I don’t know about you, but this time of year can begin to wear me down a bit. As a native New Mexican, I find the lack of sunshine here on the East Coast start to take its toll during February. To help me through this darker period I reach for one of the ‘sunniest’ herbs out there - Lemon Balm!
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is truly one of nature’s most delightful gifts. As a member of the mint family, Lemon Balm is highly aromatic and is equally beloved by people and pollinators. Bees in particular adore this plant. Medicinally, Lemon Balm is a highly prized nervine often used to support depression, anxiety, agitation and promote restorative sleep. In addition, it is a powerful antiviral and herbalists will often use it to soothe respiratory infections and to address outbreaks of herpes simplex. Like most other mints, Lemon Balm is a friend to the digestive system and will reduce bloating and discomfort. I reach for this gem whenever I’m facing periods of high stress; for example, it is my go-to herb before having to speak in public or take an exam. There are several studies showing its potential to lower blood pressure by promoting vasodilation of peripheral vessels. It truly is good for what ails ya, ha!
Energetically, Lemon Balm is cooling and drying. Although, as is the lovely habit of our wild healers, some folks experience it energetically as warming. (Plants really hate being locked into boxes, ha!) It grows generously and abundantly…indeed, be mindful of where in the garden you place it as once there it likely will never leave. The picture above shows how tenacious this little plant can be. This is Lemon Balm peeking up through the snow in my garden bed - it was a balmy 25 degrees when I took this photo!
I like to grow Lemon Balm in areas that get good foot traffic. Just brushing up against this plant helps me to release any tension I may happen to be carrying. It is lovely dried, and really shines as a fresh preparation! A water jug full of Lemon Balm and Spearmint leaves make a regular appearance on my back porch in the summer months. It makes a fabulous sun tea!
As a general rule therapeutic doses of Lemon Balm are not recommended for folks with an underactive thyroid. Albeit, this caution is a matter of some dispute in herbalist circles.
So friends, if you like me, find the weather a bit trying this month I invite you to give Lemon Balm a go. Bring a little plant sunshine into your life and see how that feels!
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.