Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb lemon balm are Blue Balm, Common Balm, Cure-all, Dropsy Plant, English Balm, Garden Balm, Honey Plant and Sweet Balm.
The name Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, comes from the old Greeks. The Greek name for a Honey bee is Melissa because bees have a preference for the nectar of this plant where inturn the plant attracts bees. The Arabs brought the plant to Spain and the Benedictine monks to northern regions, where it already early became cultivated in monastery gardens. Lemon balm was called in Southern Europe 'heart's content' and by the Swiss physician Paracelsus 'life elixir'who believed that this herb could bring a man completely back to life.
Lemon balm had also name as one of the morning tea kinds that in the thirteenth century became consumed by Llewelyn, Prince or Glamorgan, who became 108 years old, and John Hussey from Sydenham who became 116 after fifty year long had breakfast to have with Lemon balm tea with honey. The way to obtain Melissa oil becomes already described centuries by herb expert and becomes used also these days yet it within the aroma therapy to decrease depressions. Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel, nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgic affections.
The stems are hairy, subdivides square and light green. The plant becomes approximately 1 to 3 meter high with a spread of 2 feet. This vigorous plant will readily spread throughout the border. The oval, almost heart-shaped leaves have slightly serrated edges and a pronounced network of veins; they can be up to 2½ inches across.
The flowers, which bloom from mid- to late summer, are small, white, and insignificant. The seed of Lemon balm is dark brown till black, with a white point. They are tear form like and approximately 1 mm long. From the month of June through September, white or yellowish two-lipped flowers appear on the branches and form along in small loose bunches located on the axis of the leaves - these floral outgrowths emit a strong lemony scent and give the plant its common name.
The lemon balm is originally a native plant seen in areas of southern Europe, in parts of western Asia, as well as in northern Africa but however now it is found around the world.
A garden plant, but its natural habitat is the in mountaineous regions in southern Europe. Lemon balm is mostly seen cultivated, but in southern regions one sees it once in a while in the wild in hedges and along roads. It thrives best in humus rich, moist and well-drained soils which are slightly acidic or slightly alkaline form the best soils for growing the lemon balm. The plant tolerates a pH range from 4.5 to 7.6 and grows best between these ranges. It generally prefers exposure to full sunlight, but it also tends to grow well in partially shaded areas.
Seeds are slow to germinate and are so fine that they hardly need covering at all. An alternative method of propagation is to take cuttings in late spring and root them in water. Plant in warm, moist soil in a sunny location. Good sun and moisture are necessary for the production of essential oil and good fragrance. Cut back to soil level in the fall to encourage strong growth. The plant will not tolerate high humidity. Lemon Balm performs well in containers.
The presence of light is essential for germination of seeds, for this reason, the seeds must be planted to a depth not exceeding 6 mm or 1/4 an inch into the soil. Once germinated, the seedlings tend to emerge in about eight to ten days. Once the danger of the frost has passed, the seedlings may be transplanted out of doors. When planting out of doors, the plants can be spaced about 45 to 60 cm or 18 to 24 inches apart from each other to achieve maximum growth in the soil. Another method is to plant the seeds outdoors late in the fall season, these then lie dormant through the cold of the winter and germinate normally next spring on exposure to sunlight. The lemon balm can also be propagated using stem cuttings and by the root division method. These stem cuttings can be taken from the vigorous growing plants during the summer season. The harvested roots can be divided during the spring or fall season, during division it must be ensured that each divided section of the root contains at least 3 or 4 buds - this is ideal. Roots that are divided during the fall season must be planted early enough in order to allow them sufficient time to become well established in the soil. The soil in which the lemon balm plants are planted must be mulched well for maximum protection from the cold during the winter months. The tender growth of plants can be ensured by dividing the plants during the spring or fall every three or four years during the lifetime of the plants.
From June to August the white or creamish yellow coloured flowers are in bloom to several clusters, in the axils of the leaves.
Pests and Diseases
The lemon balm is likely to be attacked by many pests such as the chewing and sucking insects and needs pesticides - in general, it can be regarded as pest free. However, late in the growing season, lemon balm is rather susceptible to infection from the powdery mildew.
The aerial parts and
the essential oil of the herb
are the most commonly used parts of the
plant for its commercial and medicinal applications.
• The remedies made from the lemon balm are also excellent for the treatment of headaches, as well as problems such as migraine, problems like vertigo and buzzing sensations that occur in the ears.
• It helps relieve anxiety attacks, palpitations with nausea, mild insomnia and phobias.
• It combines well with peppermint to stimulate circulation, and can also be used for colds and flu.
• Melissa can become used to treat in very low concentration quite good round eczema and other skin problems.
• The lemon balm herb has a relaxant effect, which can help in bringing relief from pain and spasms in the kidneys as well as in the general urinary system of a patient.
• An extract of the leaves as tea use for lighting by chronic bronchitis, cold with fever, headache and tensions.
• Digestive disorders are also soothed by the lemon balm, and the herbal remedy is said to have particular affinity with digestive system disorders.
• The lemon balm remedy can also relaxes spasms that cause period pain in the reproductive system of women, these remedies can also bring relief from excessive irritability and depression related to PMS and other conditions.
• The remedies made from the lemon balm are also very useful as an aid in regulating menstrual periods and have found traditional use in relaxing and strengthening women during the process of childbirth and in bringing on the afterbirth.
• The lemon balm combined with the linden flowers helps in reducing elevated blood pressure in the body.
• The lemon balm when taken in the form of a hot infusion can induce sweating in the body; this helps in reducing fevers and makes it a very good remedy for many childhood infections.
• People with an overactive thyroid are also given the lemon balm remedy following the discovery of its potent anti-thyroid activity.
• Lemon balm is a first-aid remedy for cuts and insect stings and is good for fevers.
• The lemon balm also has potent action as a relaxant and possesses mucous reducing properties, these powers are very helpful during cases of acute and chronic bronchitis, and they are also helpful in treating harsh and irritating coughs as well as asthma in patients.
Commercial and Culinary Applications
• Fresh leaves are used in salads and as a garnish for fish and other dishes.
• The leaves of lemon balm make attractive cake decorations.
• They can also be added to summer drinks and fruit salads, and make a good substitute for lemon peel in recipes.
• Lemon balm makes a refreshing skin toner and can be used in rinse water for clothes.
• The fragrant lemon balm leaves can be used to enhance the fragrance of potpourris and floral sachets in the house.