Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, is one of the oldest and most noted medicinal herbs and often found in cloisters and medicinal gardens. The name Melissa means “honeybee” in Greek. And for good reason: it is one of the most favorite flowers of honey bees.
A member of the family Lamiaceae (mint), Lemon Balm is original to the South of Europe and the Mediterranean area. It grows 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall and loves a wind-protected, sunny position.
Medicinal use of Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm is a fantastic herb to promote relaxation and keep stress at bay. It can restore your natural joie-de-vivre and zest for living.
The calming, relaxing, cramp-soothing properties of Lemon Balm’s essential oils are the main reason for this herb’s superb healing power. They reduce stress, promote relaxation, soothe cramps, calm a nervous and upset stomach, eases heart related complaints caused by nervousness and strengthens the grieving heart.
The bitter compounds regulate the production of stomach and gallbladder juices which stimulate digestion and relieves gas.
Together with the essential oil, bitter compounds soothe menstrual cramps, relieve headaches and combat depression.
Recent studies have identified Melissa officinalis as a memory-enhancing herb particularly in cases of Alzheimer disease.
When used externally, Lemon Balm effectively destroys bacteria and inhibits viruses. Try a steam bath to treat skin blemishes and improve oily skin.
Studies show that Lemon Balm essential oil affects the Herpes virus. It stops the virus from entering the cell without damage. You can also squeeze some leave between your fingers and carefully apply the plant juice to the Herpes affected area. Do wash your hands well afterward to prevent contaminating other parts of the body and other people!
Internally, lemon balm is good to:
- Soothe panic attacks with heart palpitations
- Calm the nerves
- Reduce sensory overload
- Treat insomnia
- Improve memory
- Soothe upset stomach and intestines caused by nervousness
- Reduce intestinal mucus
- Alleviate trapped wind cramps
- Relieve nausea
Externally, lemon balm:
- Reduces migraines and headaches
- Soothes rheumatic pain
- Treats insomnia
- Prevents the Herpes virus from entering a cell
- Speeds up healing of Herpes labialis
- Relaxes the body (full bath)
0.02-0.2% essential oils (Citral, Citronellal and Caryophyllene), flavonoids, bitter compounds, Rosmarinic acid
1.5-4.5 g leaves for tea
- Herbal bath
- Infused oil
- Steam bath
Lemon Balm is easy to grow. Throw a few seeds on rich soil in a sunny or partial shady area and soon you’ll have your own vigorous plants. It is even easier to make new plants by dividing an old one. To control the growth of the leaves, cut back the plant shortly before blooming. This is also the time when the essential oils are most abundant and, therefore, the best time to harvest and dry the plant.
Because the quantity of essential oils is so low, you should never harvest it after it has rained. For the highest amount of essential oils, harvest the herb on a sunny day preceded by at least one sunny day and shortly before the flowers come to bloom. The best time of the day for the highest content of essential oils is between 10 and 11 am. In warm but cloudy days that follow dry and sunny days, you should harvest it between 12 and 14 pm.
Before you dry Lemon Balm, remove each leaf from their stems to get aromatic medicinal grade dried lemon balm. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with leaves that smells like hay. This is because when you dry the leaves and the stems together, the essential oils flow to the stems!
The fresh, lemony fragrance of Melissa essential oil is an excellent balm to calm nervous and hyperactive kids and adults. Because it contains an unusually high amount of beta-Caryophyllene (a Sesquiterpene that protects the heart) which not only improves sleep and soothes an over-stressed mind, it also calms a racing heart, stops heart palpitations caused by anxiety and nervousness, and stabilizes fluctuating blood pressure. It is also successfully used to treat Herpes and the very painful shingles caused by the Varicella zoster virus.
- Sedative (stops pain)
- Antispasmodic (stops spasms)
- Soothes the nerves
- Strengthens the heart
- Regulates blood pressure
- Relieves gas
- Regulates appetite
- Balances, soothes and strengthens the mind
- Hay fever
- Inflammation of the nerves (neuritis)
- Heart palpitations without physical causes
- Liver failure
- Skin problems caused by stress and anxiety
- Cold sores (Herpes labialis)
- Shingles (Herpes zoster)
- Genital herpes
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Bladder inflammation (Interstitial cistitis – IC)
- Menopause related complaints
- Sleep disorders caused by nervousness and anxiety
- Psychosomatic pain in children
Color: dark yellow
Aroma: fresh, lemony
Blends well with: lavender, neroli, bergamot, rose, geranium, basil, frankincense
Know your oil: Lemon Balm essential oils is obtained by steam distillation of leaves. It is a very expensive oil to produce since it takes 6-8 tons of leaves to yield 1 kg essential oil. For this reason it is often diluted with cheaper oils. So make sure you’re getting yours from a reputable source. Often the oil is mixed with the cheaper citronella. In order to be pure Melissa oil, there must be a “100% pure” Melissa/Lemon balm essential oil statement printed on the bottle. If you don’t see this, don’t buy it. if you can’t afford 100% pure Melissa essential oil, buy Melissa mixed with Lavender essential oil as this is a wonderful combination that enhances the natural calming, soothing, stress relieving properties of Lemon Balm.
Side effects of herb and essential oil: None
Contra-indications of herb and essential oil: None
Although not commonly used in cooking, lemon balm can be used instead of lemon to flavor soup, sauces, vinegar, seafood, salads, vinaigrettes, teas, desserts, ice cream and beverages.
Learn how to grow a gorgeous medicinal and culinary garden with Giovanna Becker
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