Common Names: Balm, Bee Balm, Melissa
A hardy perennial and a member or the mint family, which grows in dense clumps to a metre height. It is shallow rooted with creeping rhizomes, which gives rise to upright square stems bearing ovate leaves, toothed and crinkled. Small white hooded flowers appear mid-summer. The whole plant releases a delicious lemony scent when bruised.
Leaves, fresh and green rather than dried.
Essential Oil (0.1% Volatile) containing citrol, citronellol, geranial, and linalool; bitter principle, flavorous (quercetic, rhamnocitrin), glucosides (apigenin, quercertic, luteolin) phenolic acid, tannins (rosmarinic acid, caffeic and photogenic acid), triterpenes (ursolic acid and lanolin acid).
Carminative, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, relaxant, mild ant-depressive, mild febrifuge, antiviral (topically).
Known as the ‘Memory Strengthener’, useful for anyone suffering from restlessness, excitability, or insomnia. A specific for the ‘Busy Mind’ or a ‘Tired Brain’, also used in a cream for cold sores. Has quietening effect on the nervous system, aids heart function and circulation. Other uses include morning sickness, pregnancy headaches, fever, palpitations, heartburn, indigestion, nausea due to nerves, hyperthyroidism. Commonly used extremely in cream for Herpes Simplex (cold sores).
It was held to be sacred to Apollo, the ‘god of medicine’, and held up as an elixir of life; when Apollo fell in love with Daphne, he is reputed by the poet to have said: ‘ I suffer from a malady that no balm can heal’. The Swiss physician Phillip von Hohenheim (1493-1541) who was a professor of surgery at Basel (1526- 1528) wrote a great deal about medicine, he was noted for his exceptional cures, and he stated clearly that he had achieved remarkable success with Melissa. Taking a simple tea prepared from lemon balm alleviates feverish conditions, colds, cardiac complaints and many other illnesses. It was drunk in early times to make the mind and heart merry, to revive the heart, to help people who sleep too much and to drive out the cares and melancholy.
A safe herb for children. It is a gentle herbal tranquilliser and can be put in their baths. Lemon balm is powerful and gentle in small doses. It has been found that the volatile oil acts on the limbic system, the part of the brain the governs the autonomic functions.
Prepared by Iren MacCulloch for The Herb Federation of New Zealand’s Herb Awareness Week 11th – 18th March 2007. Inquires to HFNZ, PO Box 42, Katikati.