An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.
Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis - family: Labiatae (Lamiaceae) (Mint Family).
This rhizome-based perennial plant grows to about four feet high. It has lemon-scented oval-to-heart-shaped toothed leaves and in the summer it produces small whitish-yellow flowers. The flowers are followed by small brown seeds (nutlets). Its leaves are added to vinegar and salad oils. It has long been used in Europe for medicinal purposes. Traditional European folk use of an infusion made from the leaves as a remedy for anger, anxiety, depression, heartburn and a poor appetite. It was also employed as a European folk remedy for gall bladder problems. Traditional European folk use of leaves stuffed into a pillow as a remedy for insomnia. Today, it is used in Europe as a sedative and to lower fever. Modern American folk use of leaves as a remedy for colds, shingles (Herpes Zoster) and stress. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia and nervousness. Modern western use of leaves in a cream as a topical remedy for cold sores, genital herpes and shingles. Modern American folk use of essential oil made from leaves and flowering tops in aromatherapy for lowering high blood pressure. A sprig of Lemon Balm has been traditionally added to some alcoholic drinks. Its essential oil is used in aromatherapy. It is also used as an herbal tea. Note: one authority has reported that Lemon Balm may interfere with the body's production of thyrotropin, a thyroid-stimulating hormone. Note: do not take if you have thyroid problems. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1840 to 1890. Traditional European folk use as a strewing herb. Native of Europe, the Mediterranean area and Asia. Cultivated as an ornamental and as an herb in North America. Several cultivars exist.
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Web page last updated on 21 May 2003.