Thursday, 10 May 2012

Herb Spotlight: Lemon Balm -- Melissa officinalis

This month's herb sustained 14th century French king Charles V in a daily tea. Although it's a member of the mint family, it has a unique lemon-honey taste. It's latin name Melissa comes from Ancient Greek mythology and in that language it means "honey bee." Temples of Diana held it sacred. It is the main ingredient in Carmelite Water, a German herbal tonic produced for seven centuries. Another of it's nicknames is "Heart's Delight"

I recently sprouted this plant in my garden, took a pinch and chewed it up. It is instantly clear how lemon balm got it's name. Melissa smells and tastes delicious, lemony sour but sweet at the same time. I plan to use this plant in muffins, ice cream, and summer ice tea. AND I can't wait to use it in a medicinal fashion.

First, off this plant is antidepressant, relaxing, and antispasmotic. That means it will relax both body and spirit. It improves mood and mental ability. If affected by SAD, this cherry plant can brighten your day and temperament. If your heart is pounding, stomach is nervous, or baby is crying, add some lemon balm. Combined with chamomile, valerian, or hops, it can be used to promote sleep. A few studies have suggested lemon balm can help the function of Alzheimer's patients.

Second, lemon balm is antiviral, antibacterial, and full of antioxidants. This plant is your friend whether you have a flu or allergies from the changing of the seasons, or would like to prevent these. If you are feverish, the leaves are cooling in some ice tea, and can help you to sweat it out. The herb is also affective in the prevention of cold sore and herpes outbreaks.

Third, lemon balm is carminative, meaning it assists in digestion and prevents gas. Try a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half in hot water. Drink after ten minutes of steeping.

And last, crush a little lemonbalm and rub it on your skin to avoid mosquito stings. Because of the mild winter in the mid-Atlantic region, I am told this summer will be a buggy one! How much nicer is it to be coated in delicious lemon scent rather than toxic chemicals? Lemon balm can also be made into an ointment for bites and inflamed sores.

Please be careful in taking this plant if you are on sedatives, thyroid or HIV medications as it may prevent the effectiveness of the medicine. However according to the Herbalpedia, "Studies indicate that the herbs slightly inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone and restricts Grave's disease, a hyperthyroid condition."

Pregnant and breast feeding woman should not take lemon balm.

Herbalpedia -- for more information and recipes!