The Health Benefits Of Lemon Balm

“[Lemon] balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing melancholy.”
— John Evelyn (accomplished gardener and herbalist of the 17th century)
 
 
What is Lemon Balm?
 
This perennial plant, native to southern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and now naturalized in the Americas, is a member of the mint family and could quite easily be mistaken for oversized mint (due to its serrated heart-shaped leaves) if not for its mild lemon aroma and flavor.
 
Regarded mainly as a “calming” herb, lemon balm has been traditionally used throughout the ages as a combatant of anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite, hormonal moodiness, and stress. Due to its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties, lemon balm is also used to treat wounds, skin problems, and a great variety of ailments.
 
Lemon Balm Throughout History
 
For several millennia, lemon balm has been treasured as a medicinally-dynamic plant. A renowned herbalist in 1098 C.E. once claimed, “Lemon balm contains within it the virtues of a dozen other plants.” Indeed, from apiculture to holistic medicine, this plant has managed to consistently live up to its own reputation as both versatile and effective.
Often referred to as “she” because of the medicinal benefits it offers women especially, lemon balm has many names: “Sweet Mary,” “Honey Plant,” “Balm Mint,” and “Cure-All.” More commonly, however, it is known as “Melissa” by the herbal and aromatic communities.
 
The name Melissa stems from the Greek word “μέλισσα”—a marriage of the words “meliso” and “phyllon,” together meaning “honeybee leaf.” From this, the Romans learned to call lemon balm “APIASTRUM,” simply meaning “bee.” It’s only fitting, considering how lemon balm drives honey bees wild every summer with its nectar-rich white flowers. In fact, farmers have been using this plant for centuries to attract bees to certain fields in need of pollination, while beekeepers have grown it near their bees to discourage them from moving their colonies elsewhere. Melissa’s versatility does not end with agriculture or apiculture.
 
Note: Too often, people mistake lemon balm with the “bee balm” Monarda plant because of the connection to bees.
 
Lemon Balm Uses Throughout Antiquity
 
Lemon balm tea bath (ancient Azerbaijani practice to support heart and skin health)
 
Stomach-calming, mood-balancing teas and topical balms (ancient Indian and Chinese methods for healing)
 
Wine-infused liniment (1st-century topical balm to treat skin irritations, wine-infusion no longer necessary)
 
“Eau des Carmes” or “Carmelite Water” (14th-century distilled alcoholic digestive tonic that is available today without alcohol, containing lemon balm, lemon peel, nutmeg, and angelica root)
 
Electuary (17th-century “mood-lifting” syrup/paste of dried lemon balm flavored with honey for palatability)
mistakenly as a “magic” potion for healing broken hearts and luring romantic love interests (romance success rate: 0%)
 
Thousands of years have passed but this quick-growing plant’s uses and accolades have only multiplied. Throughout antiquity, lemon balm was cultivated as a culinary and medicinal component in promotion of health and happiness. Not much has changed in that regard, but with the supplemental, herbal, and essential oil movements becoming more prominent and available today, further applications have been discovered.
 
Lemon Balm Uses Today
 
—for the purpose of:
 
  • Improving mood
  • Treating infections and maladies caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses (colds, flus, herpes, HIV-1, etc.)
  • Preventing and treating nervous disorders (depression, vertigo, dementia, anxiety, insomnia)
  • Soothing inflammation (topically and internally)
  • Relieving spasms
  • Boosting digestive processes
  • Relieving bloat
  • Promoting sweating
  • Reducing fevers
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Promoting overall good health
  • Treating menstrual-related problems
  • Treating headaches
Note: While lemon balm is available fresh, dried (i.e. tea), ground, in pre-made commercial pastes (such as topical skin applications and toothpaste), and encapsulated powder form, one of the more potent applications is through the use of essential oils, which is what will be discussed here for the sake of brevity.
 
