How To Extract Fragrance From Lemon Verbena Leaves

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Fresh and dried lemon verbena leaves both have a pleasing fragrance.
Fresh and dried lemon verbena leaves both have a pleasing fragrance. (Image: george tsartsianidis/iStock/Getty Images)

The fragrance of lemon verbena is sought after because of its nurturing, calming effect. It holds up well when dried and can often be found in potpourri mixes. Fresh lemon verbena leaves can be harvested and steeped into an infused oil to be used for massage. The fragrance can also be captured in water to be used as air freshening mist, called a hydrosol. Both projects can be done in an afternoon in the home kitchen.

Things You'll Need

  • Kitchen scissors
  • Double boiler
  • 1 cup olive or almond oil
  • Mesh strainer
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Stockpot with lid
  • Colander
  • Stainless steel bowl
  • Spray bottle

Lemon Verbena Oil

Clip fresh lemon verbena stems from the plant. Choose one with several hearty leaves on it. Shake the leaves gently to remove any insects that remain on the plant. Don't wash the leaves, as the added moisture will compromise your extract.

Fill the top pan of a double boiler with 1 cup of good quality olive oil or almond oil. If you don't have a double boiler, use a saucepan inside a skillet that can be filled with water. It's important that whichever you use, water does not get into your oil.

Lightly crush the leaves and stems to release the fragrance of the plant. Put the material into the oil.

Set the burner on a low to medium heat and watch that the water doesn't burn out over the next hour while you steep the oil with the verbena. You must infuse the plant for at least 60 minutes, but you can continue heating the oil for as long as you like, which will strengthen the infusion.

Cool the oil before straining it through a mesh strainer or a piece of cheesecloth, set over a colander.

Pour the herbed oil into a clean, dry glass jar. Canning jars work very well for this project. Cap the jar and store in a cool, dry location. The oil should be used within six weeks for maximum freshness.

Lemon Verbena Hydrosol

Place a colander into a stainless steel stock pot and fill it with water until it reaches the bottom of the colander. Remove the colander for a moment and add 2 to 3 cups of fresh lemon verbena stems and leaves to the water. Replace the colander.

Insert a stainless steel or ceramic bowl into the stockpot, placing it on the colander.

Invert the stockpot lid and put it on top of the pot. The lid must have a knob handle in the middle in order to be used for this procedure. Turn the heat on low. You want the herbs to steep, not boil. Keep the heat level low so the herbs are barely simmering.

Fill the inverted lid with about two or three trays worth of ice. This will allow condensation to form inside the stockpot.

Simmer the herbs until all the ice has melted. Carefully lift the stockpot lid and discard the ice water into the sink. Inside the stockpot, the bowl in the colander has retained the fragrant water of the lemon verbena. Remove the water and pour it into a glass jar or spray bottle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make a salve with your oil by heating one cup of oil until it is lukewarm. Add ¼ cup of melted beeswax to the mixture and cool until it hardens. If the salve is too soft, add a little more beeswax until it sets to your desired consistency

References

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