley and now I can safely say it's a new favourite. Native to western South America, lemon verbena was originally cultivated for its oil and those of you who are into aromatherapy will agree it has a softer, sweeter scent compared to the sometimes harsh acidity and sharpness of the lemon citric fruit.
Many tend to associate the scent to lemon sherbet sweets when they first smell it... and maybe that's why it makes such a likeable first impression - it unknowingly takes some of us back to our childhood. But what are some of the uses of this versatile herb?
The first and most obvious is brewing herbal teas... simply add boiling water to fresh leaves or if you have harvested a large amount, it takes no time to dry a big batch in a dehydrator. In less than half an hour and you've got yourself a homegrown, freshly harvested and natural infusion! Add some honey or raw sugar and it sells itself, you can't make a better first impression - visiting guests have loved us for it and it makes a great conversation starter. Since this herb has made an appearance in our volunteer kitchen, everyone has been keen and curious to try it and the teabags have been temporarily forgotten.
But what else? The medicinal uses for lemon verbena include aiding indigestion, stomach cramps, flatulence, weight loss and even as an exercise supplement pre-workout to boost energy and performance levels! Some of us have been using verbena leaves for smoothies, in salads, as pesto, bread and cookie recipes and infusing into olive oil or sugar.
One volunteer has also mentioned it is great if you stuff them inside your pillow, as the scent helps promote better sleep. Our housekeeper has discovered its mildy astringent properties and fragrance is ideal as a natural cleaning product - especially for windows and surfaces.
For those who are more adventurous, you can make some great natural soaps or body scrub with these leaves. Really, the sky is the limit and since becoming slightly obsessed with this herb, we haven't had a day go by where we haven't used it somehow, somewhere. My only concern now is how much of these leave I will be able to take with me when I finally hit the road and say goodbye to Govinda Valley, thankfully that day isn't too soon, so time is still on my side.
Written by: Mandy Pang