Melissa Essential Oil (for the purpose of):
 
Calming
Quantity: 1 drop (1:1 ratio carrier oil optional).
Apply to: palms, massage together. Cup hands over nose/mouth, breath in deeply/slowly.
Frequency: Up to 30sec. at a time. Repeat if needed.
Cold
Quantity: 1–2 drops (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: feet (or any symptomatic area), massage well.
Frequency: Repeat as needed. 
Cold Sores
Quantity: a small dab.
Apply: directly on impending sore.
Frequency: Repeat several times throughout the day.
Coughs
Quantity: 1–2 drops (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional)
Apply to: throat and chest, massage.
Frequency: Repeat up to 3 times daily.
Dementia (see: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry article)
Quantity: 1 drop (1:1 ratio carrier oil optional).
Apply to: palms, massage together. Cup hands over nose/mouth, breath in deeply/slowly.
Frequency: Up to 30sec. at a time. Repeat if needed.
Note: If applying to someone else, the “Coughs” application method (above) might be best.
Depression
Quantity: 1 drop (1:1 ratio carrier oil optional).
Apply to: palms, massage together. Cup hands over nose/mouth, breath in deeply/slowly.
Frequency: Up to 30sec. at a time. Repeat if needed.
Eczema
Quantity: 1 drop (3:1 ratio carrier oil).
Apply: directly to affected area.
Frequency: 1–3 times daily.
Emotional Support
Quantity: 1 drop (2:1 ratio carrier oil).
Apply to: chest and stomach, massage well.
Frequency: As needed.
Energy
Quantity: 1 drop if applying to hands (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional); >4 drops if using diffuser (no carrier oil).
Apply to: 1. Palms, massage together. Cup hands over nose/mouth, breath in deeply/slowly. Or, 2. Diffuse about the living space.
Frequency: As needed.
Flu
Quantity: 1–2 drops (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: feet (or any symptomatic area), massage well.
Frequency: Several times throughout each day of the ailment. 
Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease
Quantity: 1 drop (4:1 ratio carrier oil).
Apply to: any symptomatic area, massage well.
Frequency: Several times a day until ailment dissipates.
Headaches and Migraines
Quantity: 2 drops (1 teaspoon carrier oil).
Apply to: forehead, temples, cheekbones, and neck.
Frequency: At the start of pain. Repeat every 2–3 hours if migraine persists.
Herpes (see: Phytomedicine article)
Quantity: 1 drop (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply: directly to outbreak area.
Frequency: Repeat 3 times daily and continue use, regardless of visible outbreaks.
Hopelessness
Quantity: 1 drop (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: chest or inhale from palms.
Frequency: As needed.
Hypertension
Quantity: N/A
Application:  Inhale directly from the bottle or use topically (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional) over any symptomatic area.
Frequency: Repeat up to 3 times daily.
Indigestion
Quantity: 4 drops (1 tablespoon carrier oil, 4 drops grapefruit e.o., 2 drops peppermint e.o.).
Apply to: abdomen, massage clockwise.
Frequency: As needed. 
Overwhelmed
Same quantity, application, and frequency as “Hopelessness.”
PMS
Quantity: Up to 4 drops (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: bottom of feet or abdomen, massage well.
Frequency: As needed.
Note: For a soothing bath, consider adding a blend of 4 drops Melissa e.o., 4 drops bergamot e.o., 4 drops fennel e.o., and 1 tablespoon carrier oil to hot water. Soak in the water until it becomes cool.
Skin Issues
Quantity: 1 drop (2:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: affected area, massage well.
Frequency: 1–3 times daily.
Stomach Issues (pain, discomfort, or even loose skin)
Quantity: 1 drop (1: carrier oil, optional)
Apply to: abdomen, massage clockwise.
Frequency: 1–3 times daily. 
Stress
Same quantity, application, and frequency as “Calming,” “Dementia,” “Hopelessness,” and “Overwhelmed.”
Vertigo (see:
Quantity: N/A
Application:  Inhale directly from the bottle or use 1 dab topically (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional) on the forehead.
Frequency: As needed.
Viral Infections
Quantity: 1–2 drops (1:1 ratio carrier oil, optional).
Apply to: feet (or any symptomatic area), massage well.
Frequency: 3 times daily.
Warts
Quantity: 1 dab on a Q-tip or 1 drop.
Apply: directly to wart.
Frequency: 1–2 times daily until wart falls off.
 
