If you are not familiar with this delightful fragrant herb, I invite you to meet Melissa (the genus name for lemon balm). This herb makes a fresh and delightful-tasting tea that can be drunken just for the pleasure of drinking this tea or for medicinal purposes.
Lemon Balm is a perennial herb and belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). I find that this herb grows easily in pots as well as in the ground. I enjoy brushing my hand lightly through its leaves for the fragrance it imparts, or even pinching off a leaf to chew. It originally comes from the Mediterranean and has been used for medicine for thousands of years. The ancients believed lemon balm would ensure long life and bring joy. Hippocrates, Pliny, and Galen are among those that spoken of its attributes.
Lemon balm has long been valued for its calming and relaxing properties. It is classified as a nervine herb, which soothes, relaxes, and supports the nervous system. Additionally, it has antispasmodic therapeutic actions which can help relieve pain due to tension, including headaches, back pain, and stomach cramps.
Research has shown that lemon balm can enhance cognitive function, improve mood, and relieve some symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, especially irritability and forgetfulness. It can be used for anxiety, stress headaches, to promote a better quality of sleep, for a nervous stomach, for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Consider pairing with other herbs to enhance its therapeutic properties. Lemon balm has antiviral properties and research is ongoing in its use in relation to herpes simplex I and II. When taken regularly it can help reduce future outbreaks and healing time. Lemon balm has high antioxidant levels and studies have shown lemon balm to improve oxidative stress and DNA damage over a 30 day period.
Lemon balm is best used fresh. Gather the leaves before it flowers to enjoy the fragrant odor and its mild lemony taste. If gathered after flowering, it will have a bitter taste. Lemon balm is considered safe for children, teenagers, pregnant or nursing women, and the elderly.
Theoretically, lemon balm in large amounts may act as an antagonist to the drug Synthroid/Levothyroxine (used for hypothyroidism). An in vitro (not using live subjects) study showed that lemon balm may inhibit thyroid function. This effect has not been shown in humans. If you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease, avoid consuming lemon balm in large amounts.
One final thought. Consider using lemon balm in cooking (e.g. add a few sprigs to teriyaki chicken as a final touch before serving), make lemon balm water (e.g. add lemon and cucumbers), or add to a smoothie. The possibilities are many.
Tea: 1 – 2 tsp of dried herb to 8 oz. of hot water. Or use a small handful of fresh herb in place of the dried herb. Allow to steep, covered, from 15- 20 minutes. Strain the herb from the tea, then drink. Take 2 – 3 cups per day.
Tincture (1:2): Take 80 – 100 drops up to 4 times per day.
I am a complementary and alternative health care practitioner, a certified Iridologist through the International Iridology Practitioner's Association (IIPA), an aromatherapist, and an herbalist. I received my training through the American College of Healthcare Sciences, University of New Mexico Continuing Education, the Southern Institute of Natural Health, Grand Medicine, International Institute of Iridology, and Tree of Light.
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