Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis, Labiatae. This plant is also known as balm, bee balm, sweet balm.

The dried aerial part and fresh flowers when in season are the parts of the plant used.

The leaves may be collected two or three times in the year in the summer. They are gathered by cutting off the young shoots when they are about 12 inches (30 cm) long. They should be dried in the shade at moderate temperatures (not above 35 degrees C).

Functions of lemon balm

Lemon balm:

  • is an excellent herb for soothing the nerves and lifting the spirits. It has a particular affinity for the digestive system where it calms and sooths:
    • nausea,
    • vomiting,
    • poor appetite,
    • colic,
    • dysentery,
    • colitis and
    • stress related digestive problems.
  • contains bitters which stimulate the liver and gall bladder, and enhance digestion and absorption.
  • is a useful remedy where nervousness or depression affect the action of the heart causing chest pain, palpitations or an irregular heart beat.
  • relaxes spasms in the reproductive system thus relieving period pains and it also relieves the irritability and depression associated with premenstrual syndrome.
  • makes a good remedy for headaches and migraines, and when combined with linden blossom it can help to reduce blood pressure.
  • has an antiviral action which makes it useful with cold sores.

Notes on lemon balm

  • Do not use lemon balm if you have an underactive thyroid.

Dosages

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoonsful of the dried herb or 4-6 fresh leaves and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. A cup of this tea should be drunk in the morning and evening, or when needed.

Tincture: take 2-6 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

As a perennial lemon balm dies back to the ground following the first frost and emerges again in the spring when the last of the frosts has passed. The herb can be grown from seed, cuttings or root division.

If you choose to grow lemon balm from seed the germination takes from 1 to 6 weeks. Plant the seedlings about 12 inches (30cm) apart.

They prefer partial shade rather than full sun. If they are let go they will become a self seeding weed (like so many of the aromatic mints).

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

Marcin, M. M. 1990, Herbal Teas: Growing Harvesting and Brewing. Collins.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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