Lemon Balm, the “happiest plant on Earth,” enchants with its vibrant lemony aroma and taste. Beloved for its calming effects, this aromatic herb brings a sense of peace and serenity, along with an uplifted feeling to the spirit.
Loved for its calming and relaxing properties, this aromatic herb soothes tense digestion and eases an anxious mind. Whether sipping it as a delicious cup of tea or taking it in tincture form, there are numerous ways to enjoy this herb. Like a ray of sunshine, Lemon Balm infuses your days with joy and invites you to reconnect with your inner child. Lemon Balm is a radiant herb that spreads joy in all who embrace it.
In today’s plant profile, you’ll discover:
- Why Lemon Balm is one of the happiest plants in our materia medica
- Lemon Balm’s sour flavor, why it’s so unique, and how it supports cardiovascular health
- Reasons why Lemon Balm is perfect for those with an anxious heart and digestion
- How Lemon Balm helps you connect with your inner child
- The optimism of Jupiter and how it corresponds with Lemon Balm
Table of Contents
In the realm of herbal medicine, true health extends far beyond our physical well-being. Health isn’t merely about our diet, lifestyle, or sleep patterns. It encompasses mental and emotional balance, contentment, and a fulfilling life. Acknowledging that persistent feelings of depression, anxiety, and despondency hampers our well-being is crucial for developing better health.
Fortunately, there are some exceptional herbal remedies that play a vital role in supporting our emotional and mental health, providing solace and tranquility. Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to one of the most uplifting herbs in the Western materia medica—Lemon Balm. Its remarkable ability to elevate our spirit and mind sets it apart from many other remedies.
Lemon Balm, scientifically known as Melissa officinalis, is a vibrant herb in the Mint family. Its leaves fill the air with a delightful lemony aroma that instantly brings a smile to your face. This extraordinary herb has been a valued asset in our herbal practice, serving both us and our clients well. As we delve deeper into the wonders of Lemon Balm, you’ll learn why this herb has earned its place as one of the happiest herbs in our materia medica.
Common name: Lemon Balm
Latin name: Melissa officinalis
Part Used: Leaf
Affinities: Nervous, Cardiovascular, Digestive, Febrile mechanism, Thyroid
Actions: Nervine Relaxant, Relaxant Diaphoretic, Carminative, Cardiac Nervine, Antispasmodic, Antiviral
Energetics: Cooling, Drying, Relaxant
As its name implies, Lemon Balm has a distinct sour flavor reminiscent of lemons. Amidst the abundance of bitter, aromatic, and pungent herbs in our materia medica, the rarity of the sour taste adds to its uniqueness, making it stand out from the crowd.
Let’s explore the remarkable affinities where Lemon Balm truly shines. To begin with, as a member of the Mint family, Lemon Balm naturally gravitates towards supporting the digestive system. Its carminative action makes it an excellent digestive remedy.
Moreover, Lemon Balm holds a strong affinity for the nervous system, making it one of my top choices for addressing various issues like anxiety, nervousness, depression, and melancholy. This herb’s therapeutic support for both the digestive and nervous systems makes it a powerful formula unto itself, especially in cases where nervousness and anxiety impact digestion which, let’s face it, is quite common.
By acting on both these systems, Lemon Balm holistically supports nervous and digestive health, recognizing their interconnection. Notably, sour plants like Lemon Balm also hold a special affinity for the cardiovascular system. Despite typically associating sour tastes with berries, Lemon Balm’s sour leaves uniquely influence the blood, heart, and overall cardiovascular health.
Lastly, Lemon Balm exhibits a distinctive impact on the thyroid. Though conflicting information exists about its direct or indirect effects on the thyroid, one thing remains clear—though not a cure, Lemon Balm offers symptomatic relief for hyperthyroidism. Lemon Balm’s multifaceted affinities make it a versatile and valuable herb that greatly benefits multiple aspects of our well-being.
Without a doubt, Lemon Balm shines as an exceptional carminative herb. Like many plants in the Mint family, Lemon Balm is carminative because of its high volatile oil content, which increases circulation to the digestive system and alleviates gas, bloating, distention, and general dyspepsia arising from digestive insufficiency and patterns of excess Air.
The nervine properties of Lemon Balm make it a perfect remedy for individuals experiencing digestive complaints linked to nervous system issues – what we refer to as “nervous digestion.” In such cases, stress and anxiety often manifest as butterflies in the stomach or stomachaches. Lemon Balm’s nervine relaxant and carminative properties make it an excellent choice for people with this pattern. Because it tastes so good, it’s particularly helpful for children.
Focusing more on its actions on the nervous system, one of the main ways I use Lemon Balm is for its gentle nervine relaxant properties. When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or on edge, Lemon Balm has a calming effect without causing drowsiness, making it ideal for daytime use.
