Lemon balm herb, also called Melissa, has been used by herbalists, and herbal healers for thousands of years. It is equally popular today as it was during medieval times. The name Melissa comes from the Latin name Melissa Officinalis. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family of plants, and is easily grown in any garden.
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder was born in Rome in 23 AD and died in 79 AD. He was an author, natural philosopher, and naturalist. His book Naturalis Historia survived the Roman Empire, and is what modern day encyclopedia’s model is taken from. Pliny recommended the use of lemon balm in the same way that Dioscorides did during their life times.
Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist who lived from 40 AD through 90 AD, wrote about lemon balm in his five-volume book “De Materia Medica” In it, he states, “The leaves and stalks smell of lemon. … A decoction of the leaves taken as a drink, or applied is good for those touched by scorpions, or bitten by harvest spiders or dogs. A decoction of them is a warm pack for the same purpose.”
Charlemagne who later became known as Charles the Great, ordered it to be planted in all the monastery gardens for both it’s beauty and fragrance. It is speculated that Charles wanted these gardens to be filled with lemon balm, since at that time, lemon balm was used for promoting youth.
Charles the Great, born in 742 AD, was king of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 AD to his death in 814 AD.
Nicholas Culpeper stated “Lemon Balm causeth the mind and heart to become merry…” He certainly was right. Lemon balm has been used for centuries to help heal anxiety and stress. Culpeper was born in October of 1616 in London, England. He studied herbs extensively, spending most of his time outdoors cataloging medicinal herbs and plants. Culpeper was devoted to using herbs to treat the illnesses of his patients much as the way modern herbalists do. His book the Complete Herbal written in 1653 has been reprinted several times over the years. He sadly died at the early age of 38, in 1654.
Culpeper’s translations and approach to using herbals have had an extensive impact on medicine in early North American colonies, and even modern medications.
Phillipus von Hohenheim
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim , born in 1493, later became known as just Paracelsus. Paraclesus, was a Renaissance era physician, and alchemist who made prepared a tonic using the lemon balm herb, which he called primum ens melissae. This tonic drink was used to renew youth, was used well into the 18th century. Paracelsus, who was much ahead of his time, pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in early medicine. He was the first one who used the name “zink” for the chemical element zinc in about 1526.
Early Colonists brought lemon balm and lemon balm seeds with them to the New World in the early 1600’s. They had extensive knowledge of it’s healing properties. The colonists had used it for herbal healing in the old country, and knew that it had strong antiviral properties.
Even into the 1700’s, Thomas Jefferson had it planted for it’s beauty, as well as the healing properties of the herb. Jefferson also planted it for it’s fragrance. It was used a lot in preparing meals at Monticello.
The Shakers of North America were very fond of lemon balm. They were using it frequently for female reproductive health. The lemon balm was used it to help with menstrual issues, as well as having birthing difficulties. The herb was also used by the Shakers for difficulties in conceiving a child. As with all herbs, the Shakers grew and sold it in great quantities in the mid-1800s. Today, the Shaker herbs are still available.
The Uses Of Lemon Balm In Today’s World
Lemon balm is used by modern day herbalists in much the way it was centuries ago. It’s key actions are antiviral, which makes it good for using on cuts, scrapes and wounds. It is also great for herpes, and herpes cold sores. Lemon balm is also an antibacterial. It can be used as a oil, salve, extract or poultice for external use.
It’s antidepressant properties make it a good herb to turn to help eliminate mild depression. It is also an herbal nervine, which is helpful in restoring the nervous system. A lemon balm tea is very calming, and can be used for adults, as well as children.It can be used as a mild sedative.
It’s antiviral action makes it a great tea to reach for during cold and flu season. It contains a natural antihistamine, which will help dry up those sinuses. Lemon balm promotes sweating, which can help bring down fevers during a cold.
Lemon balm is a carminative herb, which means it will help your belly dispel gas. It is a digestive stimulant and tonic. It’s antispasmodic actions will help your stomach from cramping. Lemon balm is an overall tonic for the body.
Cautions of Lemon Balm
- Because of its sedating effect, it should not be taken before operating machinery or by anyone who must remain alert.
- The herb may also affect the actions of tranquilizers and sedatives. It should not be taken with prescriptions such as Valium or other sedatives.
- Because of its possible effects on the uterus and the body’s hormone balance, it should not be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- It should not be used by persons who have thyroid issues, or who are taking thyroid medication.
This article is not meant to diagnose or treat an illness. It is meant for educational purposes. Herbs are natural, but they are medicine. They must be treated with respect. Herbs can have interactions with medications, foods you eat, and even other herbs.
Before starting any herbal remedy, be sure to speak with your health care provider. A herbalist would be able to provide information and recommendations for herbs to promote healing and good health.