Lemon balm–an incredibly versatile herb!

On my last blog, I wrote about how to tincture lemon balm.  Today, I want to talk about how fantastic an herb lemon balm really is.  Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is in the mint, or the Lamiaceae family.  The parts used are the leaves and flowering tops.  Lemon balm is very “weedy” meaning that it grows almost anywhere and it spreads quickly. I personally think this is a good thing!!  And you know you’ve got lemon balm by just crushing the leaves and smelling that wonderful lemony smell.  You can also look at the stem–all plants in the mint family have a square stem.

If you look up Melissa officinalis in old herbals (often written by physicians), they will list the “actions” of the plant.  Here are some of the actions ascribed to lemon balm:

•          nervine
•          anxiolytic
•          anti-viral
•          astringent
•          cognition enhancer
•          carminative
•          diaphoretic

Let’s take a look at what these categories mean.

Nervines are plants that help calm the nerves, they can also be called anxiolytics because they help reduce anxiety.  Lemon balm is fantastic for this.  Like many plants, especially those in the mint family, lemon balm has some anti-viral properties so it is often reached for in times of the flu.  It has been used to help tone both internal and external tissues which is why it is listed as an astringent, so it can be applied in poultice form to help wounds heal or taken as a tea.   Lemon balm has been given to kids for hundreds of years to help calm them down and to help reduce a fever because of its diaphoretic action.  Many people take lemon balm tea (along with fennel) to help reduce flatulence—this is known as a carminative.  Finally, lemon balm has shown to have cognition enhancing properties so drink up!

If you want to know what is in lemon balm, the following are constituents that have been found to be in the plant.  Many of these properties are found in other herbs as well and they give lemon balm its wonderful healing properties.

  • hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives
  • caffeic acid
  • rosmarinic acid
  • cholorgenic acid
  • tannins
  • polyphenols (anti-viral)
  • flavonoids

So, enjoy a cup of lemon balm tea.  You can make a cold infusion by putting the leaves in water and letting the pitcher sit out in the sun.  Or you can make a hot infusion by pouring boiling water over the leaves, covering it and letting it steep for 5 minutes.  You can collect lots of lemon balm and let it dry out so you can keep it for much longer.  And finally, you can tincture it for a later date.

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