Botanical: Melissa officinalis
Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
Other common names: Melissa, Balm, Balm Mint, Bee Balm, Blue Balm, Cure-all, Dropsy Plant,
Garden Balm, Sweet Balm, Heart's Delight, Honey Plant
Lemon Balm calms! The herb has been used for centuries to "restore the joy of life to even the most melancholy" and will not only calm the nerves and alleviate stress and anxiety, but is said to improve memory and mental function. Try Lemon Balm for a good night's sleep. It also helps to relieve indigestion, bronchial inflammation and cramps, as well as combat cold sores.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Lemon Balm is one of the most fragrant of herbs. Its origin is somewhat ambiguous, but it appears to have originated in the Middle East and southern European areas of the Mediterranean. Others argue that the herb was brought from the Orient to Spain by Arab traders; however, this perennial plant is now naturalized all over Europe and parts of the United States, where it grows to a height of three feet in fields and along roadsides in almost any type of soil. It is easy to grow; but when cultivated, it is a highly ornamental plant that may frequently be found in beautiful mounded shapes, preferring rich, sandy, loamy soil in sun or partial shade. Lemon Balm is widely cultivated as a culinary herb with the leaves used in herbal medicine, and its value as an important therapeutic herb goes back thousands of years. Lemon Balm's botanical genus, Melissa, is derived from the Greek, meaning "bee," referring to the great attraction Lemon Balm flowers held for bees. (The plant was a favorite of ancient beekeepers, because of the honey they produced.) The word, Balm, is also derived from the Greek, balsamon, an oily, sweet-smelling resin (i.e., balsam). Finally, the name, Lemon, describes the plant's fragrance when the leaves are bruised. Virtually all the herbal physicians and naturalists of the past, including Dioscorides and Pliny, revered Lemon Balm as a treatment for a variety of problems, including nervous disorders, headache and as an antiseptic for healing wounds. It was greatly esteemed for all complaints that "proceeded from a disordered state of the nervous system" and was also thought to combat poisonous venoms and help insect bites. Arab doctors of the ninth and tenth centuries used Lemon Balm to dispel anxiety and heart palpitations and described it as a "gladdening" herb. Paracelsus (1493-1541) highly esteemed the herb as "the elixir of life" that would completely revivify a man. Lemon Balm was brought to Germany (where it is still widely cultivated) by Benedictine monks, and its pleasing flavor is included in the manufacture of Benedictine and Chartreuse. In 1653, the herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper said it would relieve weak stomachs, and John Evelyn (1620-1706) noted that Lemon Balm was "sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy." Finally, the London Dispensary of 1696 claimed that a daily dose would "renew youth and strengthen the brain." The leaves, stems and flowers of Lemon Balm are used in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents in Lemon Balm include volatile oils (citral, linalool, eugenol, citronellal, geraniol), tannins, acids, resin, monoterpenoid aldehydes, flavonoids and polyphonic compounds.
Lemon Balm has been used for thousands of years as an effective calmative that is beneficial for all kinds of nervous problems, including tension headaches, migraines, neuralgia, hysteria, nervous tension, stress, anxiety, excitability, heart palpations (resulting from anxiety) and agitation. Frequently called "the calming herb," it may be effective in treating Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (ADD- ADHD), easing such symptoms as inability to listen, fidgeting, inability to sustain attention and shifting from one incomplete task to another. It also appears to relax muscle tension without daytime drowsiness.
To combat insomnia, Lemon Balm is used to calm and relax the nerves, and Lemon Balm is an old and particularly reliable treatment for relieving the feelings of melancholy and depression.
Lemon Balm is also effective in calming the digestive tract. It relieves dyspepsia, colic, gas, upset stomach, indigestion and stomach cramps (particularly when related to nervous tension).
In the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, Lemon Balm shows great promise, because of the herb's possible central nervous system acetylcholine receptor activity and antioxidant properties. It may even positively affect cognitive abilities, enhance memory and improve mental clarity.
Further demonstrating Lemon Balm's calmative qualities, the herb has been used to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), stopping the spasms and relieving the pain and cramps associated with the disease. In addition, although it is strong enough to ease spasms, it is not so strong as to cause constipation.
Lemon Balm is an old folk remedy for treating feverish patients. It promotes perspiration and cools the body by breaking a fever. It is especially helpful in cases of colds and flu. Lemon Balm is also said to relieve bronchial catarrh (inflammation of mucous membranes) and some forms of asthma.
In cases of hyperthyroidism, the flavonoids and polyphenolics found in Lemon Balm induce thryroid-regulating actions and have been known to block the attachment of thyroid cells by antibodies that cause Graves' disease, a condition that results in hyperthyroidism and over-stimulation of the thyroid gland.
Lemon Balm is said to possess excellent antiviral properties. Its volatile oils have been known to destroy viruses in test tubes in as little as three hours, and this quality makes the herb especially helpful in combating cold sores and herpes virus infection. In addition, it is also thought to relieve the pain, itching, and sting of an outbreak. According to recent research, topical use of Lemon Balm speeds healing time of herpes simplex virus sores on the mouth.
Lemon Balm is an antibacterial and when used externally, it makes a fine poultice that has anti-putrescent effects and has been used as a surgical dressing. It is good for tumors, insect bites and stings, and it also cleanses sores and wounds. Because of its agreeable lemony scent, the herb is often included in sachets, potpourris and perfumes.
Lemon Balm is mild, gentle andconsidered safe for children. It is wise, however, not to take it concurrently with barbiturates for insomnia or anxiety, as it may increase their effects. With regard to the Essential Oil (only) of Lemon Balm, persons with glaucoma should avoid it, as animal studies show that it may raise the pressure in the eye.