Lemon balm has a long list of benefits, and the International Herb Association named it “Herb of the Year.” The herb is also known as Melissa, and it can be used for almost anything.
It’s native to the East Mediterranean region and West Asia. Lemon balm has been used since ancient times for its antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic and antidepressant effect.
In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used as a calming herb that promotes sleep, relieves pain caused by indigestion, improves appetite and reduces stress. Lemon balm was steeped in wine, and was a common remedy for moody people or those dealing with wounds and insect bites.
We give you 12 reasons to use lemon balm regularly.
1. Stress and anxiety
A Brazilian study found that lemon balm extract decreases anxiety-related behavior. Boil chopped lemon balm leaves in water. Strain after several minutes, and enjoy your tea. You can also rub crushed lemon balm leaves on your skin. The oils will enter your skin and relax your body and mind.
Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center report that a concoction of valerian and lemon balm improves sleep.
In Germany, this herb is licensed as a standard healing tea that’s used in the treatment of sleep disorders. Lemon balm products provide more restful sleep when used regularly. It can be used in women in menopause who can’t sleep at night. For optimal results, use it 30-60 minutes before bed time.
You can use this herb to make yourself a nice herbal syrup that will help you sleep like a baby.
Add ¾ cup lemon balm leaves to a pot, and cover the leaves with water. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain and add the leaves to your organic compost. Add ¼ cup raw honey to half cup of your concentrated tea while it’s still warm. You can add more honey if you like.
Stick to a ratio of 2 parts lemon balm infusion and 1 part honey
Keep the syrup in your fridge for up to 3 days. Take a spoonful at night to relax your body and mind and sleep better. Children under 1 shouldn’t consume honey.
3. Mosquito repellent
Lemon balm is an excellent bug repellent. It’s a DEET-free alternative to toxic sprays. DEET disrupts the hormone dopamine which has great importance for the functioning of your brain. It interferes with nerve signals and triggers chemical mechanisms that cause nerve degeneration and neurological disorders.
Citronella in lemon balm gives the distinctive lemony aroma. Insects hate it. Rub the leaves on your skin to keep them away from you. Combine it with olive oil if you can use the leaves only. Let’s not forget that it’s safe for children.
Natural compounds in lemon balm improve alertness and give you energy. This is great for students who get ready for their exams. An Australian study found that lemon balm improves alertness and mood.
5. Memory and problem-solving ability
Dr. David Kennedy from the Northumbria University found that capsules filled with dried lemon balm leaves help adults do well in standardized computer memory tests.
Lemon balm has a positive effect on brain tissue affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Elaine Perry of the Medical Research Council’s unit at Newcastle General Hospital found that the extract works as a sedative. Dried lemon balm leaves improve memory, and this product can be used as an adjunct to common treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Eugenol is a powerful antioxidant that gives the herb its power. Lemon balm has an ability to suppress acetylcholinesterase. This process stimulates and improves memory and mood.
6. Cold sores
Thanks to its antiviral effect, lemon balm can be used in the treatment of sores. Rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and phenolic acid give this herb its great power. It can also relieve the symptoms of stress related to a herpes outbreak. Certified nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch noted that lemon balm has the power to heal cold sores faster than other remedies
Make lemon balm tea using dried leaves. Steep it for 10 minutes and enjoy. Use the tea directly on your sores. It works well when used orally and topically.
A 2014 trial study confirmed that lemon balm protects the liver from toxins. Your liver needs help to do its job, so make sure you use lemon balm more often.
8. Digestion and GI problems
Lemon balm tea improves digestive health. You can use it to treat indigestion, bloating and gas. Its oils soothe the GI tract, and you can use it along with peppermint leaves to treat heartburn.
9. Blood sugar
Antioxidants prevent free radical-related cell damage. Eugenol and rosmarinic acid optimize the function of your brain. Lemon balm is also rich in caffeic acid, ferulic and quercetin. The herb also reduces insulin resistance.
10. Sore muscles
Lemon balm relieves muscle pain and body aches caused by flu. It has an antispasmodic effect that decreases spasms. Eugenol relieves pain. This will also relax your body.
11. Skin health
Use lemon balm on sunburns and acne. Caffeic and ferulic acid enter deeper skin layers and provide excellent protection against UV radiation-induced skin damage. Lemon balm calms, soothes and heals skin.
Bees love lemon balm, so feel free to grow organic lemon balm to help restore the bee population. We need bees to survive, and most people ignore this.
Grow and harvest your own lemon balm
Lemon balm spreads quickly but less aggressively than mint. Plant it in a sunny spot that also gets some shade. Plant the herb 20-24 inches apart and use rich soil. Do this after the last frost. You can grow it from shoots and seeds. Place a few clippings in a glass of water, and change it every day. Plant the clippings once you notice the first roots coming out.
Lemon balm likes moist, well-drained soil. It also likes a little fertilizer. If you use it regularly, mix fertilizer into the soil every 2 months.