Multi-branched, square-stemmed, aromatic shrub growing to 5 ft (1.5 m), with opposite leaves and small white or pink flowers close to the leaf axils.
Habitat & Cultivation
Lippia grows throughout South and Central America from northern Argentina to the southern U.S. It is a common garden herb, and may be grown from seed or cuttings, the latter being used for commercial cultivation.
Lippia leaves contain about 0.15% volatile oil with different plant strains, or chemotypes, producing several essential oils with quite a distinct range of compounds, notably citral and carvone. The citral chemotype oil is thought to have strong anti-Candida activity.
History & Folklore
In many parts of Central and South America, Lippia is valued for its ability to resolve common illnesses, such as stomach upset, nausea, gas and bloating, coughs, colds, sore throat, and headache. Its Colombian name, Prontoalivio (meaning “quick relief”) points to its place in popular Latin American medicine.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Lippia has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, and antispasmodic properties, making it useful in many non-severe health problems. In Brazil, where it is regulated as a medicinal herb, the herb is typically used for upper digestive problems, coughs, colds, and bronchitis, as well as for high blood pressure and as a sedative. The herb has been little researched, though a small clinical trial in Brazil found it effective in treating migraine headache. The essential oil is increasingly used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations, for example, within Europe, and has significant anti-fungal and antibacterial activity on the skin.
The sweet tasting L. dulcis has broadly similar medicinal use and is found across Central America and the Caribbean. See also Lemon Verbena (Lippia citriodora).