Lippia Dulcis (Sweet Herb)

eibren(z6PA)June 2, 2011

I tried the "Search" function unsuccessfully, but since Hortiplex also didn't seem to have much to offer, thought I would bring this up.

I purchased a little plant of this, mixed in among other, mostly culinary, herbs in a local shop. I had tried Stevia once, but found it too temperamental for my taste, and Lippia was promoted as an easy-to-grow, although tender, perennial. Additionally, it had a balanced, trim look about it, and somewhat interesting coloration as well as small but interesting flowers, almost like tiny clover heads. I had a tall, narrow, brown pot that I felt would show it off well, and make good use of its tendency to spread--instead, it could droop over the pot edge.

I had it in mind to possibly sweeten some teas with some of the leaves, as well.

Then I started doing research on the plant. The component that causes the sweet taste seemed to be no problem, but the rather high camphor constituent, which probably explains the claims made that it is useful in bronchitis, was. In large enough doses, camphor can trigger early childbirth or abortion. Something to keep in mind.

I may try a few leaves in tea anyway, but apparently the traditional use where it origionated has always been medicinal rather than culinary. Meanwhile, it is still an attractive plant in its modest little way. I imagine, in a warm enough climate, though, it might spread like mint.

Has anyone here had personal experience with it?

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Never tried it. I would be happy to hear of your experiences with it!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:34AM
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It's also called the Sweet Aztec Herb, and has undergone several Latin name-changes as well (Phylla scaberrima, Lippia dulcis, Phylla dulcis). I don't know which of these is the currently 'correct' one.

Can be propagated by seed but best done by layering. Wherever the branches touch the ground, roots will form. Plant loses its leaves in winter and it may not survive extremely cold conditions. When cold, the leaves turn red. Plant in a protected position. It will tolerate deep shade, but will also grow in full sun. Fast-growing plant, ideal for a hanging basket or as a groundcover.

Medicinal Uses: Leaves are used to treat coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma and colic. Flowers can be chewed or crushed and placed directly on the gum to ease a toothache.

The dried leaves can be used as a sugar substitute, but culinary use is NOT RECOMMENDED. It's not only the camphor content in the leaves which poses a problem, the plant has been shown to be carcinogenic (potentially can cause cancer).

For myself, I'd sit back and enjoy its modest beauty, and not ingest it at all.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 7:32PM
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I'm surprised I didn't come upon any mention of its carcinogenicity, although my search was not very exhaustive. Most of the articles seemed to focus on the camphor content.

I'm thinking that the constant search for new sources of sweetness has motivated much of the research on it, but I was surprised to see a plant of its characteristics in a local shop, quite frankly. I suppose I shouldn't have been, considering how many exotics we already grow.

I like it enough that I will probably try to winter it over. Maybe it will turn out to make a nice houseplant.

In any case, it is definitely not a replacement for Stevia.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:13PM
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Don't be surprised to find a carcinogenic or otherwise poisonous plant readily for sale. There are literally thousands of such plants to be found in any nursery, and no law to dictate the need for warning labels. In defence of the nursery industry, I doubt if they are sold for the purpose of eating, or medicinal use, but more for their beauty. Datura and Aconite and the Hellebores are examples which spring to mind, even the lovely little Daffodil.How many people stop to think that such beautiful plants might be poisonous? Very few, I wager. Furthermore, would it stop people from buying them if they knew? Let's face it, we still buy tomato plants (poisonous leaves) and apple trees (poisonous seeds). No - it's all a matter of Education and Common Sense, isn't it?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 7:46PM
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Daisy, how did your gardens fare during the flooding? Is everything back to normal now, or are there still some problems? Glad to see you posting again; we were all sort of scared for awhile there that we might have lost you.

I love the taste of apple seeds, and usually eat two or three every time I eat an apple. It would probably take quite a few to kill a person, don't you think? They taste like almonds.

I once purchased "black horehound", thinking I could use it medicinally, since the tag in the shop claimed it could be. I was very surprised by what I found when I looked it up, and I made sure to inform the shop where I had bought it that it was poisonous and for decorative use only. They were used to purchasing White Horehound, used for bronchitis, etc., and had assumed that black horehound could be used in a similar fashion.

I noticed this afternoon that my Lippia plant had soft white coverings similar to artificial snow on two stem tips, with associated little flying insects of some type that were quite annoyed when I removed the affected parts and threw them into an area filled with Yellow Archangel (which needs a natural adversary). Apparently the Lippia is not producing enough camphor to deter them--possibly because I am keeping it in an area that receives limited sun.

One of the stems had nearly doubled in length and was already touching a nearby pot. I think this is growing as fast as the catnip I have planted in shade on the other side of the house!

Meanwhile, my lemon grass, cut back when I repotted it outside, has sprouted about 2 inches from the cut ends of the stalks I removed, and the nearby columnar basil plant also seems to still be happy despite the proximity of the lemon grass. (I've noticed that sometimes the aromatic herbs don't seem to like each other and avoid growing toward each other.)

Ah, Spring.

