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Health Benefits and Other Uses for Lemon Balm, Melissa Officinalis


Lemon Balm, melissa officianalis ©Cynthia Zirkwitz 2019
Lemon Balm, or melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb from the mint family.  It may have originated in Europe, the Middle East or Asia, but now it grows like a wild thing in my garden, and maybe yours?  But unlike other "invasive plants" (sometimes incorrectly labeled "weeds"), lemon balm has so many wonderful attributes-- lemon scent, lemon-y flavour, beautiful fresh vital green colour-- that you would never hack it out and dump it in the forest.  However, I do suggest that you grow it in a container or a bed that doesn't have access to other parts of your garden.

But DO grow it.

During the summer small white flowers show up, with bee-attracting nectar in them.  (Melissa is actually Greek for 'honey bee'.)  Melissa may well be the "honey leaf" referred to by Theophrastus, (c. 371-c.287BC) successor to Aristotle, and called "the father of botany" by the Greeks.

BALM IN THE BIBLE

Besides being known as 'lemon balm' (the name used by a couple of other bee-attracting flowers as well-- bergomot or Oswego, the lovely flower and flavouring for Earl Grey tea, and genus Monada-- Melissa also is known as "common balm," "balm mint" or simply, "balm".

The original use of the word "balm" referred to the oil of a particular palm tree in the Bible with properties that healed injuries and soothed pain.  In a larger sense, Jesus was seen as the healing "balm."  Referencing Jeremiah 8:22, the beautiful "Negro Spiritual" below was sung by slaves, and a musical arrangement was later published for choirs as part of a collection in 1919 by African-American composer, arranger and professional singer, Harry Thacker Burleigh.   


  1. It is an easy-to-grow perennial-- dies down in the Winter and pops up with lavish vigor in the Spring.  Once you find out about all the benefits of having Melissa (fresh or dried) in your pantry and your yard, you will feel like a wise person for growing it.  You will look like your have an incredible green thumb to your friends and neighbours (re the neighbours: better to plant your M. officinalis in a container, as I said above).  You will be able to hand out lovely little pottings of M. officinalis to your friends, workmates, and in my case, to a friend who is a beekeeper.  You will be percieved as not only wise, but also kind and generous!
  2. Honey Bees love M. officinalis!  They gather its nectar from the abundant plants (please garden organically for the loves of bees) and if a container of balm is grown near their beehives, they will always return home to the hive.
  3. Bee Balm makes such a lovely tea (tisane): Use fresh or dried leaves.  Pour boiling water over them-- voila! A very nice lemony tea, perfect for summer tea parties or just for solo general comfort.  You can also add it to Green Tea for a little flavour lift.
  4. Add it to your Fruit Salad: Such a lovely green it is!  Tasty, lemon-y, refreshing!  And goes well in fruity smoothies as well!
  5. Refreshing Face and Body Wash! Carmelite nuns in the 14th C. used a combination of balm and other herbs in water (and maybe alcohol? Or so it was commercialized) as a wash.  You spa-queens-- sounds like something to try, eh?
  6. Get a better sleep! Herbalists and alternative medicine folks attribute the herb with qualities that promote a sound and pleasant sleep.  Drink a cup of Melissa tea before retiring.
  7. Aid in eliminating digestive issues: Alternative medicine suggests that M. officinalis is helpful for various digestive complaints.  Start the day with a fresh fruit or greens and smoothie, and throw a leaf or two of M. officinalis into the blender with the other ingredients.
  8. Another tool in your anti-Depression & Anxiety tool kit! When detoxing caffeine and alcoholic drinks, you might want to replace those beverages with M. officinalis tea or smoothies.  A study shows that healthy persons are more likely to be calmed by M. officinalis. 
  9. Flavour other healthy treats!  Ice tea, smoothie pops, and ice cream (vegan please) can all be delightfully and healthfully flavoured with a few leaves of this diverse herb.
RECIPE FOR TABOULLEH - made with Melissa (lemon balm) and Quinoa.
(4-6 servings)
*Cook and cool 1+ cup Quinoa
Into a large salad bowl:
*Peel and chop fairly fine  1 Persian or long English cucumber
*Finely chop 6+ green spring onions
*Juice 3 lemons
*Finely mince 1-2 bunches flat leaf parsley
*Finely chop 1-2 handfuls Lemon balm
*Chop 2-3 large ripe tomatoes into small pieces; retain all juice
*Mix all of the above together with salt, black pepper, to taste, and one other intuitive or preferred dry herb or spice (minimal).  

Refreshing anytime, and especially nice in Spring and summer. For anyone who is vegan but occasionally craves sour dairy (cottage cheese  buttermilk), this is very helpful and tasty.
Taboulleh with Quinoa and Lemon Balm

Melissa Officinalis is also available as an essential oil. 
Follow instructions regarding its use as an essential oil.  Generally it is not advisable to take an essential oil orally, or to use without a carrier oil.  Here is an M. officinalis oil that you can feel safe in using (CLICK on image below):
US Organic Essential Oil: MELISSA (Lemon Balm) 100% pure & certified organic  CLICK ABOVE.


**Please speak to your Doctor or other care provider if you have questions or concerns about using Lemon Balm/Melissa officinalis.  One video I watched suggested that there might be a mild clash between Melissa and thyroid medication. 



To your living health!

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