Lemon Balm, sometimes known as Bee Balm or Melissa, is a flowering perennial herb in the Mint, or Lamiaceae family, found worldwide but native to Southern Mediterranean Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia. When crushed or bruised, the plant smells strongly of lemons. It has an angular, square stem covered in tiny hairs that can grow up to three feet in height. It’s leaves are opposite and ovate with long petioles, slightly hairy, and have scalloped margins. It should be harvested in the summer months just before the tiny blue and white bi-labiate flowers open, when the volatile oils are the most concentrated, and then shade dried. The plant is relatively rugged and can tolerate most soils with regular watering.
Dried or fresh leaves and aerials
Lemon Balm is a carminative and anti-spasmodic herb, great for digestive issues, nausea, and flatulence, and soothes the digestive tract when there is cramping or dyspepsia due to nervous tension. It also acts as a hypotensive, lowering blood pressure, dilating blood vessels, and toning the circulatory system. Its circulation enhancing properties can also help lighten a depressed mood, acting as an anti-depressant, easing anxiety, depression, and nervous tension. Additionally, it can help induce sweating and lower fevers. Externally, extract of lemon balm has also been clinically shown to have antiviral actions, helping relieve cold sores and reducing the chance of outbreaks, as well healing actions for treating toothaches, insect stings, and cuts, making it a good choice for first aid lotions and balms. It’s also given to people with hyperthyroidism to help regulate glandular levels and inhibit thyroid function.
Lemon Balm has long been used to lift moods and depression, ease asthma, enhance memory, and as a longevity tonic. It’s also commonly given as a children’s digestive aide, and it added to pillows and used bedside as a pleasant, fresh fragrance. Added to bathwater, it’s thought to encourage menstruation and the aromatherapy gives the same tension relieving benefits as drinking the tea. The leaves can also be used to flavor to oils, vinegars, alcohol, and can be used fresh in recipes, such as this one for Lemon Balm Cashew Pesto(!!!). It makes a useful insect repellant if rubbed on the skin, and can also be used to attract bees; rubbing lemon balm on empty hives or planting it nearby will encourage new bees to move in.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Spicy, Cooling, Sour, Lemony
An infusion of 2-3 tablespoons of dried herb per cup of hot water, infused for 10-15 minutes and drunk as needed, or a tincture of 3-6ml three times a day. Do not take the essential oil internally.
For digestive issues, combine with hops, chamomile, or meadowsweet. For stress, anxiety, or tension issues, combine with lime blossom and lavender.
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