Lemon Balm is a lovely little herb native to Europe that is quite the box of tricks, it can easily be grown on a windowsill or on a patio and is definitely a useful addition to a herb garden for culinary use and for some herbal first aid.
It is a small shrub from the same family as Mint and Nettle, so the leaves look fairly similar but can easily be distinguished from rubbing the leaves and Lemon Balm's distinctive fresh, lemony scent is released. This is due to its essential oil components and is a big factor in its medicinal value, the herb also contains terpenes in the essential oils, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, tannins and triterpenoids. These attribute to many mechanisms and actions including anti-anxiety and mild anti-depressant effects, anti-viral especially against Herpes simplex virus, anti-inflammatory.
Therefore Lemon Balm can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions such as cold sores both internally and externally, digestive problems like nausea, dyspepsia or colic, headaches and migraines, common cold and influenza. It is noticeably done well in clinical trials for stress and anxiety reducing anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, excitability, insomnia and can improve memory and alertness which could prove useful in preventing or lessening symptoms of dementia although more research is needed to be carried out on this.
A great way to easily use Lemon Balm is to pick the fresh leaves and make into a tea or to flavour your drinks (similar to how you would use Mint but for a citrus taste instead!). Lemon Balm is also a great plant to infuse in oil as its antiviral properties work amazingly as topical application for cold sores and the beautiful lemony smell transfers also which when used in aromatherapy will alleviate stress and mild low mood. I've used this easy lip balm recipe from James Wong's first book 'Grow Your Own Drugs' several times to give to people as a cold sore treatment and preventative as the main active ingredient in it is Lemon Balm infused oil.
Dosage: 6 - 12 g of dry herb daily (i.e 2-3 cups of infusion a day) or 20 - 40 ml of a 1:2 tincture liquid extract a week.
Lemon Balm is not to be taken alongside CNS depressants, diabetes medication or barbituates, or if you have any thyroid issues and be extra cautious if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or giving to a child. If you are planning on taking any herbal medicine please consult a qualified herbalist beforehand to make sure it the right herb for you and you are taking it in safe amounts, please do feel free to leave a comment on here or privately message me.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.