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Herb of the Month: Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis

Lemon balm is a feminine herb of the Moon and the element of Water. Ancient Greeks dedicated it to the Goddess Diana and used it medicinally over 2000 years ago. Melissa is the Greek word for bee, and sometimes known as bee balm, not to be confused with Monarda, which bears that name today. The herb is deliciously fragrant and a welcome addition to soothing tea blends, also a long history of being associated with long life.

Lemon balm has antidepressant, antioxidant, and antiviral qualities, and is most used as a nervine, a herb that relaxes the nervous system and eases stress and anxiety. The herb is a member of the Lamiaceae mint family, plants that are characterised by their fragrance, caused by high levels of aromatic volatile oils which in turn instigate the nervine reactions upon the body.

Lemon balm is said to boost cognitive function and ease insomnia, and “strengthens the brain in its resistance to shock and stress” (Bartram). John Evelyn, the writer and gardener, agreed that the herb “strengthens memory and chases away melancholy”. Spiritually, lemon balm is used in spells for success and prosperity, to ward off evil and promote good health.

It grows abundantly when allowed free reign, and a garden with lemon balm protects its owner and promotes health, wealth and longevity. It happily grows in containers, and it is well worth investing in a few plants, providing deliciously fragrant leaves all through the growing season.

Lemon balm is generally safe but may contraindicate thyroid conditions. As always, do your own research if uou have any medical conditions as herbs can exacerbate symptoms and interfere with prescribed medications.

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