Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. The plant is lemon scented and in the mint family. Its leaves are oval shaped and toothed with tiny white flowers that are highly attractive to honeybees. Lemon balm used to be rubbed on beehives to encourage the productiveness of bees. Traditionally, it has a history of being used as a sedative (an agent that reduces functional activity; calming) and antispasmodic (substance that relieves smooth muscle spasms).
Melissa Officinalis has been used since ancient times to lift mood and reduce fever. During the Middle Ages, this herb was used for several reasons. They include reducing stress and anxiety, promoting restful sleep, improving appetite, lowering fever, and easing the pain and discomfort of indigestion.
In the 16th century, lemon balm was an ingredient in elixirs which were used to promote revitalization. In modern aromatherapy it is used for the same reason. Lastly, the people of Europe use this herb in ointment form to treat herpes blisters.
Lemon balm is a relaxant, an antispasmodic, a carminative, an antiviral, and a nervine.
Relaxant-relaxes the nervous system
Antispasmodic-substance that relieves smooth muscle spasms.
Carminative-plants rich in aromatic volatile oils that stimulate the digestive system to work properly and with ease soothing the gut wall, reducing any inflammation, easing griping pains, and helping the removal of gas from the digestive tract.
Antiviral- substance that inhibits the growth of a virus
Nervine- relaxants that ease anxiety and tension by soothing both body and mind; support and strengthen the nervous system
Lemon balm can be used in potpourri and perfume to add a fresh lemony scent. Its leaves have been added to salads, soups, sauces, vinegars, fish dishes, and hot and cold teas to add a citrusy flavor.
The part of the Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) plant used is the leaves.
Fun fact: Melissa is the Greek word for honeybees.
Author: Kimberly Johnson
Balick, M. (2014). An encyclopedia of useful herbs: Melissa officinalis. In Rodale’s 21st-century herbal: A practical guide for healthy living using nature’s most powerful plants (p. 204). New York, NY: Rodale Inc.
Chevallier, A. (2016). How medicinal plants work. In Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (3rd ed., p. 13). New York, NY: DK Publishing.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Glossary. In Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine (pp. 606, 608, 616, and 619). Healing Arts Press.
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