Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae. It is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Lemon balm, 70-150 cm tall, has leaves with a hint of lemon scent and bears nectar-filled small white flowers in summer. These flowers attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa ( Greek for honey bee). Its lemon-scent flavor comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%).

Lemon balm is often used as a flavoring in ice cream and herbal teas, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. It is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto, fish dishes and also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies.

Lemon balm is easy to cultivate and can be grown from seed and stem cutting. It grows well in full sun or partial-shade, well-drained sandy soil and a winter mulch or adequate snowcover to survive.

Lemon balm has antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties and is effective against herpes simplex. It is also used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative or calming agent. Lemon balm essential oil is commonly co-distilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils, and is very popular in aromatherapy. Lemon balm should be avoided by those on thyroid medication (such as thyroxine) as it is believed that the herb inhibits the absorption of this medicine.

Lemon balm has been used as a sedative, and as an antispasmodic. It contains eugenol which kills bacteria and has been shown to calm muscles and numb tissues. It contains tannins which has antiviral effects, and terpenes that add to its soothing effects.

Lemon balmLemon balm
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Lemon balm teaLemon balm tea
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Lemon balm flowersLemon balm flowers
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Lemon balmLemon balm
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