How to Grow Your Own Lemon Balm Plant
 
While considering the health benefits of Melissa, be mindful that its high appeal oftentimes makes lemon balm products costly—especially as an essential oil. In addition, the more reputable the commercial source, the longer the wait is to receive their product on a first-come, first-served basis.
 
One of the more prominent essential oil companies, for example, experiences long periods wherein their Melissa oil is “out-of-stock.” At one point, the waiting period lasted over a year. This is because, like with any industry, the more trustworthy sources refuse to do business that is unethical to the laborers or dishonest to the consumer. While that is an excellent and Godly standard by which the consumer, producer, and seller should buy, make, sell, and live by, the truth of the matter is that growing your own lemon balm plant saves everyone the hassle and saves you money in the long run.
 
Growing your own lemon balm takes very little effort because it is both a hardy and quick-growing perennial. As a perennial, it will last just a little over 2 years but, because of its rapid growth, it will yield a surprising amount of lemon balm leaves throughout its lifetime.
 
The plant itself is about 2 feet tall, consisting of thin branches, and what always appears to be innumerous leaves. The leaves are what should be harvested for medicinal use, but the plant should periodically be cut down to ground level, as this—strangely enough—keeps it healthy, more attractive, and permits more abundant growth in the face of drought, insects, or other stressors.
 
When purchasing lemon balm seeds or starter plants, do your research, find a reputable source, and be absolutely sure they’re not trying to sell you “bee balm” Monarda or regular mint (it can happen purely by accident).
 
Because lemon balm is a warm-weather plant, do not plant the seeds or starters until all danger of frost has passed. Seeds and starters should be placed 20 to 24 inches apart in a sunny area that receives shade for at least 1/3 of the day. The soil should be rich and slightly moist with a pH of 6 to 7, but if your soil needs a pick-me-up, consider using Oceans 92 for soil reconstitution and avoid the unnatural and harmful soil-“enriching” products found at most home and garden stores.
 
If you harvest your lemon balm plant frequently (and you should), you will need to consider fertilizing it after each cut back. But, while most gardeners will resort to Miracle Grow fertilizer, keeping a simple compost pile as fertilizer will not only be less costly, but more beneficial and safe.
 
As you care for your plant and harvest its leaves, don’t be afraid to try new recipes or attempt new uses. Only a few products will require the purchase of specific tools or appliances.
 
Fresh or Dry Leaf (easy and economical)
tea
culinary seasoning
insect repellant
poultices
skin moisturizer
healing balm
toothpaste
syrups
 
Fresh Leaf (increased effort and cost)
tinctures
oils
perfumes
 
The fact that your plants are living just outside your door guarantees that even the most basic, effortless, and economical use of dried leaves from your property will be significantly more fresh, more potent, and have a longer shelf life than what must be grown, shipped, and processed elsewhere.
 
Conclusion
 
When looking at all the amazing benefits of lemon balm, we really have to ask ourselves, as Christians, what good reasons can we give to remain shackled to the anti-depressants, painkillers, and other health-harming pharmaceuticals that millions upon millions of people are subjected to each year? We may live in a sin-ridden world full of discomfort and anguish, but God, in His mercy, has gifted to us an abundance of natural solutions and remedies. The only obstacle is our willingness to try them.
If your health has benefited from the use of lemon balm or you grow and make your own lemon balm products, please share your experience below.
 
What health benefits have you experienced personally or witnessed in others?
 
What advice would you give to new growers?
 
What is the most unique lemon balm product or recipe you have tried?
Genobia Simpson

Genobia Simpson

Genobia is a wife and mother, and her duty has always been in the kitchen. But now, as the Lord has given her a greater understanding of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, she is able to supply nutritious meals and natural remedies (when necessary) for her family. She now has a great passion to share this wonderful truth with others who may not know where to start, how to prepare simple plant-based recipes, how to avoid sickness/diseases, and how to apply natural remedies.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
wpDiscuz

Keyword/Text Search

Words of Life

We should reverence God’s word. For the printed volume we should show respect, never putting it to common uses, or handling it carelessly. And never should Scripture be quoted in a jest, or paraphrased to point a witty saying. “Every word of God is pure;” “as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 12:6

— Ellen G. White, Education, p. 244