Plant Profile: Lemon Balm
"But back home he'll always run...to sweet Melissa..." Lemon Balm always makes me think of The Allman Brothers, summertime, and infused honey in my sweet tea. I grew up in the South y'all! Lemon Balm, or Melissa officinalis, is by far my favorite and most used herb for self-care. She is such a powerful herbal ally that uplifts our spirits, calms the nerves, and aids digestive health. If you have Celiac Disease like me, or struggle with anxiety-related digestive issues, lemon balm may be a wonderful addition to your self-care regimen.
Lemon balm is native to Southern and Central Europe, as well as the Mediterranean but is now widespread throughout the world. A prolific grower in any garden, she will come back to you year after year to support and uplift you. Like all plants in the mint family, lemon balm is a perennial with a square stem, opposite lobed or non-lobed toothed leaves, and white/pink/or yellow flowers. Her scent is what really gives her presence away – sweet, lemony, and very fragrant. Lemon balm's genus name Melissa means "bee" in Greek – as the name suggests, bees love lemon balms flowers and can be found circling this plant and enjoying its nectar. Legend even has it that medieval beekeepers rubbed lemon balm in their hives to encourage nesting!
Botanical Name Melissa officinalis
Common Name Lemon Balm, Balm Mint, Melissa, Sweet Balm
Family Mint (Lamiaceae)
Parts Used Leaves
Uses Lemon balm has been used to support the nervous system for centuries, even before the middle ages! In the minds of herbalists, lemon balm has become synonymous with the word uplift. It also acts as a mild sedative that can help you if you’re struggling to stay asleep all night. Multiple studies have shown lemon balm's effectiveness at boosting feelings of calm and improving negative moods.
One of my favorite uses of Lemon Balm is to aid digestive upset - this herb calms the digestive system and eases indigestion, especially when upset is caused by anxiety. Enjoy sweet melissa as an herbal infusion, tincture, or carry it with you as a gentle, uplifting reminder to help soothe your troubles.
Dosage 1-2 teaspoons of dried lemon balm in 1 cup of hot water, infused for 10-15 minutes; drink 2-4 cups of this infusion per day. If taken as a tincture, the dosage is 3-5mL, 3-4x per day of a 1:5. Learn how to make an herbal infusion here!
Actions Antiviral, Antispasmodic, Antidepressant, Antioxidant, Carminative, Anxiolytic, Nervine
Taste Refreshing, sweet, astringent, lemony
Energetics Cooling + Drying
Safety Lemon Balm is a very gentle herb that can be used by most people. There are some studies pointing to constituents in Lemon Balm interfering with thyroid hormones, but there have not been clinical studies on humans confirming this potential effect.
If you are growing a garden this year, considering planting Lemon Balm for yourself and for the bees. This plant is extremely easy to grow and provides a large harvest that will last you all winter long. Not only does it make a tasty tea that can be enjoyed hot or cold, lemon balm is also a wonderful addition to cookies and sweet biscuits. I hope that this profile has taught you something new and got you all excited about one of my favorite plants! If you are already a lover of sweet melissa, please share your insights, recipes, etc. in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!
"Yes I know that he won't stay without Melissa..."
Until next time,
Try our LEMON BALM TINCTURE
- Notes from my studies at The Herbal Academy.
- Dosage Information from Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Winston and Kuhn.
- Additional information collected from various sources and synthesized in my personal materia medica.