I love it when I can still be with my plants outside in relative comfort, before the heat of summer becomes unrelenting.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 11:00PM
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You'd have to eat a lot of apple seeds for them to kill you, but for myself, I try to avoid eating anything with cyanide in it.

I was fortunate to escape the devastating floods earlier in the year, and suffered no damage. But some parts are a long way from recovery. There are still plenty of homeless people.

Actually, just recently I got rid of my garden entirely. As a disabled person, I just couldn't look after it, had been relying for years on a friend who came from interstate to tend to it. I decided it Must Go, so I had the entire area paved. I kept a few herbs, of course, but they all need repotting, and I can't even manage that! I await my friend's convenience.

BTW, black horehound CAN be used medicinally. See link.

White horehound is not without its risks:

Large doses can have a laxative effect and excessive doses can cause irregular heartbeat. The juice can cause dermatitis. Best avoided in pregnancy, as it may cause uterine contractions and bleeding.

Here is a link that might be useful: black horehound

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:41PM
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Well, you know, one of the popular "cures" for cancer awhile ago (from almond pits?) was believed to have cyanide in it....

Thank you for the additional information on Black horehound. I sort of wish now I hadn't ripped it out completely, but had saved some in a pot, tap root or no. It was very happy where it had nestled in.


That was several seasons ago, and I doubt I will ever see any offered again.

It is sad about your garden; I used to have nice mental images of it baking in the sun. It is still there, somewhere, though, because nothing beautiful ever really gets lost.

I find myself restricted more and more to pots myself. I have been putting off planting my two small fig trees; I know most of the possible spots are more or less root bound already, and digging is not really good for my artificial hip. The irregularity of the surface in my garden is more and more of a hazard as well. However, if Global Warming is really happening, it seems only sensible to get some figs growing asap.

I found references to two other members of the Lippia family today; apparently many of the related plants are also suspected of having even more exotic medicinal potential.

What herbs did you choose to keep in pots?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 3:33AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Pits and seeds from various stone fruits like cherries are some of my favorite poisonous plants to note. Oh of course, don't forget rhubarb (in season here!) and kidney beans. Rhubarb leaves, not the stems, are poisonous as well as uncooked kidney beans (some other beans too).

Sorry to hear about your garden, Daisy. Living some place that has freezing temperatures about half the year, it was always nice to hear your sub-tropical garden experiences and about plants I could never ever begin to keep. I'm curious as to which herbs you couldn't part with as well. :)

Eibren, when I did some research for an article a number of years ago, I came across a fair bit of information on horticultural therapies on the web. To help people with mobility issues, higher raised beds, hard (paved) surfaces around garden beds, and container gardens were some of the ways to help people to enjoy the healing of gardening without any physical issues standing in the way. I didn't save the links but I'm sure web searches might give you some ideas how to change your gardens to make it easier for you.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 7:52AM
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Thank you, Fata. Really, though, I always gardened with my own ultimate deterioration in mind, and in most portions of my garden the shrubs are just fighting it out, and the groundcovers are covering increasingly broad areas. It's more of a parklike setting now than anything, and I sort of like it that way. I did put in a few blueberry bushes last year, but if the grapevine and gooseberry bushes take over again I think I will just bow to the inevitable. I also have a few rhubarb plants and a blue comfrey I still worry about back there...the comfrey could probably be moved to the front if needed.

An entire back corner exploded in growth when an old plum tree was removed by the electric company; I had things there (such as elderberries) that were being kept in check by the shade of the plum...but I sort of like elderberries, and so do the birds. There is also a little chestnut tree I have to periodically rescue from the honeysuckle.

I am still able to do a bit in the front portion of my property because it is closer and more level. That is where I have most of my pots now, although some remain, abandoned, out back.

When I did move pavers, branches, and rocks to create raised beds, I was in a bit better shape than I am now. If those amendments are not done soon enough, it is too late by the time they are truly needed (unless one has the funds for costly landscaping). Luckily, I accumulated my larger plant pots when I was still strong enough to transport them. When I look at them now, I laugh to think of the contortions I went through to get some of them into place.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:29PM
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Yes, I was sorry to see my garden go, but it had to. I haven't kept a lot of my herbs, but I still have some of the smaller ones. I can't do without some mint or chives or garlic chives, I kept some of the stevia (purely because it's such an unusual plant to have!), and a dwarf mandarine tree and lemon tree. I've also got several pots of different-coloured daylillies (to provide colour in the landscape), some aloe vera, several pineapple plants (one of which is in fruit so THAT couldn't go!). I also kept a small bay tree, which has stayed small because it has always been in a pot. And of course you can't have a herb garden, even a potty one, without lavender! Since I can no longer cook for myself, I won't miss the culinary herbs so much. In short, I kept the ones which are the best behaved (or controllable, like the mint) and the smallest, most manageable ones, or those which will provide colour.

Luckily, I still have photos of my 'real' garden!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 6:31PM
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"Luckily, I still have photos of my 'real' garden!"

Post them here!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 2:38PM
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