Furthermore, Lemon Balm holds a unique uplifting quality on the mind. I avoid the term “antidepressant” because of its pharmaceutical connotation, but Lemon Balm has a definite positive impact on individuals who feel downhearted, heavyhearted, melancholic, or somewhat depressed. A combination of Lemon Balm with Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) creates an uplifting pair, and adding Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) makes it into a cheery trio perfect for dark spells and difficult times in life. Though it should be noted that depression can be complex and arise for a wide variety of reasons. While it’s useful to have some herbal support, getting to the root cause is imperative, whether it be in the mind, the spirit, or in the body.
Similar to how Lemon Balm eases anxiety and tension in the gut, it relaxes the vasculature through its nervine relaxant effects. Lemon Balm benefits the entire cardiovascular system, but it specifically helps those with a pattern I describe as an anxious heart. These people are prone to anxious heart patterns, such as heart palpitations, arrhythmias, rapid heartbeat, and other cardiovascular irregularities when they feel nervous or anxious. I really love using this herb in cardiovascular formulas and like combining it with other cardiac nervine herbs for this pattern, such as Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Linden (Tilia × europaea). Matthew Wood indicates Lemon Balm for people who get really sweaty palms when they feel anxious, since this is a symptom that denotes deeper blood and cardiovascular implications from stress, often with a hyperadrenalism pattern.
Regarding its influence on the febrile mechanism, Lemon Balm acts as a relaxant diaphoretic and promotes sweating during fever. This proves especially helpful during high fever states, where someone feels hot, tense, and has difficulty sleeping. By relaxing tension in the pores, Lemon Balm encourages perspiration which relieves the tension and trapped heat of a fever. Like all relaxant diaphoretics, this action is most pronounced when you prepare Lemon Balm as a hot tea.
To demonstrate the power of Lemon Balm in a fever, I’ll share a personal story. When I was in my early twenties, I was staying with family when my 4-year-old nephew got a bad fever. He was crying and throwing a fit over getting some ice cream and like most tired parents, they finally caved and he got his treat (which made me cringe a little bit). A few minutes later, he started groaning that his stomach really hurt.
I asked my sister if I could give him some herbs, and despite some skepticism, she agreed. I gave him a bit of some Lemon Balm tea, and minutes later, he threw up all of the ice cream, started sweating, and began to cool off. All of a sudden, he became calm and tranquil and fell asleep for the night. I think the reason he vomited was because during a fever the digestive system is pretty well shut down, so it was just sitting there in his stomach. The Lemon Balm helped relax the tension in his stomach and the sphincters to allow everything to be cleared out.
This scenario taught me a lot about how Lemon Balm works. It alleviated his nausea and helped him throw up by relaxing tension and constriction. The relaxant diaphoretic property relaxed and opened his pores so he could sweat and vent out interior heat that led to dryness and tension. Lastly, its nervine relaxant soothed his agitation and helped him sleep through the night.
Lemon Balm’s potency as an antiviral agent complements its diaphoretic action in dealing with fever and influenza. This dual action makes it an excellent herb for addressing various respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds, and flu. Its essential oil, when applied topically, proves valuable in treating viral outbreaks like genital herpes, cold sores, and even shingles.
Another key aspect of Lemon Balm’s efficacy lies in its symptomatic relief for individuals with hyperthyroidism. If you’ve tuned in for a while, you know that I typically avoid discussing herbs in a “use this herb for that condition” kind of manner. But sometimes you get a condition characterized by a set of symptoms that represents a larger energetic pattern. Lemon Balm is an herb that is uniquely well-suited for balancing this pattern.
When the thyroid becomes hyperactive, the increased metabolism can agitate the nervous system, leading to nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and heart issues. Frequent complaints include heart palpitations, arrhythmias, and a racing heartbeat. Consequently, the digestive system may suffer as well, either resulting in a decreased appetite or impaired digestion due to heightened stimulation.
The key here lies in shifting the nervous system into a parasympathetic state, fostering a sense of calm, ease, and relaxation to promote digestion—precisely what Lemon Balm excels at. Given its affinities for the nervous, cardiovascular, and digestive systems, Lemon Balm is a soothing remedy for many common symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
While Lemon Balm may not cure hyperthyroidism, it can provide significant symptomatic relief. As herbalists, our primary goal is to promote systemic healing, but a big part of what we do is supporting our clients by alleviating their suffering. Lemon Balm provides mental, emotional, and physical symptomatic relief for this condition.
Lemon Balm’s sour taste contributes to its cooling and heat sedating effects on the nerves, digestive system, heart, vasculature, and fever response. It’s also drying and relaxing, which eases tension and constriction in the tissues.
Lemon Balm balances two distinct tissue states—heat/excitation and wind/tension. In cases of heat/excitation, excessive hyperactivity in an organ or system leads to tissue irritation, mental agitation, and inflammation. Lemon Balm’s cooling nature helps pacify excess heat and brings you back to a balanced state. For the wind/tension tissue state, Lemon Balm’s relaxant and antispasmodic qualities relax an overly wound-up and stressed nervous system, which ultimately improves digestive and cardiac functioning. Indeed hyperthyroidism can ultimately be considered a pattern of heat/excitation coupled with wind/tension.
