Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

melissa officinalis

Lemon balm is a great sleep aide and is also a carminative.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Melissa, Sweet Balm, Balm Mint
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Leaves and flowers
  • Side Effects: May be contraindicated for hypothyroidism in large doses
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About Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a tiny cheerful plant that has all the powers to bring delight to any yard or kitchen apothecary. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that enjoys its life in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It can grow up to a fair height of 3 feet.

The leaves of lemon balm broadcast a mild lemon scent that can get anyone heads over their heels. The tiny sweet white-colored flowers are brimmed with nectar that both humans and pollinating agents cannot resist.

This aromatic plant has been used for millennia to impart calming effects on the central nervous system. Lemon balm is capable of comforting the heart, banishing the blues (depression) and anxiety, and treating insomnia. This heavenly plant not only bestows relaxing effects but it is also reported to grant antiviral, antispasmodic, analgesic, and diuretic effects. Lemon balm is a traditional Iranian folk medicine where it is enjoyed for treating gastrointestinal disorders and inducing sedative effects.

The highly recognized biologically active ingredients of lemon balm are monoterpenoid aldehydes (including citronellal, neral, and geranial), flavonoids, and polyphenolic compounds such as rosmarinic acid and monoterpene glycosides. The essential oils obtained from leaves of lemon balm have shot to fame due to instigation of the synergism between its compounds. This synergism accounts for the soaring therapeutic efficacy that lemon balm confers in dealing with various disorders.

Growing

Lemon balm is a gentle plant that can grow very easily.

Lemon balm can be grown outdoors, in a container, or by the process of hydroponic. It is recommended to use fertile, well-drained clay or sandy loam. It can tolerate a wide range of pH 5.6 to 9. However, the plant specifically prospers at 6.0 to 7.5 pH.

Lemon can be started with the seeds or duplicated through cuttings. If the plant is being started from seeds then they should be sown indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. It should be planted in the course of warm weather i.e. late spring. It develops healthily under full to partial sun exposure. Also, lemon balm is quite passionate about water. It cannot thrive in dry soil, so moist soil is the key to the flourishing success of lemon balm.

The seeds of lemon balm sprout within 12 to 20 days. Within no time, the plant grows happily giving out lemon-scented, oval, toothed leaves that are demanded all around the world. It takes around 70 days for a lemon balm to mature.

Lemon balm steps into the blooming season at the outburst of summer and the plant keeps flowering until fall. The tiny nectar brimmed flowers welcome the company of pollinating agents to carry out pollination.

The seeds develop inconspicuously while the plant keeps flowering. But after the flowering process, the flowers dry out whereas the stalks keep hold of seeds that vows to continue the lifecycle upon dispersal.

Harvesting

Lemon balm is majorly cultivated to enjoy the treats its leaves confer. It can be harvested any time after the plant has given out a good deal of leaves.

Lemon balm is suggested to be harvested just before the blooming season comes into play because, at that time, all the essential active ingredients are at their peak.

Lemon balm leaves are of great value and they are harvested off of the plant through sharp scissors. To keep the plant flourishing properly, it is advised not to harvest more than 25% of the plant in one go.

The leaves of lemon balm are stripped off from the stem and splayed on the sheet only to be laid under the sun. This way, the leaves can dry within a day or even within few hours, depending upon the magnitude of sunlight.

To retain the best amount of biologically active ingredients, the sheet can be placed in a dappled shade. This way, the process may get stretched out but it will preserve the ingredients.

The leaves of lemon balm are then crumbled and stored in an airtight jar which is placed in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Moreover, the lemon balm leaves can also be stored in the refrigerator if the recipe requires their fresh use. They can be wrapped in a paper bag and the stems with leaves should remain intact to impart its heavenly flavor.

Usage

The rich, deep, woody scent of the lemon balm along with its benefits is enjoyed all around the globe in different preparatory forms for medicinal and culinary purposes.

  • Tincture- Fresh or dried lemon balm leaves are soaked in 80 proof or higher alcohol for 6 weeks to make lemon balm tincture.
  • Tea- Dried or fresh lemon balm leaves are covered with boiling water for at least 10 to 15 minutes to make lemon balm tea.
  • Decoction- Dried lemon balm leaves are employed to make lemon balm decoction.
  • Salve- Dried lemon balm leaves are used with other components to make lemon balm salve.
  • Syrup- Dried or fresh lemon balm leaves are simmered in a sugar solution to form lemon balm syrup.
  • Infused oil- The mixture of oil and dried lemon balm leaves are infused for 4-6 weeks. The herbs are strained out and lemon balm oil is formed.