Lemon Balm, An Herbal Profile
Hello, lovelies! When I first started this blog, I decided to dive deep into learning more about herbs and what they could be used for. I was growing a few tiny clay pots of herbs from seed on our dining room table and watching with awe each day as new tender seedlings emerged in the potting soil. I could not believe that I grew something! I was sparked with inspiration and a certain joy that I had not yet felt. I think that is where my love for gardening began, inside the walls of my home, with a handful of tiny pots. It's inspired me to grow an entire kitchen garden, share my love of growing with others, and now owning a small farm where we hope to produce enough food to feed other people. I wanted to return to those humble beginnings, when I would share my found research about herbs with you here on the blog. It will be a refresher for me! Hopefully it will spark some inspiration in you. You can read my past herbal research posts here. These will go a little more in depth with singular herbs that are easy to grow; I am starting with the basics because I have photos of them from last year's garden!
Lemon Balm is part of the mint family and is well known for its tart and sweet scent, matching quite close to a lemon. In fact, the scent is so profound, it almost smells artificial and you can best test this out by gently rubbing a leaf in between your fingers. Lemon Balm is easy to grow and was my absolute favorite herb in the garden; my plant grew so big and bushy, I was overwhelmed with the amount and it was often added into floral arrangements and hung to dry. We are now selling those dried leaves in our shop grow right in our own garden! If you want to grow some lemon balm yourself, I highly recommend purchasing healthy starts from your local greenhouse to transplant; you will reap the rewards of your herbs much faster and probably within the season that you plant them rather than starting from seed.
In the Ancient World, lemon balm was steeped in wine and said to lift spirits, heal wounds, and treat venomous bites. It's latin name is Melissa officinalis, which was named by Greeks who found it especially attractive to honeybees when flowering. Many ancient beekeepers would rub lemon balm leaves on their beehives to increase the production of honey inside. That also made lemon balm a great indicator of finding a wild hive nearby. Not only is it an attractor of bees, but of many other pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
During the Middle Ages, lemon balm was found to relieve stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, ease pain, relieve indigestion, bloating, and gas, and get rid of colic in infants. Now it is most frequently used to treat swelling and redness for cold sores, HPV, and the Herpes Simplex Virus. It is highly antibacterial which helps to kill bacteria. The essential oil contains many different constituents including terpenes (relaxing and antiviral), tannins (antiviral), and eugenol (calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kill bacteria). Studies have also found that taking lemon balm improves cognitive function and decreases agitation in Alzheimer's patients. While this is true, when taken internally, lemon balm often needs to be paired with other herbs such as valerian, hops, and chamomile to see its full effects.
One of the most important uses for lemon balm in everyday life is its amazing ability to help heal cold sores. I have used it time and again for that very purpose, and I must say that it works wonders! While it does not help take away pain, it does reduce the appearance and heals the sore faster. You can either apply it with a warm compress or turn it into a salve. I have a great cold sore salve that I make all of the time and have gifted to many friends who love it! It has clove infused oil in it, which acts as a pain reliever.
Are you an herbal tea drinker? Try drinking some lemon balm tea! You may even want to try it in a mix like our Headache Tea, as it helps improve cognitive function and ease restlessness and stress. Fancy that! I think this is an herb you will love using for its simplicity and gentleness along with its ease of growth.