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Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is a plant with a very citrus aroma similar to lemon. This medicinal and aromatic plant is widely used for its antidepressant, anxiolytic, digestive and sedative properties that are used to treat depressive episodes as well as insomnia, even in children.
In this article, we will find out what this plant is, its benefits, and uses and why it is so appreciated by herbalists.
Lemon balm, common balm or balm mint is a plant of the Lamiaceae family —such as rosemary, mint or thyme— born in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.
Its scientific name is Melissa officinalis and it is very appreciated for its therapeutic and aromatic properties. Its characteristic aroma resembles that of lemon and that is why it is used in aromatherapy and as a main component in perfumes, infusions and essential oils.
This plant has relaxing properties and it also stimulates the nervous system, helping treat anxiety, depression, or stress and also some digestive system problems. It can be found in the temperate climates of Europe.
Melissa sprouts in humid areas, hedges, fields, and near rivers. The lemon balm plant needs drained soils and does not require too much sunlight. It is a perennial plant with crawling herbaceous stems that can reach up to 1m in height.
It usually blooms between the end of spring and the beginning of summer, until the end of summer. The flowers are white, small and rich in nectar.
Regarding its origin, the Greeks already considered it a potent medicinal plant and appreciated it for its many benefits used as an antidote to the bites of snakes and scorpions, to heal wounds and to purify the skin.
Melissa officinalis was also an essential ingredient in druidic healing potions for its sedative and antidepressant benefits. It is one of the plants with the most pleasant odor that exist, the fragrance that it releases is intense, refreshing and citrus.
This aromatic and medicinal plant has healing, antiviral, expectorant, digestive, sedative, anxiolytic, antidepressant, antibacterial, and peripheral vasodilator properties, among others.
All these benefits are due to its high content of volatile oils such as citral, citronella and linalool, polyphenols, tannins, flavonoids, and rosmarinic acid. It also has spasmodic effects and therefore is used when people faint and as a natural anxiolytic or sedative.
Lemon balm is one of the best natural remedies against nerves and emotional stress. When taken as tea it provides a sedative effect to treat cases of insomnia.
Another of the most famous benefits of this plant is that it promotes digestion thanks to its sedative and antispasmodic effects, which calm the digestive system and help treat associated problems.
Melissa officinalis should not be consumed during pregnancy because it is a teratogen, that is to say, a substance considered harmful to the fetus.
This plant is also a natural mosquito repellent and is used to reduce tachycardias by normalizing the normal rhythm of the heart muscle.
Fresh lemon balm leaves are used to aromatize tea and even to make infusions with it. It is also a tasty condiment for salads, meats, and sauces.
As we said before, as it has repellent properties against mosquitoes, if we leave a flowerpot of lemon balm on the balcony we will avoid the presence of these unwanted insects.
Its essence in aromatherapy is used to treat digestive problems and nerves. Also, the cosmetics made with this aromatic plant conserve that fresh lemon scent.
Below are the most popular lemon balm uses:
One of the most popular uses of Melissa officinalis is its sedative action on the nervous system. It is a natural muscle relaxer. Lemon balm tea can help relieve insomnia, tachycardias, migraines, headaches or in combination with orange blossom, it can also have antidepressant properties.
Phytotherapy is also used to treat restlessness and irritability. It does not cause addiction, so its use can be continuous without the need to cause any problem for the organism.
It helps to feel more hungry and to alleviate digestive problems that include abdominal distension, gastrointestinal spasms, diarrhea, gas accumulation or bloating. It also helps the body to perform slow digestions and relieves the sensations of being full.
Lemon balm can even help to recover the appetite in situations of convalescence or reluctance, as well as to treat bad breath due to its aroma.
Lemon balm can help fight viral infections such as the flu, decreases nasal congestion, and helps treat bronchitis and asthma.
Melissa officinalis relieves menstrual cramps, as well as lumbar, spasmodic, musculoskeletal, dental, or headaches.
If applied as an ointment on wounds, cold sores, acne, bites or bumps, this plant also presents a powerful healing action. There are also many masks made with lemon balm for skin care.
Mimica-Dukic, N., Bozin, B., Sokovic, M., & Simin, N. (2004). Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) Essential Oil. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(9):2485–2489.