Lemon Balm- Melissa officinalis
Lemon balm is a gorgeous, vivacious, delicious smelling plant that flourishes all over the United States, though originally from Europe. It need only be planted once and comes back yearly, yielding high amounts of leaves. The fresh leaf or the dried leaf may be used to make infusions: strong medicinal tea. Lemon balm is in the Lamiaceae family, which is the same family as mint.
Lemon balm tastes exactly as the name implies: like lemon. It isn’t quite like drinking lemon juice but rather it has a nice lemon-like flavor.
Some of the amazing attributes we know about lemon balm are:
- Antiviral: blocks attachment of viruses onto and into cells
- Carminative & antispasmodic: dispels gas and bloating, decreases spasms
- Thyroid suppressive: quiets an overactive thyroid (ie Graves Disease or hyperthyroidism)
- Nervine: calming to the nervous system, central and peripheral
- Corrigent: used to enhance the flavor of other teas
How I use this plant in my clinical practice:
- Great for those who experience regular mild to moderate anxiety, nervousness, and/or depression. Women who experience nervousness related to PMS or menopause benefit from using this plant regularly.
- Extremely useful for insomnia, esp with restlessness. In fact the combination of Valeriana officinalis and lemon balm has been shown to be as effective for mild to moderate insomnia as benzodiazepene medications, with fewer side effects. 1 This same combination is great for ADHD and impulsivity in children, as well. 2 3
- Wonderfully useful for digestive complaints especially dyspepsia, intestinal gas, viral gastroenteritis (such as the norovirus), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Any nervous stomach condition will benefit greatly from this herb.
- Perfect for infants who experience colic. Makes a great combination with fennel and chamomile. A nursing mother can ingest this tea and/or baby can be given 5-10 drops of tea by mouth regularly.
- Enhances memory through the nervine and antioxidant qualities, works on GABA pathway. 4 Has been shown to relieve symptoms of and positively affect the memory of those with Alzheimer’s. 5
- As an antiviral it is great topically for herpes and shingles neuralgia.
- Useful for the common cold and otitis media when taken internally (due to it’s antiviral nature).
- Useful in cardiovascular formulas to support the heart when hypertension is present esp when due to stress!
- When treating hyperthyroidism or Grave’s (autoimmune hyperthyroidism), it helps to reduce symptoms caused by excessive thyroid hormone & autoimmune antibodies including: palpitations restlessness, anxiety and headaches. (Thus this herb is contraindicated for those with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.)
This herb has a long tract record of safety and is often used with children in addition to adults.
Some ways to use lemon balm daily:
- Great pick me up in the morning: ½ kukicha (twig) tea and ½ lemon balm (kukicha contains low levels of caffeine)
- Afternoon delight: ½ lemon balm and ½ skullcap tea (another favorite herb). This combo is great to calm down the body and the mind!!
Folklore: The Taoists drank a glass of lemon balm tea daily and many lived well past a century, owing in part some of their health to lemon balm.
To prepare: take 1 tbsp of dried or fresh herb, place in a teapot or glass/ceramic-steeping container. Add boiled water and allow to steep, with a cover, for a minimum of 20 minutes. Strain or remove tea ball. Drink 1-2 cups daily.
- Note: if you are making the morning beverage with the kukicha, the lemon balm is more of a corrigent and you would only steep the combination for about 5 minutes.
- When lemon balm is combined with other herbal teas, a minimum 20 minute steeping is required to obtain the medicinal value.
Other forms of lemon balm include: tincture (alcohol extraction), glycerite (glycerin extraction), and capsules.
Your Wellness Expert,