Guest post by Tracy Bosnian, CH, NTP, CFSP
When I think of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), I think of bees. Not just because the bees flock to it but also, because the word “Melissa” means bee in Greek. If I look out my front door I can see the lemon balm in my neighbor’s parkway, with lots of buzzing bees tasting its nectar. I purposely brush past it as I walk by, letting its calming smell wash over me, to send me on what ever errand I am headed off to. While Lemon Balm can be a bit pushy in your garden, it’s quite easy to grow. She will spread her little branches in as many places as you allow her to grow.
Lemon balm is a great “first plant” to play with. Being a member of the mint family it makes an amazing sun tea. Take your freshly picked herb, gently bruising it between your palms, inhaling deeply the lemony scent it releases. Cover the herb with clear fresh water and set it in the sunshine for at least a couple of hours (the longer the better). Strain it off, add ice cubes and enjoy a truly relaxing tea.
According to historians, the first mention of lemon balm appeared around 300 B.C. and has been mentioned by most great healers ever since. Lemon balm is known for its sedative and febrifuge (reduces fever) effects, as well as being antiviral and antibacterial. The effects of the volatile oils help with indigestion, flatulence, as well as being a great antispasmodic.
Before going gluten-free, I used to get many cold sores on my lips and would make a salve containing lemon balm essential oil and lysine. It worked like a charm every time. It works on all kinds of herpes simplex type complaints when taken internally as a tea or liquid extract.
Lemon balm tea is an herb that is safe for use during pregnancy; it will aid in digestion and relieve gas pains. Just the smell of lemon balm will help with your brain in its resistance to shock, stress, low spirits, restlessness, fidgety limbs, and anxiety.
Dr. Rudolf F. Weiss claims that lemon balm protects the cerebrum of the brain and is effective in the treatment of autonomic disorders, saying that it is an action similar to modern tranquilizers (especially when mixed with peppermint). It has been used for Hyperthyroidism and there has been great debate on whether or not someone with Hypothyroid should use it. I have to admit; the jury is still out on that one for me, so please do your research well if you have Hypothyroid before using large quantities of lemon balm. It has an anti-bacterial action against mycobacterium phlei and streptococcus.
Dr. Thomas Bartram of London uses it for dizziness, migraine, nervous heart or stomach, insomnia, low energy, stomach cramps, urinary infections, feverishness in children, mumps, shingles (mix 5 drops of the essential oil with 1 teaspoon of olive oil), reaction to vaccinations, and nervous excitability.
Dr. John Christopher loves lemon balm (well most folks do, unless it is taking over their yard) saying that lemon balm anti-histamine action is helpful to treat eczema and headaches. A fomentation (a strong tea infusion and a cotton cloth soaked in the tea then applied to the area) of lemon balm will help reduce the swelling associated with gout. He also says that lemon balm has clearly demonstrated the ability to impact the limbic system of the brain and “protect” the brain from the powerful stimuli of the body and should be a part of any ADHD formula.
I have recently renewed my love affair with Flower Essences and lemon balm is a wonderful one. Stillpoint Aromatics has one of my favorite descriptions. “This particular flower essence hold the intention of survival and renewal. It assists in: Helping us to recognize our versatility and flexibility. Relieving depression. Releasing what is old. Comforting and supportive of the psyche from deep trauma. Bringing balance to what is out of balance. Uncovering that which is hidden beneath the surface.
Lemon Balm Cordial Digestive Tonic
Adapted from The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices by Sarah Garland. When I made this, I did not use it in “sprigs” as the recipe calls for. I will put my measurements next to the original. If you know me you will know that following a recipe is not my strong suit. I used way more herb than called for. If you don’t have brandy you can use vodka, but I really like the sweetness that the brandy gives it.
4 sprigs lemon balm (1 cup fresh)
2 sprigs hyssop (1/2 cup fresh)
2 sprigs basil (1/2 cup fresh)
2 sprigs mint (1/2 cup fresh)
2 sprigs sage (1/4 cup fresh)
1 Tbs. chopped, crushed angelica root (2 tablespoons)
2 oz. Sugar (or sweetener of choice – I used only 1 oz. I really don’t like things very sweet at all)
2 1/2 cups brandy
I did not do the recipe twice like it says, but then I used way more herb, to begin with. If you don’t have brandy you can use vodka, but I really like it with the brandy.
Steep the herbs and sugar in the brandy for a fortnight to 1 month, shaking occasionally. Strain and repeat with fresh herbs if the taste is not sufficiently pronounced. Strain and bottle. Take a tablespoon of this digestive before meals.
This recipe originally appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of The Nutritional Therapist.
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