Lemon Balm - What a useful plant

One herb that certainly has both an amazing history and a great deal of usefulness is the lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, as it is referred to in the world of botany. The word balm is shortened from the word balsam, which means the sweet-smelling oils. It is a relative of the mint family of plants. Much is recorded about this fragrant plant in the history books.

One very early mention of it, is by Pliny, who lived around the time of Christ. He attributed to this plant, almost miraculous healing powers, when he implied that a sword wrapped with it would just about stanch the blood flow soon after the wound was made. Others believed it was all a man needed to be revivified. Everything else was unnecessary but the lemon balm when it came to problems of the nervous system.

Growing the Lemon Balm

This plant is certainly not very picky about its location since it can be grown just about anywhere - as long as there is good soil, and a little shade. It is also easy to obtain in various ways, either through the seeds, dividing of the roots, or by cuttings. Planting can be done in either the spring, or the fall. The only real care it needs is to minimize the weeds around it and occasionally stir the soil around its roots.

It is a wonderful addition to any garden. It grows about two-and-a-half feet tall, and has a very citrusy smell. Merely brushing against the leaves of the lemon balm causes more of its fragrant odors to be released. Because of its powerful fragrance, it is commonly used in potpourri, and in aromatherapy. Its lemon smell and taste make it a wonderful addition to salads and teas. It also is loved by honeybees, and its Latin name, Melissa, means honey bee.

The Lemon Balms Claim to Fame

This plant has various herbal uses because of its many properties. Its effectiveness is derived from that fact that it possesses the following qualities: antiviral, antibacterial, sedative, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antidepressant, and antitumor – and more.

Common Uses of the Lemon Balm

A soldier in Nero's army, named Dioscorides, who served as a botanist and pharmacologist, wrote a book in which he said that he wrote it free of superstitution. In this book, he claimed that a wine steeped in its leaves, and drunk, and the leaves applied to the wound, would be a sure cure for snake and scorpion bites. While this is doubtful, there are many purposes for which it is used today.

There are also some claims that it has some effect on Alzheimer’s, ADHD, cancer, and even possesses some anti-HIV properties. It is also currently used to treat things like headaches, flatulence, painful menstruation, toothaches, intestinal cramps, and asthma.

Interactions of Lemon Balm

There are few known problems with negative interactions with lemon balm and other known illnesses – except that of hyper-thyroidism. This should not be used at all if you are taking medication for that disease, unless you are indicated that it is safe by your doctor. There is also a concern if you are taking sedatives, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, too. Consult you doctor in either case.


Lemon balm is used more commonly in Europe than it is in America. It can be found here in capsules, tea, extracts, tinctures, and oil, and can be purchased in bulk as a dried leaf.

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