As an herb, Lemon Balm (also called Melissa Officinalis):
- Relaxes the mind & reduces stress
- Induces sleep (!)
- Sharpens memory
- Lowers blood pressure
- Settles the stomach, and eases digestion
As an essential oil (used in massage and as a salve) Lemon Balm:
- Acts as a uterine “tonic” & reduces cramping
- Cures cold sores (herpes simplex)
- Soothes skin problems & inflammation (apply topically to insect bites, cuts, abrasions, & acne lesions)
- Reduces swelling (muscles & joints) and treats gout
- Uplifts and calms the spirit (when used with massage)
“Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing away melancholy.”~John Evelyn (1620-1706)
It’s difficult to say exactly how long Lemon Balm has been around…some say it dates back to the 14th century. It was a popular herbal remedy during the Middle Ages and it continues to this day. As a tea, it soothes frazzled nerves & allows the mind/body to relax and sleep. Used as an essential oil in a neutral base (plant based massage oil or beeswax salve) it heals and restores the balance of the skin as well as relieves swelling (welcome relief for sore muscles!). Lemon Balm is safe enough to use in children, and is only contraindicated in those taking thyroid medication, or with an under-active thyroid.
Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family, and is very easy to grow. It “starts” best when the weather is cooler (spring or fall) and grows well indoors in a sunny location. It makes an excellent container plant, and is a bee & butterfly attractant when the flowers bloom in summer. Lemon Balm enjoys moist soil (well drained/sandy) and will tolerate semi-shady conditions. The plant can reach up to 24 inches tall, and should be given at least 12 inches between individual plants to “spread”. Sow the tiny seeds without covering with soil & keep moist until germination. Harvest leaves before the plant produces flowers for maximum herbal “strength”. Dry completely before storing. Remove dry flowers to prevent reseeding.
Steep 1 tsp dried herb in 8 oz. hot water (boiled).
10 drops Lemon Balm (or Melissa) essential oil to 4 oz. base oil (olive, sweet almond, grape seed, or hazelnut).
- Fresh leaves as a garnish or mixed in a salad.
- Dried herb used to accent meat (fish or chicken), vegetables, and fruit.
- Blended with brown rice, it gives a subtle lemon flavor & fragrance.
- Makes an interesting additive to your favorite light vinegar (such as rice wine) to make a vinaigrette type of salad dressing.
- Infused in oil, it can be used in place of garlic oil.
“Lemon Balm causeth the mind and heart to become merry”~ Nicholas Culpeper, 16th century botanist & herbalist
Lemon Balm is considered a cooling herb, which is most welcome in warmer months. The oil can also be used in spring water (10 drops to 4 oz water) as an insect repellent (it pairs well with lavender oil) to chase away mosquitoes. Mist on clothing (rather than on skin) as essential oils can sometimes cause photo sensitivity.
* For best “mood enhancing” results, alternate sipping Lemon Balm tea with Borage.