In this post, we’ll cover how to grow it, how to prepare it and the medicinal benefits of lemon balm.
Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis – also known as balm, common balm or balm mint is one of the easiest to grow, safest, sweetest herbal ally we could ever ask for.
Commonly planted in gardens to attract bees, few know the amazing properties of this perennial herb, and most have beneficial effects on the body.
Lemon balm is one of my first herbal allies, and one I thoroughly enjoy.
Her bright demeanor (have you met a Melissa who wasn’t a cheerful person??), perseverance, and ease makes her an instant friend.
When we moved to our homestead, she was one of the first plants I recognized.
The previous owner was a devout gardener and blessed her home (later to be our home) with lemon balm all over.
Even now I’m still finding Melissa oficinalis in new places!
Whether it’s to improve your digestive health, cognitive function or reduce stress, lemon balm is an accessible, safe herb that can be a good alternative medicine.
Due to its variety of uses, more research studies have been conducted to prove its effectiveness.
Here are some of the popular benefits and wide uses of this herbal medicine.
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What is Lemon Balm?
Before we dive into the health benefits of lemon balm, let’s start by discussing a little about its origin.
Whenever you think of lemon, you often associate it with its yellow color and lemony flavor and scent.
Lemon balm looks exactly like other mints. It has a square stem, and toothed leaves that grow out opposite of each other on the stem.
Lemon balm flowers are small and usually white, but can also be pink or yellow.
When you pinch the leaves, you will notice a decidedly lemon-y mint smell.
But did you know this fragrant herb was a member of the mint family and is native to Southern Europe, North America, Ancient Greece and Central Asia?
It’s greek word is Melissa officinalis L.
It has been used as a traditional medicine for a long time, especially to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, improve digestive health, and heal wounds.
It is also known to provide a positive effect to our nervous system.
Until today, the use of lemon balm has become popular all over the world. Here are some of its popular benefits and uses.
How to Grow Lemon Balm
Lemon balm, being a member of the mint family, is known for being hardy, withstanding freezing temperatures, and known to spread with abandon.
It does well in sun and shade, moist or dry soils.
It’s extremely forgiving and one of the easiest herbs to grow.
You can either grow lemon balm from seed, which will germinate in three to four weeks, or propagate it from root division.
In the early Spring, simply dig your shovel into the center of a growth of lemon balm and divide the roots into two.
Just before the plant is going to flower, cut back a few inches to encourage branching out.
Just before it is about to flower again, cut it back to within three inches of the ground.
Once it flowers, the volatile oils that we want for the medicine go to the flowers to attract bees.
Lemon balm is also great to repel against mosquitoes and black flies, while attracting bees and other beneficial pollinators.
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Medicinal Benefits of Lemon Balm
The first thing I ever made with lemon balm was a tincture.
Which sounds strange due to what a lovely tea it makes!
However, my step-daughter reacts terribly to mosquito bites.
She gets large angry red welts around them, so when she came in one day covered in them, I grabbed the lemon balm tincture and within twenty minutes you couldn’t tell where the bites had even been.
It’s now my go-to remedy for bites of any kind.
Promotes Gastrointestinal Health
Studies have shown that lemon balm can be a good digestive aid, especially in relieving less severe digestion problems, such as colic, stomach acid, nausea, indigestion, and bloating.
You can treat these digestive tract problems either by making mouth watering lemon balm desserts or pairing them with another herb like Cynara scolymus or artichoke.
A small study was done on the effects of lemon balm on stress and anxiety disorder, and the results were surprising!
In this clinical trial where participants drank a cup of lemon balm drinks and yogurt and then completed the stress test, which included a simulation of public speaking and multitasking, the result shows a significant improvement in their mood and their stress level.
This is perfect for anyone who is typically exposed to stressful environments or anyone who is looking for an herb with a calming effect.
If you grow your own lemon balm, you have direct access to finding relief.
A lemon balm plant contains powerful antioxidants, including caffeic acids, rosmarinic acid, and phenolic acids that may help fight diseases related to oxidative stress, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
It has also been found that the extract of lemon balm is good at removing natural free radicals, which is important for the prevention of oxidative damage.
But further research is needed to take into account many other factors such as dosage and manufacturing procedures.
Do you have trouble sleeping?
The number of people diagnosed with sleep disorders is increasing day by day around the world.
Human studies have been done on the effects of lemon balm with valerian root in children with restlessness and adults with sleep problems.
Of the 900 children who took the lemon balm supplements, about 80% of the participants showed improvement in their sleep patterns while 70% showed improvement in restlessness.
The result also showed no adverse effects of the supplements on the 900 children.
However, it is best to consult your doctor first for medical advice if you decide to take a lemon balm dietary supplement to prevent any side effects or allergic reactions after drug administration.
Or you can also try lemon balm oil, a popular aromatherapy used for its calming effects.
Another surprising piece of news about the benefits of lemon balm is its ability to fight inflammation according to a research study.
It is a traditional medicine used as a mild sedative, especially after an injury.
Simply apply lemon balm leaves to the affected area to reduce pain and inflammation.
You can also buy lemon balm essential oil or lemon balm cream for topical use.
At present, more studies are needed to conclude on the anti-inflammatory mechanism of this medicinal herb, especially since the research study was based only on animal studies.
Therefore, more human research is needed.
Relieving PMS Symptoms
Due to its analgesic properties, lemon balm is one of those herbal remedies that help relieve PMS or pain during menstruation.
The study was conducted with a group of Iranian teenage girls who exhibited symptoms.
The research was done by dividing the participants into two groups: one taking 1,200 milligrams of lemon balm while the other was a placebo group.
Although both showed reduced pain and inflammation from menstrual cramps, the group that received significant relief was the one that received lemon balm.
Fighting Viral Infections
Using lemon balm is also beneficial to those suffering from viral infections.
According to study, lemon balm contains antiviral properties which can help reduce symptoms of herpes virus type 1 and type 2.
Researchers studied the antiviral activity of lemon balm extract and found that it inhibited the in vitro growth of myxoviruses, simplex virus and influenza.
The combination of lemon balm with other mixtures and concentrations has shown its effectiveness in the early treatment of herpes infections.
But other than that, even just a cup of lemon balm tea can also relieve viral symptoms, such as cold sores and more!
Just collect fresh lemon balm and pour in cold water to make cold brew lemon balm or hot water for a good herbal tea.
The other surprising result of this research is that lemon balm also contains certain antibacterial properties which are effective in fighting fungal infections in humans.
Relaxing Smooth Muscles
Lemon balm also has antispasmodic effects, which is good for treating nervous tension, heart palpitations, extreme anxiety, excitability, graves disease and headaches.
It is also a component of most thyroid medications.
These are some of the wonderful uses and benefits of lemon balm.
If you decide to plant and grow your own in your garden, one of the easiest ways to use lemon balm is to crush its fresh leaves and rub them directly onto the most vulnerable and exposed areas of your skin, like arms and ankles, to prevent insect bites.
You can also buy lemon balm from the market in various forms like tea, extracts, essential oils and capsules, but make sure to consult a health care provider first.