According to Ayurveda, Lemon Balm’s cooling nature makes it particularly beneficial for individuals with pitta dosha, as it helps cool excessive Fire and reduces symptoms like fever, insomnia, and hyperactivity. For vata dosha, the herb’s relaxant properties offer much-needed relief from their disposition for tension and nervous digestion. Its cooling effect is not excessively cold, making it less likely to aggravate vata. Lemon Balm can aggravate kapha dosha because of its relaxant and cooling energetics—both of which kapha already has.
Psychological and Emotional Aspects
Lemon Balm is a potent herb suited to our modern era, where feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, and tension are prevalent. Its unique effectiveness lies in its ability to address the elements of the inner child.
As children, we perceive life with an open and innocent mind, but as we grow older, various layers of conditioning obscure our true nature. The weight of adulthood and its accompanying responsibilities, such as taxes, work obligations, and family duties, can distance us from our innate ability to relax, let go, and experience the world through the lens of the inner child.
Lemon Balm encourages us to differentiate between our authentic selves and the masks of conditioning that cloud our true nature. It’s an essential remedy for adults who have become too entrenched in seriousness. In short, Lemon Balm is for the adult that is too adult and needs to relax, let loose, play a little, enjoy their life, and learn to be happy.
Beyond its psychospiritual effects, Lemon Balm is a valuable herb for people living in dark and cloudy regions like the Pacific Northwest, where long and harsh winters with limited sunlight can lead to feelings of melancholy and depression. In these conditions, Lemon Balm alleviates some of the sadness and despondency associated with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), providing a ray of sunshine during the dark months.
Jupiter, the planet associated with faith and the pursuit of our aspirations, embodies a sense of greater purpose and upliftment. Lemon Balm strongly resonates with Jupiter’s energy because of its ability to uplift the mind and heart. When feeling downhearted, heavy-hearted, or depressed, Jupiter’s uplifting and radiant influence on consciousness parallels Lemon Balm’s effects on the spirit. Paracelsus held Lemon Balm in high regard, placing it under the rulership of Jupiter as well.
In regards to the elements, I associate Lemon Balm with the Air Element, primarily due to its profound impact on the nervous system and its capacity to relax tension, constriction, and spasms. Moreover, its rich aromatic nature aligns with the Air Element’s properties. These are some ways I perceive this remarkable plant in an esoteric context.
Growing Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a delightful herb you can easily cultivate from seed during the springtime. If you’re starting from seed, sow them indoors from March until May by scattering them in a small pot. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite and gently water them. In about three weeks, you should see seedlings emerge. Once they’re large enough, transplant them into individual pots. For transplanting outdoors, wait until late spring, once the risk of frost has passed. Plant your seedlings in an area with light shade and well-drained, moist soil. During dry spells in the summer, keep your herbs well watered and prune back to encourage fresh growth of leaves. Lemon Balm self seeds and will provide a robust and fragrant growth. The best time to pick the aromatic leaves is in the summer, which is the perfect time of year to enjoy them.
A fresh tincture of Lemon Balm is my preferred preparation method, primarily because the herb’s medicinal effects are extracted best in its fresh state. Drying the herb can lead to the loss of crucial volatile oils, which are responsible for much of its therapeutic value. To ensure a robust extraction of these volatile compounds, I opt for 75-80% alcohol as the solvent. The fresh herb’s slight water content further contributes to a full spectrum tincture, encompassing a range of low to mid-range compounds.
Alternatively, Lemon Balm makes a delightful and refreshing tea. Its enjoyable taste makes it an excellent choice for unwinding at the end of a long, taxing day, offering a sense of relaxation and ease. In the summer, I like to combine it with Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) for a cooling iced tea.
Lemon Balm truly stands out as a delightful remedy, making it the perfect plant to explore if you’re starting your herbal journey or seeking to deepen your knowledge of herbalism. Its gentle, mild, and safe qualities make it an ideal choice for anyone to work with confidently. Not to mention, its amazing taste makes it an enjoyable plant to take.
With its versatility, Lemon Balm offers a broad range of medicinal applications, supporting the gut, nerves, heart, immune system, and more. Whether addressing acute or chronic concerns, mild discomfort, or even more serious conditions, Lemon Balm is an invaluable herbal remedy.
In our current cultural climate, Lemon Balm’s happiness-inducing properties seem particularly timely and relevant. Everyone can find enjoyment in a cup of Lemon Balm, which is happiness in botanical form. So, whether you’re seeking relaxation for your nerves or a boost for your overall well-being, Lemon Balm is a cheerful herb that invites you to experience more joy and happiness in your life.
Nervine Trophorestorative Triplet
Combining Skullcap and Milky Oats establishes an exceptional base for rejuvenating a depleted nervous system. Lemon Balm acts as a “volatilizer,” which drives the pair deeper into the nervous system by balancing their sinking quality. Moreover, it contributes a gentle, calming, and uplifting relaxation property to the formula.