The official name is Melissa officinalis but it is better known as lemon balm, bee balm, sweet balm, Melissa, and cure-all. Lemon balm is a mint plant originated in the Mediterranean region. This hardy perennial grows into a bush about 24 inches around. You can cut the leaves two or three times during a growing season. When lemon balm's light green, ridged leaves are rubbed, they give off a strong lemon scent.
Today lemon balm is found growing throughout the world. The leaves, stems, and white flowers of lemon balm have all been used for centuries. The claims for lemon balm from literature as far back as the 1600's make it sound like the proverbial cure-all miracle medicine.
The tannins and polyphenols in lemon balm extracts are both antibacterial and antiviral. Lemon balm has been used to help treat strep, mumps, and most notably, herpes. Creams and ointments that include lemon balm have helped to heal cold sores or genital sores induced by the herpes simplex virus. However, unlike prescription drugs, lemon balm doesn't cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, vomiting, and irregular menstruation. Lemon balm's antiviral properties may be due to the caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid compounds it contains.
Lemon balm both helps speed the healing of wounds and also relieves pain. A traditional use of lemon balm is for treatment of nervous disorders such as chronic nervousness, anxiety, and slight insomnia. Like mint, lemon balm has a soothing effect on the stomach and digestive system. The volatile oils, including citronellal and citrals A and B are responsible for this.
Lemon balm extract has been administered intravenously to help with an overactive thyroid. It particularly helps with Graves' disease. Lemon balm also seems to help block some of the secretion of the thyroid gland and the thyroid's ability to release hormones in the body. An important note: If you are currently taking any thyroid medication, be aware that lemon balm may interact with your prescribed medications.
One person made floor cleaner by mixing one-part of white vinegar to three-parts water. Then she added a few sprigs of crushed lemon balm. The fragrance masks the vinegar smell and the lemon may add some antiseptic qualities. Lemon balm also helps relax spasms affecting the smooth muscles of the uterus and intestines. In this way it is used to treat conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. Lemon balm may improve memory in Alzheimer's patients as well as lengthen attention span. Lemon balm has also been used to affect the mood simply through its fragrance.
Lemon balm may be purchased in creams, tablets, capsules, teas, tinctures, and extracts. Typically an adult should take 1 teaspoon of lemon balm extract daily, or 1 teaspoons of tincture. A homemade tea is made by adding 1 to 3 teaspoons of the dried lemon balm leaves to a cup of hot water. Try adding dried lemon balm leaves to your bath. If you have difficulty sleeping or have stomach problems such as flatulence, or bloating, lemon balm may be just what you need. Treating children is safe and effective. Lemon balm may be used topically on cold sores. For ingestion, adjust amounts based on the above given for a 150 pound adult.
Beekeepers have loved lemon balm for centuries. It has the ability to attract and nurture swarms of bees, as well as to provide a remedy for bee stings. Lemon balm may increase the effects of other sedatives so do not take them together without checking with your doctor.