Herb(s) of the Week: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Oh, no! I almost forgot to mention my herb(s) of the week! Actually I didn’t. I wasn’t waiting to make a point, because the herb I spent some special time with this week was Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and it is too easy to take it for granted.
You know in those stock romantic comedies where there is the long suffering character who is always overlooked while the main character is mooning over someone else? That’s the way I think of lemon balm. It’s great for so many things. It’s gentle and supportive and you can rely on it. But while all herbalists know it, it is far too easy to get all excited about some other herb and pass by it.
I’ll quote from Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes because even though lemon balm is not an adaptogen in the supplemental section about nervines (which it is a member of that group) they have one of the most appreciative write ups I’ve seen:
Lemon balm makes for a delightful-tasting tea that can be drunk simply for pleasure or for its mood-elevating and nervine effects. Human studies have indicated that this lemony-smelling member of the mint family can enhance cognitive function, improve mood, and relieve some of the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, especially irritability and forgetfulness. It also can be take for stress headaches, to promote better sleep quality (used with chamomile and linden flower), for nervous stomach, for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and most importantly, for seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Which gives a nice overview of some of the things it is good for while talking about the sheer pleasure and delight in drinking it. And it alludes to one of the great things about lemon balm. It is not only good unto itself but it blends with and supports the work of other herbs wonderfully. I’d be hard pressed to think of a blend of herbs it wouldn’t go well with to some degree.
References of Note: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier is the best overview, while as referenced above Winston’s and Maimes’ book Adaptogens has a very nice write up. You’ll find it referenced my many herbals but often the older ones will list it as simply Balm rather than Lemon Balm.
My Own Take: Tasty and nourishing to the soul and spirit. Calming to the mind and digestion. It is like that nice exhalation after a hard day is done and you just finally sit and are at ease.
So lemon balm, you’re awesome! I really appreciate you being part of my herbal life. It just wouldn’t be the same without you around!