LEMON BALM / BEE BALM (Melissa officinalis)

Southern Europe to Central Asia

Lemon Balm

 

Small, fragrant flowers – SOFT YELLOW opening to WHITE – appear at intervals along the stems of this easy-to-grow perennial wildflower in summer.  It grows from one to two feet tall, preferring moist soil in sun or part shade.

Cultivated for over 2,000 years, tea brewed from the leaves of Lemon Balm is therapeutic, soothing away melancholy & reviving the tired brain.

‘An extremely useful plant to colonize dry, dusty areas of the garden where nothing else will grow. The smell is an added bonus – crush a couple of leaves whenever you walk past to release the tangy lemon aroma’.   GROW YOUR OWN DRUGS, James Wong, Collins, 2009

DANU’S IRISH HERB GARDEN: The Power of Lemon Balm.


Terri Conroy
makes a strong case for Lemon Balm on her website. We have grown it before but did not know of its medicinal qualities as a tea or infusion.We are keen to grow it again, with some Lemon Balm kept aside for humans, & the rest allowed to flower for the bees. Danu’s Irish Herb Garden is always worth watching.

History

Lemon Balm (Balm) and its     attributes    qualities       known for thousands of years.

“Bees are delighted with this herbe above all others… when they are straid away, they do finde their way home againe by it.” ‘It is of so great virtue that though it be but tied to his sword that hath given the wound it stauncheth the blood.’

 

The Roman conquest of Britain – the gradual process youtube

The Romans brought Lemon Balm to Britain (43AD – 410AD) along with stinging nettles, cabbages, onions & garlic, rabbits & cats.

In permanent Roman military hospitals, rainwater containing Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) and vinegar (acetum) was used by a detachment of soldiers to  clean the entire hospital, especially the surgical suite…  Medical Anesthesia and Surgery in Ancient Rome, Brewminate, Dr Valentine J. Belfiglio, Professor of Political Science, Texas Women’s University, Mozilla Firefox

 

Dioscorides   Greek   40AD – 90AD   ‘Balm, being leaves steeped in wine, and the wine drunk and the leaves applied externally, were considered to be a certain cure for the bites of venomous beasts and the stings of scorpions’.

 

Paracelsus (1493-1541)

 

 

 

 

 

“Lemon balm is most popular as an ingredient of herb teas, having a pleasant flavour and calming effect. Paracelsus (1493-1541) called it “the elixir of life” and John Evelyn (1620-1706) described it as “sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing away melancholy”.  RHS ENCYCLOPEDIA of HERBS & THEIR USES

John Evelyn    1620 – 1706

‘Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.’

 

 

 

 

Maud (Hannan) Grieve, English, 1858-1948

Balm, A Modern Herbal, Maud Grieve 1931

 

quoting Gerard, Pliny and Dioscorides about Balm…

‘It is now recognised as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic plants make excellent surgical dressings: they give off ozone and thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Being chemical hydrocarbons, they contain so little oxygen that in wounds dressed with the fixed balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out, and the resinous parts of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the sore or wound, seal it up and effectually exclude all noxious air.’

‘Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel, nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgic affections.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Officinalis was the miracle ingredient in a ‘miracle water’ dispensed by French Carmelite nuns up to the 17th century. ‘It was thought to improve memory and vision and reduce rheumatic pain, fever, melancholy and congestion.

Thomas Jefferson, 1743 – 1826

Today, Lemon Balm is found in both England and North America. It was brought by colonialists who had come to rely on it for teas and flavoring.

Thomas Jefferson’s gardens were filled with lemon balm. By this point it was a well-known herb important to culinary and herbal medicinal usage.

Lemon Balm History : Healing and Restorative Powers – Cloverleaf Farm, Herbal Apothecary, Mozilla Firefox