One of my new favorite herbs is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). The leaves emit a lemon scent when bruised, and they also taste distinctly lemony. The plant will die down in the winter, after blooming from June through October, but is classified as a perennial so it should come back in the following growing season (Note March ’09: Both of my lemon balm plants are coming back, so it is, in fact, a perennial!). The London Dispensary in 1696 stated: ‘An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness.’ And it’s been claimed that ‘balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy. Balm steeped in wine comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.’ Drive away melancholy and sadness…part of that could depend on how much wine you steep it with 🙂 .
It has properties that attract beneficial insects like bees, yet acts as a repellent for unwanted insects. The only culture required is to keep them clean from weeds and cut off the decayed stalks in autumn, and then to stir the ground between the roots.
Herbal benefits: It induces a mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients with the flu. To make the tea, pour 1 pint of boiling water upon 1 oz. of herb, infuse 15 minutes, allow to cool, then strain and drink freely. It is also good for headaches and in small amounts it has mild sedative properties – larger amounts tend to be stimulatory. I like to mix a tsp of Valerian root with a few leaves of lemon balm (bruised) before bedtime. It also makes a nice tea when mixed with fresh peppermint leaves.