Scientific: Melissa officinalis [WikiPedia]
Appearance: Native to the
Mediterranean and various regions in N. Africa, Asia, and Europe, lemon
balm is a lemon-scented, aromatic, perennial with serrated heart-shaped
leaves and whorls of small blue, yellow, or white flowers typical of
many members of the Lamiaceae family. It is widely cultivated and
naturalized throughout the world in temperate areas.
Parts Used: Dried leaf as a tea, tincture, or made into an ointment Fresh leaf as an essential oil, tincture, or fresh leaf tea.
Common Uses: The use of lemon
balm goes back thousands of years to the time of the ancient Romans and
Greeks. One of its first recorded uses was as a wine infused liniment.
Dioscorides (a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist practising
in the 1st century in Rome, who authored the herbal De Materia Medica),
mentions its use in this way, and it was also employed in this same
manner in Ayurvedic medicine. St. Hildegard of Bingen, an herbalist and
nun born in 1098 C.E. in present day Germany said, “Lemon balm contains
within it the virtues of a dozen other plants.” According to Nicholas
Culpepper (a botanist, avid astrologer, physician, herbalist, and author
of the Complete Herbal, written in 1653), said dried lemon balm may be
made into a fine ‘electuary’ with honey. He wrote that it was ruled by
the planet Jupiter and associated with the zodiac sign of Cancer,
therefore having an association with the water element and thus an
effect on emotions. The herb is used for nervous agitation, sleeping
problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and
urinary spasms. It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm
contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder,
stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea. Recent
evidence suggests that lemon balm has a depressant or sedative action on
the central nervous systems of laboratory mice. The German Standard
License for lemon balm tea approves it for nervous disorders of sleep
and of the gastrointestinal tract, and to stimulate the appetite (Wichtl
and Bisset, 1994). Lemon balm is a non-toxic herb that can be used on
dogs, cats and even horses.
Lemon balm’s key constituents include volatile oils,
tannins, flavonoids, terpenes, and eugenol. Its terpenes are relaxing,
the tannins have antiviral effects, and eugenol calms muscle spasms,
kills bacteria, and has an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect. In recent
years, lemon balm has made headlines for its ability to treat cold sores
and other breakouts caused by the herpes simplex virus and as a
treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alternatives and Adjuncts:
Topic Specific References:
PLEASE NOTE that herbal and
other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe
and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any
other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.
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