Few people use the herb Melissa, also known as lemon balm, and even fewer grow it. But if they knew about its impressive array of healing effects, this lovely, fragrant and versatile plant would be popping up in gardens and homes everywhere.
A Brief History of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and stress, and relieve pain. In earlier times, lemon balm was steeped in wine and drunk to treat venomous bites and stings, to heal wounds and to lift the spirits of those taking it.
1. Natural Calming and Relaxing Properties: It has been used over the ages as a natural sedative.
2. DEET-Free Mosquito Repellent: Lemon balm has been traditionally used by many gardeners who would rub lemon balm on their skin to keep mosquitoes at bay. Research published in the Journal of Neurochemistry found that DEET-based mosquito repellents interfere with proper nerve signals, disrupt the hormone dopamine needed for healthy brain function, and invoke chemical mechanisms associated with neurological disorders and nerve degeneration. Finding alternative yet effective natural repellents is more important than ever.
3. Anti-viral Action against the Herpes Virus: In a study published in the journal Natural Products Research, scientists found that lemon balm was highly effective against the herpes simplex virus. Different forms of the virus are responsible for the sexually transmitted disease herpes and for cold sores on the lips. Viruses must multiply in the body to survive. Lemon balm was shown to inhibit the ability of the herpes simplex virus by up to 60 percent. Another study found that applying lemon balm ointment to cold sores resulted in their disappearance within only two days.
4. Anti-retroviral Activity against HIV: In a study published in the medical journal Retrovirology, researchers found that a combination of peppermint, sage and lemon balm was highly effective at inhibiting the HIV virus.
5. Antibacterial Treatment: Research also shows that lemon balm has a high degree of antibacterial activity. It has even been found to be effective against staphylococcus aureus, which has a significant amount of resistance against pharmaceutical antibiotics.
6. Insomnia Remedy: Several studies have found lemon balm to be effective against insomnia, particularly when it is combined with other naturally-relaxing herbs like valerian, hops or chamomile.
7. Thyroid Aid: Anti-inflammatory herbs like lemon balm are often recommended for relieving the inflammation associated with many thyroid conditions.
8. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Therapy: Many herbalists and naturally-minded doctors use lemon balm in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). That is because CFS has been linked to a viral origin, making lemon balm the herb of choice for treating viral infections.
You can use the fresh or dried lemon balm leaves to make a relaxing, fresh-tasting tea by adding one teaspoon of the dried herb or one tablespoon of the fresh herb per cup of water and allowing it to steep for at least ten minutes. There are also lemon balm ointments, essential oil and other products in many health food stores. Follow the package directions for best results.