Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis
Lemon balm, also called Bee balm or Melissa, is a hardy perennial of the mint family.
It is a ground cover with glossy, ovate, toothed, crinkled leaves that release a lemon-scented fragrance when crushed. In summer it produces clusters of insignificant small flowers. Melissa can grow in any moist soil — in sun or partial shade. It enjoys an annual feed of enriched compost. Prune back regularly throughout the growing season, and especially after flowering.
Melissa and bees have been linked since ancient times. Melissa is the Greek word for 'Honey bee', and beekeepers of old used to rub this herb inside an empty beehive to prime it to attract new bees inside.
Melissa is native to southern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. Melissa is a very popular herb and is grown throughout the world.
Harvest and parts used
Melissa leaves can be picked throughout summer to use fresh or dry.
Fresh Melissa leaf imparts a lemon-scented flavor to salads, mushroom dishes, cheeses, soups, sauces, herb vinegar and teas, hot or cold. Dried, crushed Melissa leaves can be added to stuffing for poultry and meat, and can also be used for hot teas.
Melissa flower tips and young leaves can be floated in wine or fruit cups as one would do with mint.
Use a strong Melissa infusion (tea) as a substitute for lemon juice in jam-making, or to enhance the flavor of lemonade, jellies and puddings.
Chopped fresh Melissa leaves can be sprinkled over vegetables for an unusual flavour.
Taken as a tea, Melissa was traditionally used to uplift the spirit and to encourage longevity.
We know that Melissa is carminative, antispasmodic and a relaxing tonic for anxiety, depression and irritability. Being a sedative herb, it calms the feelings of panic, and is useful to ease palpitations of a nervous origin and tension headaches as it relaxes the peripheral blood vessels.
Melissa also helps when anxiety causes digestive disorders like acidity, nausea, colic pains and bloating.
Melissa is a febrifuge — increasing sweating to lower fevers.
Melissa is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and a useful anti-oxidant, and is helpful for eczema and hyperthyroidism.
Melissa reduces cold sores and outbreaks of the Herpes virus.
For Beauty purposes
Brew a strong tea of Melissa and use to rinse oily hair.
Make a strong tea of Melissa, pour into a bowl and use as a "facial steam" — it tones the skin, and slows down the aging process of the skin.
Make a litre of strong Melissa tea and pour into a warm bath for a relaxing soak.
Melissa can be used as an ingredient of pot-potpourri. Add the dried leaves to your other ingredients.