Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family native to the Mediterranean. As you may guess, its flavor is very similar to that of lemon. First records of lemon balm’s medicinal and culinary use are over two thousand years old.
Lemon balm tea on its own is very beneficial to human health. It’s regarded as a beverage that lifts up the spirit. Avicenna, the 11th-century Arab physician, wrote that lemon balm “causeth the mind and heart to become merry”.
However, there are some ingredients which can be added to lemon balm tea for increased beneficial effect:
1. oats straws – excellent source of vitamin B and calcium.
2. rosehips – rich in vitamin C, which is especially handy in winter months. They also bring a pleasant fruity flavor.
3. orange peel – slightly less rich in vitamin C than rosehips, but it complements lemon balm’s taste perfectly as they are both citrus plants.
4. lavender – included in the mix simply because of its soothing aroma which helps with restlessness, depression, and other mental problems.
Lemon balm is one of the first herbs ever to be used for medicinal purposes. Ancient Greek physicists used it to treat almost all skin wounds as well as some mental conditions. It was said to be the favorite herb of goddess Diana.
To this day, lemon balm has many medicinal uses, some leftover from ancient times and some discovered in more recent times. Some are well documented and proven, while others are still debated about and being looked into. Here’s a shortlist of what lemon balm is used for and how does it help:
1. Insomnia – many studies have investigated lemon balm’s use in treating insomnia and anxiety, and it’s generally agreed on its positive effect on people who suffer from these ailments. Especially recommended is a combination of lemon balm and other herbs like valerian, hops, and chamomile.
One particular study compared the effects of this mixture with the effects of triazolam/halcyon, a well-known medication prescribed for insomnia. Results have shown that they are on equal terms at improving patient’s quality of sleep and ability to fall asleep altogether.
2. Indigestion – lemon balm has been used traditionally to improve digestion and to soothe gastrointestinal ailments. Lemon balm is often mixed with other herbs for a stronger effect on digestion as well. For example, adding peppermint is great for calming an upset stomach.
3. Herpes lesions and cold sores – lemon balm contains flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other substances with antiviral properties which help fight off herpes. You can apply it directly to the wounds. It’s especially effective in oral and genital areas.
However, some symptoms like scabbing and pain remain unaffected by lemon balm which is why it’s often not enough to treat these ailments.
4. Alzheimer’s disease – research shows that lemon balm can decrease agitation and anxiety and improve cognitive function and memory in individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.
5. PMS and menstrual cramping – a mixture of lemon balm and lavender can help with these. Drinking one cup a day at least one week before your menstrual cycle can greatly reduce the discomfort you may feel.
Since lavender is a natural anticoagulant it will thin out the blood and reduce pain caused by blood clotting during menses. However, if you’re already on blood thinning medication or suffer from a blood disorder, you should be very careful about this.
6. Cold and flu – since it’s rich in flavonoids and other antiviral substances, it is very effective in dealing with cold and flu viruses.
7. Grave’s disease – also known as hyperthyroidism, it’s a disease correlated to excessive thyroid hormone production. This leads to many body functions being unsynchronized and accelerated, especially metabolism and heart rate.
Once you are afflicted with Graves’ disease, some of the symptoms you may experience are irritability, weight loss, changes in sleep patterns, tremors, irregular heartbeat, or irregular bowel movements. Lemon balm tea inhibits the production of thyroid hormones and reduces these symptoms.
8. Colic – a combination of lemon balm, fennel, and German chamomile will help reduce the intensity of colic in a breastfed infant. If the mother drinks this mixture twice a day for at least a week, the effects of the tea will pass on to the child through her milk.
There are also many other uses of lemon balm which are not investigated enough and as of today cannot be confirmed. Those include treatment of: loss of appetite, spasms, toothache, tumors, insect bites, hysteria, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and others.
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Lemon balm may interact with certain medications, such as thyroid, blood thinning and HIV medications. If you wish to use lemon balm to treat an ailment you suffer from and it conflicts with your current medication or there’s not enough of scientific background to its effect on it, consult your doctor before taking it.