Materia Medica – Melissa officinalis

The next entry in our Materia Medica series is Melissa officinalis.  Some Kitchen Cupboard Underground readers might ask, “Hey, didn’t we just cover this last year?”  Well, yes and no. Last year’s post was on the essential oil, whereas this is on the plant itself.  That distinction highlights the fact that the form of the plant, whether as an essential oil or its natural state, affects the potency.

Lemon balm is a well respected herb that dates back to ancient time. In Greek, Melissa means honeybee which gives this herb an alternate name of bee balm. Carmelite Nuns from the 17th century made a beverage that contained lemon balm and several other herbs to treat nervous disorders; it was sold by them under the name of Eau de Me`lisse de Carmes. If you need a little help falling asleep before bedtime, give a cup of this delightful herb a try. 

Botanical (Latin) Name: Melissa officinalis
Common Name: Lemon Balm
Family: Lamiaceae
Parts Used: Leaves
Native Region: Southern Europe
Botanical Description: A perennial herb which can grow up to 2’+ that has dark green to yellowish green leaves and clusters of small, light yellow flowers which grow in spring through summer.
Uses: A great calming herb for stress and anxiety. Also good for insomnia, indigestion, healing wounds, and treating bug bites and stings. 
Actions: Antiviral, antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiprotozoal, antithrombotic, antithyroid, anodyne, cardiovascular, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypotensive, nervine, spasmodic, sedative stomachic, uterine tonic.
Preparations: Tea, compress, poultice, tincture, garnish or add to foods.
Taste: Lemon-like with a hint of mint
Safety: Might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or those taking HIV medications. Safe for children and adults in short term uses. Do not use when scheduled for surgery. 
Contraindications (Plant-Medication Combinations): Moderate interaction with sedative medications; might cause excess sleepiness.

Until next time, discover the power of welcoming nature’s healing plants into your life.


Essential Oils - Melissa.  Kitchen Cupboard Underground. Retrieved from

Ehrlich, S. D. (2015, January 2). Lemon Balm. UMM. Retrieved from

Lemon Balm. (n.d.). Sigma-Aldrich. Retrieved from

Lemon Balm. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from

Lemon Balm: The Calming Herb. (n.d.). Monterey Bay Spice Company. Retrieved from

Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis. (n.d.). Annie’s Remedies. Retrieved from

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