Melissa officinalis, Family: Lamiaceae
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is a member of the mint family. This lemon scented, square-stemmed plant is one of my very favorite herbal allies
- for nervous stomach and gut lining repair,
- as a gentle nervine (relaxes the nerves and helps with anxiety),
- for lowering blood pressure,
- to relieve digestive complaints (gas, bloating, etc),
- to help heal herpes simplex outbreaks (fever blisters),
- for hyperthyroidism, esp. Graves’ Disease (contra-indicated for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s),
- for focus and mental clarity,
- as well as blended with motherwort for heart palpitations.
When I approach working with Lemon balm, I think “nervous system” and “digestion”.
Lemon balm’s actions on the nervous system are very interesting, in that it offers clarity of mind, calming of frayed nerves, and it can even assist with insomnia. I originally thought that clarity and insomnia were poles apart on some kind of nervine spectrum, but the more I work with this plant, the more I begin understand its function (even though I may have a difficult time describing it).
In cases of insomnia when the mind is “ON” with no off switch in sight, I have experienced the function of lemon balm as calming and soothing to the sympathetic nervous system so that I can see that “lights out” switch more clearly. It’s not a heavily sedating nervine that will knock you out; it’s more like being rocked and soothed so that sleep can come more gently. I like to blend it with skullcap and catnip for this, and I am considering pairing it with mimosa bark tincture to assist in restoring sleep rhythms.
I have had amazing results with lemon balm speeding the healing of fever blister outbreaks. When I first feel that itchy-tingly-burning sensation of a fever blister on my lip, I immediately put ice on it. I mean STAT. I will keep ice on it until I’m sick of the cold (I usually run through 1 or 2 ice cubes) and then I dose liberally with lemon balm tincture (and by liberally I mean a teaspoon at least several times a day during the outbreak). I was told that only lemon balm essential oil can heal a fever blister, but that’s not true. The tincture is much more sustainable, not nearly as expensive, and it works great. When I take the tincture internally, I like to hold it between my lower lip and gums for a while. I will also dab some tincture onto the lesion site to help dry it. The healing time using this method of treatment is very fast and the lesion stays tiny until it’s healed.
Several years ago I played around with bitters blends. One of the blends I made was Lemon Balm Bitters, and I had great feedback; one person reported that he felt like it pulled him out of a depressed state and he absolutely loved it. That blend consisted of lemon balm, cardamom, a tiny bit of gentian root (trust me on this), honey and vodka.
My clarity elixir consists of lemon balm, cardamom, calamus root and mountain mint. I absolutely love it, and I find it helpful at clearing out mental cobwebs. I’m having to read a lot more now for graduate school (with much more reading to look forward to) and I’m adjusting to reading glasses (dammit), so this blend is very helpful to me right now.
I have only scratched the surface of the many benefits of lemon balm, but an herb that relieves anxiety, calms nervous tension and digestion issues, offers clarity AND gets rid of my stress-induced fever blisters?
I’ll take it. ♡
Awesome Resources if you want to learn more:
Herb Rally Lemon Balm Monograph
Back Water Botanics Lemon Balm Monograph
Practical Herbalist: Lemon Balm: Herb of Good Cheer
Herbal Academy: A Family Herb: Lemon Balm Benefits
P.S. Please be careful using lemon balm if you are pregnant, if your blood pressure already runs really low, or if you have hypothyroidism / Hashimoto’s. In these cases, avoiding lemon balm entirely or using it under the supervision of a medical or herbal professional is a good plan.