Herb in Focus: Lemon Balm
Posted on 02 September 2016 by Leonie Satori
Used for many generations, Lemon Balm is by far one of the most versatile herbs, with its affinity for the nervous and digestive systems, it is the kind of herb that makes its home in so many herb gardens and herbal dispensaries.
Lemon Balm Through History
With synonyms Sweet Balm, Melissa and simply Balm, Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is an easy to grow herb containing sweet smelling natural essential oils. It is named 'balm' due to the aromatic or balsam components and was quoted in the 1600s as being strengthening for the brain and renewing of youthfulness. Used to 'driveth away melancholy and sadness', the virtues of this uplifting herb have long been used to lift spirits and support the nervous system. The resinous content of Lemon Balm was also recognised for its benefit for wound healing, and the fresh leaves were used to apply to wounds and insect bites to 'stauncheth the blood'. Recognising these traditional uses of herbs such as Lemon Balm helps us to better understand their actions in modern herbal medicine.
Lemon Balm as a Medicinal Herb
Today, Lemon Balm is recognised for its antispasmodic, carminative, relaxant and diaphoretic qualities, with the calming affects of Lemon Balm being central to its therapeutic action in the body. One of the best ways to use Lemon Balm is in a tea or tissane, but it is also useful in herbal tinctures and also available for topical use as an essential oil.
As an excellent herb for the digestive system, Lemon Balm can help to settle nausea associated with nervousness and the volatile oils also help with wind and discomfort in the digestive system. Suitable for children, Lemon Balm tea, with its lemony taste is great for settling digestion, anxiety and nervousness . Owing to the antispasmodic action of Lemon Balm, those with intestinal colic or irritable bowel symptoms may benefit from using Lemon Balm regularly as a tea.
A key ingredient in our signature blend Nerve Calm Tea, Lemon Balm is calming for those who tend to excitability. An excellent herb for restlessness, anxiety, nervous headaches, insomnia or depression, Lemon Balm cannot be overlooked for these sought after medicinal qualities for modern day stresses. Also a featured herb in our Yummy Mummy Tea, Lemon Balm helps with keeping mum calm while breastfeeding and alleviating colic and wind for bub.
The volatile oils in Lemon Balm also play a role in enhancing peripheral circulation through its quietening effects on the nervous system. This quality makes Lemon Balm beneficial for fevers associated with colds or flus and in a tea format useful for keeping fluids and spirits up during convalescence.
Lemon Balm Volatile Oils
The volatile oils in Lemon Balm are understood to have specific effects on the herpes virus and the topical application of Melissa Essential Oil (oil of Lemon Balm) has been shown to help with those suffering from cold sores. Anecdotal reports indicate that use of Melissa Essential Oil helps to reduce the duration and intensity of cold sores outbreaks more effectively than pharmaceutical creams.
Using Lemon Balm at Home
Lemon Balm is an easy to grow herb and although a tea or tissane made with the fresh herb is by far the most uplifting, a simple tea made with dried herb can be equally refreshing. For gardeners, it is good to remember that Lemon Balm enjoys a free draining soil and will tend to 'rust' in soils that are too boggy, and as with growing most herbs, they enjoy being regularly used and pruned back, to give you long lasting herbal goodness.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her wellness clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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