Common Names: Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Garden Balm, Sweet Melissa
Part/s Used: Leaves and flowers
Taste: Astringent, pungent, sour, sweet
Actions: Nervine, sedative, carminative, diaphoretic, febrifuge
Constituents: Volatile oils including citral, citronellal, eugenol, acetate, geraniol, polyphenols, tannins, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid and triterpenoids
Tincture (ratio & % alcohol): Fresh: 1:3+ Dry: 1:5 60 %
Glycerite: 1:3-1:4 Glycerin: 50% Alcohol: 50%
Tea: Hot/cold infusion
Habitat and Botanical Description:
Lemon balm is a medium sized, mint like plant native to southern Europe and introduced to our gardens a very long time ago. Lemon balm grows freely in almost any soil and can be propagated by seeds, cuttings or division of roots in spring or fall. The leaves emit a strong lemon odor when they are rubbed or bruised. The flowers are light yellow to white to pinkish. Lemon balm dies back every season, but the bulb is perennial. Be sure to cut off the dead stalks in the fall.
Lemon balm contains medicinal volatile oils. Children to the elderly can enjoy lemon balm safely. Lemon balm has a gentle nature that provides nervine support. Its volatile oils calm the autonomic nervous system and has a tranquilizing effect. It works well by itself but combines well with skullcap, chamomile, wild oats, lavender and St. john wort. This combo would work well with children who are hyperactive or have ADD, ADHD (if not already medicated).
Lemon balm is a carminative and stomachic and smooth muscle anti spasmodic. It is a little milder than peppermint and fennel in this regard but good in combinations, especially with other mints for a digestive. It is great for nerve digestive disorders and sympathetic stress which works to calm nerves and aid digestion. The tea is good for menstrual cramps, stomachache, diarrhea, gas pain and bloating. A breastfeeding mother can drink the tea to calm a colicky infant.
Melissa is an excellent anti viral. Use internally and externally for herpes, shingles and pus filled wounds (tannins dry out wounds).
The tea of lemon balm is mild so be sure when making a cup that the vessel is well sealed to keep as much volatile oils in as possible.
Gather the aerial parts just before the flowers open, which is when the volatile oils are at their strongest concentration. Harvest early summer to mid fall from clean areas. The fresh plant of lemon balm is preferred as it contains volatile oils where most of it healing properties reside. To dry, cut below the lowest set of leaves, tie and hang upside down in a well ventilated area out of the sun. Dried lemon balm does not have a long shelf life. For long term medicinal use, make a tincture with the fresh or very recently dried herb. The leaves can also be stored in a airtight bag and frozen.
- Gladstar, R. The Science and Art of Herbalism. Lesson 2
- Gladstar, R. Medicinal Herbs: A beginners guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing; 2012: 157-160
- Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. New York, NY: Dover Publications; 1971
- Kloos, S. Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press Inc; 2017
- Moore, M. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press; 1993
- Sinadinos, Christa (2014) Northwest School for Botanical Studies. Lecture Notes
Disclosure: This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.