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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

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Melissa officinalis

Latin Name: Melissa officinalis

Common name(s): Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Balm Mint, Sweet Mary

Family: Lamiaceae

Botany: Lemon Balm is a perennial herb that grows up to 5 feet tall.

Habitat: Native to south-central Europe, Iran, and Central Asia, Lemon Balm has been naturalized in many other places around the globe.

History/Folklore: Lemon Balm has a long history of use in Europe. It was considered the herb of the goddess Diana, and the herb that assisted ancient bee keepers in keeping honeybees happy and well fed. Sprigs of Lemon Balm were commonly added to beehives in ancient Greece.In the Middle Ages, Lemon Balm had a wide variety of herbal medicine uses, including soothing tension, toothaches, skin eruptions, mad dog bites, sickness during pregnancy, and as a dressing for wounds. Other conditions it was used for traditionally include bronchial inflammation, earache, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, and vomiting.

Parts used: leaves

Constituents: Flavinoids including quercitrin, rhamncitrin, rhamnazin apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, luteolin, phenolic acids and tannins, rosmarinic acid, glycoside bound caffeic acid and chlorogenic acids, ferulic acid, hydroxycinnamic acid, protocatechuic acid, triterpenic acids including ursolic acid, pomolic acid, oleonolic acid, and methyl carnosoate

Actions: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral, aromatic, carminative, cerebral stimulant, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervous restorative, spasmolytic, sedative, tonic, relaxant

Medicinal use: Lemon Balm is a calming, tonic herb that is commonly used for anxiety and mild depression. It relieves surface tension from the body, stops nervous palpitations, and reduces feelings of panic. As a member of the mint family, Lemon Balm also has an affinity for the stomach. It’s especially useful for stress-related stomach disorders, such as excessive acidity, colicky pains, gas, bloating and similar issues. Children can take Lemon Balm for any of these issues, and more. Lemon Balm is used in Europe as a treatment for thyroid conditions, and has been shown to be able to regulate thyroid production. In addition, the diaphoretic properties of Lemon Balm make it useful as a fever reducer. And topically, Lemon Balm is effective as a treatment for herpes simplex (cold sores), and can also be used as an insect repellent.

Common preparation: tea, tincture, salve

Contraindications: Lemon Balm may block some of the activity of the thyroid hormone, and therefore may interfere with other treatments for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. When taken with other sedative herbs like Kava Kava or Valerian, Lemon Balm may cause excess sedation.

Notes: Lemon Balm combines well with Skullcap, and also Rosemary. There is some promising research on using Lemon Balm as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, particularly in slowing the symptoms of memory loss and helping to strengthen attention spans.

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