Lemon Balm (Melissa)


Also known as

Melissa officinalis, melissa, balm. 


Lemon balm is a mint with a distinctly lemony scent. Its botanical name Melissa is taken from the Greek word for bee, indicative of the plant's attractive power for bees and useful insects of all kinds. The term "balm" refers to balsam, the ancient world's most important sweet-smelling oils. For thousands of years herbalists used lemon balm to treat any kind of disorder of the central nervous system. The London Dispensary (1696) says: "An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness." John Evelyn wrote: "Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy." Alcoholic tinctures of lemon balm were combined with lemon peel, angelica root, and nutmeg to make Carmelite water, a nineteenth-century tonic for migraine headache and neuralgia. 


Very small amounts of essential oil. The oil content of the leaf can be 2-3 times higher if the plant is grown under conditions of drought and heat. 

Parts Used

The leaf, dried and cut. 

Typical Preparations

Taken as a tea and added to skin ointments. Often combined with valerian when used as an aid for sleep. May also be administered as either an extract or capsule. 


Lemon balm is useful for treating nervous disturbances of sleep and chronic gastrointestinal disorders, but its primary use today is in treating viral infections of the skin, especially herpes, both genital herpes and cold sores. Although it does not eliminate flare-ups, it relieves itching in hours and helps the lesions heal over in a few days. One scientifically controlled study followed 66 individuals who were just starting to develop a cold sore (oral herpes). Treatment with lemon balm cream produced significant benefits on the second day of the outbreak (usually the day symptoms are worst), reducing intensity of discomfort, number of blisters, and the size of the lesion. 


Make sure the product you are using is lemon balm, and not the less expensive citronella.


 For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This information courtesy of MOUNTAIN ROSE HERBS, with full, written permission for reuse.For further traditional information concerning LEMON BALM (MELISSA) , please visit this excellent resource from Botanical.com.  Used with full, written permission.