Lemon Balm is a historically well known „calming” herb. In the Middle Ages it was used to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort associated with digestion. Before this the herb was added to wine for lifting the spirit, and was also used for treating venomous insect bites and stings and for healing wounds. Nowadays it is used for treating Herpes and widely used for achieving calming and relaxing effect.
The word Balm is an abbreviation of Balsam, the chief of sweet-smelling oils. The word Melissa has Greek origin and is translated as ‚honey bee’.
Biological name of Lemon Balm is Melissa officinalis, a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae. Its other popular names are: Balm, Balm mint, Bee Balm, Blue Balm, Sweet Balm, Garden Balm, Melissa, Honey Plant, Cure-All, and Dropsy Plant.
Lemon Balm is rather tall herb, it grows up to 70-150 cm. The leaves especially when crushed, have gentle lemon scent of the lemon-mint that is described as sharp, vibrant, and stimulating;are very deeply wrinkled and range from dark green to yellowish green in color (it depends on the soil and climate). The flowers of the herb are white or light yellow and attract bees due to its nectar. They grow in clusters where the leaves meet the stem.
Lemon balm is native to Southern Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa, but now it is growing almost everywhere all over the world except very poor or very dry soil. It prefers well-drained sandy soil and tolerates shade rather well (but grows best in partial shade).
Lemon Balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively and by seed.
Leaves & flowers are used in the folk medicine. In culinary it is used to sweeten jam, jellies, and fruit salads, also for making herbal teas and to add to fish and poultry dishes, herb sauces and salads. Lemon Balm is used for making perfumes, in cosmetics and in furniture polish manufacturing.
Lemon balm is available as a dried leaf that can be bought in bulk.
It is sold in capsules (take 300 – 500 mg dried lemon balm, 3 times daily or as needed), tinctures (2 – 3 mL (40 – 90 drops), 3 times daily) for achieving calming effect and good sleep. Also for flatulence, or bloating and different stomach complaints. For the same goal Lemon Balm cream is used topically.
Is available is the form of extracts and oil(to make 1 cup of oil use 1/2 cup of fresh herb and
let stand 4-5 days at room temperature and the herbs will settle to bottom. Put into clean jars, discard the herbs and store in the fridge for up to 6 months).
Herbal Lemon Balm Tea is also very popular. For making tea use 1.5 – 4.5 grams (1/4 – 1 teaspoonful) of dried lemon balm herb. Drink up to 4 times daily. It is good for difficulty sleeping and to reduce stomach complaints.
The herb is used in homeopathic remedies and as aromatherapy (essential oil), especially when mixed with lemon oil, citronella and some other mint oils.
Lemon balm contains plant chemicals called terpenes, that play rather importantrole in the herb’s relaxing and antiviral effects. Their antiviral effect is also due to substances called tannins, which the herb also contains. Eugenol in Lemon Balm is responsible for calming effect – it calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, as well as kills bacteria (due to its antibacterial properties).
Lemon balm is not just a sedative, though it has a soothing effect on the nervous system and alleviates anxiety (as nerve tonic), it is especially effective and advisable for problems that have arisen from long-standing stress. As for the anxiety – especially for that accompanied by headache, depression, and exhaustion. Actually, knowing such herbal benefit you do not need tranquilizers in achieving such an effect. The effect is doubled if the herb is combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, hops, and chamomile). As for the sleep-inducing effect Lemon Balm is better that placebo pills (according to the researches).
Lemon balm is appeared to be rather effective against the herpes virus due to its antiviral effect.
The herb has a general antispasmodic effect on the stomach and intestines and alleviates stomach gas and cramps.
Some researches state that the scent of the Lemon Balm oil improves memory, so in aromatherapy it is used while getting ready for the monthly report or exams (some state that it works).
The herb appeared to be effective in treating herpes simplex virus (HSV). Some studies suggest that topical ointments containing lemon balm may help heal lip sores. In studies people with HSV applied lemon balm cream to their lip sores and experienced significant improvement in redness and swelling after only 2 days. Other symptoms, such as pain and scabbing, did not improve. The result of the human studies (as well as animal) is really promising. For herpes sores you need to steep 2 – 4 teaspoonfuls of crushed leaf in 1 cup boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Cool. Apply tea with cotton balls to the sores throughout the day.
Lemon balm may also be a good help in case of Grave’s disease – an autoimmune condition where individuals suffer from excess thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid. The herb helps to block some of the secretion of the thyroid gland and its ability to release hormones in the body.
Some scientific studies suggest that the herb is beneficial for a variety of health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and hyperthyroidism. Some interesting point is that Lemon balm could have anti-HIV properties. But all these health benefits need more confirmation and further researches.