What is it?
Lippia Alba, Oaxaca lemon verbena, or “Juanilama” as it’s known in Costa Rica has been medicinally used for hundreds if not thousands of years by indigenous peoples in Central America. It’s known for its digestive soothing effects as well as somatic, sedative, antidepressant, and analgesic properties. We’re currently cultivating 2 types on the property: “Juanilama con el sabor de menta” and “Juanilama con el sabor de limon”. (In English, one mint flavored and one lemon flavored.) It grows like bush, not getting much more than 1.5 meters tall and makes a series of unorganized crisscrossing off shoots.
Lippia Alba is found throughout Mexico and Central and South America. It a member of the prolific verbena family. Following suit with many of its sister plants, it high in essential oils. I believe these essential oils are the reason it’s applied externally as an arthritis remedy in an alcohol concoction.
Why Grow Lippia Alba (Juanilama)?
In short, it makes awesome tea. We’ve stopped buying green tea at the house and use Juanilama most of the time. A variety of teas and things to drink other than water is good for morale and medicine. A nice cold glass of iced Juanilama tea with a little lemon on a hot summer day is way better for you than a sugary soda. It’s also perennial, easy to grow and easy to propagate. While medicinal effects are anecdotal and sometime tough to verify, I’ve personally found it great for when I’ve had bronchial issues. I had a late friend who was fighting cancer and I shared a bag of my dried Juanilama with her at a local farmers market. She swore that when she drank the tea before bed, she never slept better. The tea can be prepared by boiling fresh or dried leaves.
How to Grow Lippia Alba (Juanilama)
I’ve never grown from seed, but it’s very easy to plant from cuttings. Cut one 30cm branch off and stick it in some soft soil in a pot or bag and water it every few days. When it starts growing, transplant it into a location with a little shade. It doesn’t seem too picky on soil types. We’ve even had success planting it in harsh clay soil. Juanilama will survive in full sun, but it seems to do better with partial shade. It will also root in water or in aquaponics systems.
It naturally thrives in tropical environments, but you should be able to get it growing indoors with a little sunshine and a climate controlled environment.
Sources and Links
Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical Data Base (essential oil content)