Habitat & Cultivation:
Harvesting at florescence stage was found to be the best stage for obtaining the highest essential oil content and fresh herb yield. When the yields were examined, it was determined that the highest in fresh and dry yields were in the fluorescence stage in part to the lower leaves of the lemon balm plants turning yellow and dropping from the plants (Avci & Giachino, 2015). The climate also plays a role in the oil content of the plant, the first year the post-florescence stage to -4.1 which results in a lighter harvest. I suspect that having more rainfall during the florescence stage would also lower the yield for fresh and dried harvest, in addition to the temperature staying at a higher baseline during the second year of the fluorescence stage. All these contributing factors collectively have a direct effect on the harvest and oil yield.
Fresh or dried aerial parts – Harvest before flowering
When the plant is in flower, it is trying to attract beneficial pollinators to it, and thus it increases the synthesis of these types of volatile oils. Plants synthesize these compounds also to prevent predation, we see that the “protective” oils are more often synthesized when the plant goes to seed. The scent of lemon balm will be slightly different between the flowering and seeding stages, for this reason. We find more of the types of volatile oil compounds that are balancing to our nervous system when the plant is in flower, and more of the antimicrobial types of compounds when it’s in the seed. This is a subtle difference.
Antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, antimicrobial, anticancer, antidepressant, anxiolytic, antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic properties, carminative, cardiac tonic, diaphoretic, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) antagonist, hepatic (Shakeri, Sahebkar, & Javadi, 2016).
Postpartum. An infusion is the most effective preparation of lemon balm for medicine. Tinctures are another effective form.
Anyone on thyroid medication or with a thyroid disorder, as lemon balm “may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones” No other contraindications are known.
Infusion: In a covered container, infuse 2-3 tsp dried herb in 1 cup boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Drink twice daily, once each in morning and evening
Tincture: 2-6 mL 3 times per day, 1:5 in 40%
Topical HSV therapy: topical cream containing 1% dried herb applied as early as possible in infection (Shakeri et. al., 2016)
Carminative, Antispsmodic, Antimicrobial, Aesthetic, Nervine, Antioxidant
Cardiovascular, Digestive, Nervous, Immune System
Lemon balm is cooling and drying. Favors Pitta
Due to lemon balm’s vasodilatory effect and ability to lower blood pressure, I would not recommend using it for someone with a baseline very low blood pressure, or for someone feeling faint or lightheaded. I would also not recommend it for someone with thyroiditis or Grave’s disease, due to its potential to interact with thyroid hormones
I had lemon balm tea, steeped for 3 minutes. It was delicious. I could drink this tea daily. I love that it made me feel so relaxed and grounded. It is a easy flavor to mix with other herbs and or have on its own.
American Botanical Council. (2000). Lemon balm. Accessed 2 Feb 2018.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2005). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Shakeri, A., Sahebkar, A., & Javadi, B. (2016). Melissa officinalis L. – A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 188, 204–228. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.05.010
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)