Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lemon Balm- Melissa Officinalis


"Balm, given every morning, will renew youth, strengthen the brain and relieve languishing nature." so claimed the London Dispensary in 1696.
The is quite a tall order for this pretty little plant!
Lemon balm is an easily grown perennial with lemon scented somewhat hairy leaves. It likes a moist soil in a sunny spot with a bit of midday shade. The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant and are best used fresh as they lose most of their scent when dried. Harvest before the plant flowers for the best flavor.
Lemon balm is good finely chopped in salads, added to white sauces and makes an excellent tea.
To make a simple tea, steep 2 tablespoons of lemon balm leaves in a cup of boiled water for 10-15 minutes. It is an especially refreshing and cooling iced tea when blended with a little fresh peppermint. Add some honey if you like a sweeter tea.
Traditionally, lemon balm was used to treat heart problems, insomnia and gas.Charlemagne insisted it be planted in every monastery garden because they held it in such great esteem!
The essential oils of the plant contain terpenes which produce the relaxing and gas relieving effects. It is generally a safe plant to use as no significant side effects have been reported. While relaxing, it is still safe to use when driving and the effects are not intensified by alcohol. Persons with glaucoma should avoid using lemon balm because it has been shown to raise pressures in the eyes of animals.
I grow it because I like the tea! There is something very satisfying about walking through my garden and snipping bits of herbs to make a tea. Smelling the herbs, listening to the birds sing and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face is therapy that can not be gotten in any other way!

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