Lemon Balm

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

AKA: Bee Balm (not to be confused with Monarda Bee Balm), Melissa

Family: Lamiaceae (mint)

Native regions: Western Asia, Northern Africa, Eastern Mediterranean regions

Cultivation regions: Everywhere, particularly good in USDA zones 4-8; prefers moist and fertile soil, tolerates drought

Botanical description: Perennial (annual in colder regions); serrated, oval or “heart-shaped” leaves; flowering; hairy stems; sub-divides in a square; leaves lemony scented

Constituents: Flavonoids, triterpenes, and volatile oils

Parts used: leaves

Actions: nervine, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, antiviral

Taste/Energetics: sour, cool

Preparations: tea, tincture (M. Wood states fresh leaves preferred), culinary

General notes: M. Wood states Melissa is particularly good for instances of “sympathetic excess,” especially related to the stomach or heart; specific for nervousness, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, heart palpitations, rapid pulse. R. Gladstar states lemon balm is good for “heartache and depression,” SAD (seasonal effective disorder), soothing “stomach distress and nervous exhaustion,” and is effective in treating herpes and shingles.

Personal Notes

2/26/17 – I’ve been enjoying a cup of lemon balm tea nightly(ish) for a month or so now and it has really helped lift my spirits during winter, as well as help calm some of the anticipatory nervous/anxiousness I feel towards work, helping me get to sleep at a reasonable time. I originally came across lemon balm in the Republic of Tea’s Be Happy blend several years ago, but prefer now to buy lemon balm in bulk now and just steep it by itself or mixed with another immune supporting tea blend. It also mixes well with oat straw! I have some ideas for a lemon balm + lavender tea I’d like to try next…

7/6/17 – In mid-March, I got into the routine of bringing a thermos of lemon balm/oatstraw tea with a pinch of valerian root to work, which worked calming magic. Since then, I’ve continued to enjoy lemon balm tea fairly regularly, and like to keep the dried herb in a jar handy in the kitchen. Since it has gotten so hot, I’ve switched to making iced tea (sometimes mixing it with hibiscus or rooibos). It does seem to be a tea that is (for me) best enjoyed regularly to really feel the general uplifted feeling – when I only have a cup now-and-again, it doesn’t seem to have the same longer term effect.

 

References:

Gladstar, R. (2012). Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Mountain Rose Herbs. (unk). Lemon Balm. Retrieved from https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/lemon-balm/profile

World Health Organization. (2010). WHO Monographs on Medicinal Plants Commonly Used in the Newly Independent States (NIS). Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s17534en/s17534en.pdf#page=249

Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.