Lemon balm is very attractive to bees. It’s botanical name Melissa means “bee” in Latin, and it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years as a bee plant. We grow a lot of Lemon Balm, both in and out of the garden.
There is a curious concoction dating from around the early seventeenth century called Carmelite Water. It was supposedly invented in France by the Carmelite order of nuns (although some sources say it was monks). The curious feature of the concoction was that it was used as both a perfume as well as a remedy for headaches. Lemon Balm (often simply called Balm or sometimes Melissa) is one of the main ingredients; also included are angelica leaves, clove buds, coriander seed, nutmeg and cinnamon, preserved in grain spirits.
As to Lemon Balm being useful for relieving headache, a dropperful of the tincture or even a cup of hot lemon balm tea makes an effective remedy for relieving the tension and irritability associated with this ailment. It is a mild anti-depressant and nervine that is safe to use for children as well as adults. It is excellent for children experiencing mild fever, sleeplessness and achiness caused from the flu. A strong infusion added to the bath is one good way to use lemon balm for kids. Lemon Balm tea can be drunk for relief from menstrual cramps and tummy-aches (including diarrhea) as it is also anti-spasmodic. There are no known negative side-effects concerning the recommended use of this herb.
Lemon Balm has shown anti-viral activity as well, particularly as an external wash (and also an internal remedy) for shingles (and chicken pox) and herpes simplex (both kinds). Lemon Balm herb made into an infused oil is a preferred method of external treatment for these painful conditions.
The generally recommended dose of Lemon Balm Tincture for adults is 30-40 drops (approximately 2ml) 3 to 5 times a day, taken in water. For children, first determine their weight; if they weigh 50 pounds reduce the amount to one-third of the adult dosage (assuming you weigh 150 pounds), or 10-13 drops 3 times a day, and maybe once more at bedtime. The amount of alcohol is very minute here; if you are still concerned, make a mild tea (tincture added to hot water) for your child and give it to them in 1/3-cup doses. Use Lemon Balm oil or salve freely as needed.
In addition to the above-mentioned Carmelite Water, Lemon Balm is an ingredient in other liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse. You can make a sweetened tea with the fresh herb (it is very easy to grow) and freeze up some Lemon Balm ice-pops. Try using it to make pesto.
I love growing Lemon Balm in my garden, and I love that it takes off on it’s own so well. I love how it looks, how it smells, and how it tastes. I love that it attracts bees (who need all the help they can get these days), and I love making it into concoctions for body care. She really deserves the name “Sweet Melissa”.
© Doreen Shababy