Lemon balm, melissa, balm mint, balm, sweet balm, honey plant, heart’s delight
Leaves, aerial parts
Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
Lemon balm, a fragrant herb with a variety of medicinal uses, can be harvested for its leaves and stems using a knife or sickle bar. To ensure regrowth, it's best to cut the plant 6-8 inches above the ground. Lemon balm can be harvested two to three times in a season under ideal conditions. For the highest concentration of volatile oils, herbalist Andrew Chevallier recommends harvesting just before the flowers open.
Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, has a refreshing lemon scent and a mild, pleasant flavor. Its genus name, Melissa, means "bee" in Greek, and it is a popular addition to gardens due to its thick beds of fragrant leaves. Lemon balm thrives in dappled sunlight and moist, well-drained soil, and can be easily grown from seed or root division. It is also a great choice for preventing soil erosion on slopes and banks.
Lemon balm is a versatile herb that can be used to make a delicious tea using either fresh or dried leaves. However, many herbalists recommend using fresh lemon balm for the best taste and potency. Its sweet and appealing taste makes it a popular choice among children and those with sensitive palates. Additionally, lemon balm can be added to other herbal formulas to mask the bitterness or strong taste of other herbs. Its sweetness also makes it a great ingredient for glycerites and infused honey. During the summer months, lemon balm can be prepared as a cold infusion, providing a refreshing and tasty beverage.
Lemon balm has a long history in herbal medicine and has been associated with bees for centuries. The ancient Roman poet Virgil noted the plant's attractiveness to bees, while Pliny observed that rubbing bee hives with lemon balm would keep swarms there. This practice continued among beekeepers well into the 20th century. Research has shown that the compounds citral, geraniol, and nerolic acid found in lemon balm are also present in pheromones excreted by worker honey bees, which could explain the plant's attraction to bees. In fact, a study by Winston et al. found that baits containing these compounds were more effective in attracting bee swarms than other methods. (1)
Lemon balm has been used by herbalists to treat an overactive sympathetic nervous system and hyperadrenalism or hyperthyroidism, especially when accompanied by heart or stomach issues. Research suggests that lemon balm may block thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from binding to its receptor, making it a potential treatment for Graves' hyperthyroidism. However, individuals with thyroid conditions should consult with a healthcare practitioner before taking lemon balm, as it may interfere with thyroid hormone medication. Two case studies have shown the beneficial effects of a combined herbal preparation with lemon balm and bugleweed on patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism, with their thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) normalizing after a few months.(2)
For centuries, lemon balm has been known for its ability to uplift and soothe the mind. Its use dates back to ancient times, even before the Middle Ages. Lemon balm is a natural remedy for anxiety, nervousness, and depression, making it a true balm for the spirits. It is also considered a nervous system trophorestorative, meaning that it helps to tonify, nourish, and restore balance to the body over time. This herb has a particular affinity for the nervous system, making it a popular choice for those seeking natural remedies for stress and anxiety.
Lemon balm has a long history of use in traditional medicine, dating back to ancient Greece and Persia. Galen, a Greek physician and philosopher, was one of the first to recognize its potential for treating mood disorders and the central nervous system. Later, physicians at the Academy of Jundishapur in Persia further developed its use for promoting a positive mood and easing anxiety-induced symptoms. Persian physician Shapur ibn Sahl suggested using lemon balm for a range of issues, including palpitations, faintness, melancholia, sadness, and panic. Rhazes, another Persian physician and philosopher, attributed mood-enhancing properties to lemon balm and described its beneficial effects on neurological issues like epilepsy and amnesia. Ibn Sina, a renowned physician and philosopher in the Islamic world, praised lemon balm in his widely used medical manuscript, The Canon of Medicine. He noted its ability to soothe heartache, improve cerebral circulation, and act as a general tonic for all organs. Today, lemon balm is still used for its calming and mood-enhancing properties.(3)
Tea: 1 cup (1-2 teaspoons dried herb in 8 fl oz water) 2-4x/day
Tincture: 3-5 mL (1:5, 30%) 3-4x/day
Cold infusion: 4-8 fl oz (0.5 oz dried herb in 1 quart water) 1-4x/day
Lemon balm, a popular herb known for its calming properties, should be used with caution in individuals with hypothyroid conditions or Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This is because lemon balm has a mild effect on inhibiting thyroxine, and large doses may have a negative impact on thyroid hormone medications. It is recommended to seek guidance from a healthcare practitioner before using lemon balm in cases of thyroid conditions.
(1)Winston, M.L., Slessor K.N., Rubink, W.L., & Villa, J.D. (1993). Enhanced pheromone lures to attract honey bee swarms. American Bee Journal, 133(1), 58-60. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/64133000/PDFFiles/201-300/290-Winston–Enhanced%20Pheromone%20Lures%20to.pdf
(2)Kaplan, D., & Dosiou, C. (2021). Two cases of Graves’ hyperthyroidism treated with homeopathic remedies containing herbal extracts from Lycopus spp. and Melissa officinalis. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 5 (Suppl. 1), A971.
(3)Ghazizadeh, J., Mohammadinasab, R., Travica, N., Sadigh-Eteghad, S., Torbati, M., Hamedeyazdan, S., … Araj-Khodaei, M. (2022). Historical course of neuropsychiatric effects of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) as a medicinal herb. Pharmaceutical Sciences, 28(2), 224-231. http://doi.org/10.34172/PS.2021.35
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