Lemon Balm

Updated on November 15, 2020

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.

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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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