The healing power of lemon balm.
Lemon balm: peace-giver and comforter.
The Latin name for lemon balm is Melissa officinalis. Melissa means honey bee - the plant is a source of nectar and very popular with bees. Hives can also be cleaned with this herb thanks to its disinfecting power. Because of its lemon scent and taste, we added ‘lemon’ to melissa. Lemon balm grows a little higher than knee height and its stems are square. The oval, serrated leaves are light green in colour and are very slightly hairy. Small, pale-yellow clusters of buds become white or light blue two-lipped flowers.
Lemon balm has been used since ancient times and is one of the best herbs to help soothe feelings of sadness, grief, anxiety and tension. Lemon balm comforts and calms. Research now tells us that its natural chemicals act on the limbic system.
This is the part of the brain involved in emotion and emotional memory.
Lemon balm protects the brain against excessive external stimuli.
Anxiety is just one of the unpleasant emotions that can be treated with lemon balm. Its use slows our breathing patterns; other parts of the body react to this and are so less under stress.
Lemon balm is also a popular choice of herb when it comes to improving sleep quality and tackling insomnia.
Because of its relaxing effect, lemon balm provides relief from digestive complaints when these are caused by tension. Symptoms include stomach and intestinal cramps, nausea and abnormal bowel movement. The herb can also be used to soothe the pain of menstrual cramps.
The heart also benefits from the relaxation effect. Lemon balm helps to reduce anxiety-related palpitations as it reduces feelings of confusion, nightmares and overactive thoughts.
According to herbalist Mellie Uyldert (1908-2009), lemon balm strengthens the “I-power”, binding the soul to the physical body and so bringing the entire body into balance.
When you use this herb regularly, you will find that you get much more enjoyment out of life.
The spleen is an organ located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. It is protected by the rib cage. The spleen produces antibodies against certain bacteria and so plays an important role in the immune system, and removes waste products from our blood.
Lemon balm stimulates the spleen, which in turn reduces the symptoms of early-stage bacterial and viral infections, like cold sores. It can be used to help the immune system during any viral infection.
This is of great interest as mainstream medicine has not yet found a cure for every virus. Although antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, these only help to fight bacterial infections.
Due to its antiviral effect, lemon balm can be applied externally on cold sores, shingles, areas of fungal infection and insect bites. Simply make a strong tea and let it cool. You can keep the tea in a fridge for a few days. The leaves can also be made into an oil, cream or lip balm. Rub lemon balm leaves on the skin to soothe itching or keep insects at bay.
You can harvest lemon balm until just before it flowers. Chemical changes occur during and after flowering and the smell and taste of the herb will change. This is why it is important to (partially) cut back the plant from time to time as this stimulates fresh growth. Allow part of the plant to flower as the bees will appreciate it. Lemon balm is difficult to dry as it is delicate and rapidly turns black. Unfortunately, it will not retain its wonderful scent and taste when dried.
Source: Andrea Bleeker & Jeanine Bakker