Juanilama or Lippia alba

Having moved (me, Annie) to Florida from Costa Rica, Raleigh quickly brought to my attention how central and south Florida are the true start of the tropics even though we are in the subtropics. Most plants that I am used to can be found here. Since early on I have been on a quest to find those plants that were important to me and that brought me back home a little bit. In the home garden I already feel very much at home, surrounded by mangoes, bananas, avocados, pitangas and capulines, but walking on a barren field and stumbling over escaped epazote or walking into a forgotten nursery and finding Juanilama mislabeled as green tea makes my eyes shimmer.

The most common way to consume it is in the form of tea. At home we make an infusion (covered steeping of the leaves in hot water, not boiling). A good ratio could be 2 tip buds or 5 medium sized leaves (around 2cm or 1″) per cup of water. We heat up the water, when it is boiling we turn the heat off, add the leaves, put a lid on and let it steep for 5-8 minutes.

In one of the medicinal plant courses we attended to they called it specifically Juanilama limón because there are different chemotypes of Juanilama within its geographical range. The most common ones are the citral chemotype and the myrcenone chemotype. The most sought after for its essential oil contents is one that has a strong citrus aroma when the leaves are crushed, the citral chemotype.

Juanilama is an important herb to many cultures in America (I should not have to clarify, but I mean the continent). I learned from my friend Tara Besoza, that in Puerto Rico it is called Poleo, and it is used to calm the stomach and menstrual pains. In Costa Rica it is used to heal any ailment related to the gastric system and it has great potential to lower inflammation. It is also of great aid during colds to treat a sore throat and the general symptoms of it. Juanilama grows everywhere from barren fields to road sides, river edges and close to human settlements. It grows from Mexico to Argentina and is very hardy. It is also an important butterfly and beneficial insect attractant. I have also seen Juanilama being used as an ingredient in a mosquito repelling tincture as well as in form of a rubbing tincture for rheumatism and colds.

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