Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb that grows up to five feet tall. Native to south-central Europe, Iran and central Asia, it has been naturalized in many other places around the globe. Lemon balm has a particularly 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 honey bees happy and well fed. Sprigs of lemon balm were commonly added to beehives in ancient Greece. In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was widely used in herbal medicine, including soothing tension, toothaches, skin eruptions, mad-dog bites, sickness during pregnancy and as a dressing for wounds.
In modern times, lemon balm is considered 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. It’s safe for children, and can be used for any of these issues and more.
Lemon balm makes a nice addition to an herb garden. Its fragrant leaves fill the air with a slightly lemony smell, and its quick-growing nature makes it great for filling in empty areas. Pluck a handful of leaves and you can also make a wonderful bedtime tea. It’s truly a great plant ally to have around. If you haven’t met lemon balm yet, now is the time!
Photo by Nathan Thompson – all rights reserved