Lemon Balm: November Plant of the Month

Lemon Balm: November Plant of the Month

Our Plant of the Month blog shares the science, gardening tips, and tall tales behind the organic herbs and flowers that we lovingly grow at ifarm.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is one of our favorite herbs because it is a potent, easy-to-grow herb with many uses.

June is the time to harvest Lemon Balm, when the leaves are fresh and vibrant. However, November is a great time to take Lemon Balm, as it boosts our system with antioxidants and phytonutrients to help ease into the winter. It is also a delicious herb that is shown to help ease anxiety and induce a sense of energized calm.

Using and Growing Lemon Balm

Peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated Lemon Balm’s ability to:

1. Boost alertness. In the Australian study that reported this effect, “side effects” were increased calm and positive feelings (1).

2. Sharpen the memory and enhance problem solving (2) (3).

3. Deal with free radicals that are indicated in cancer and atherosclerosis. Lemon Balm has a high concentration of antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals (4) and is a good nutritive tonic.

4. Support Liver health by increasing the production of antioxidents and bile (5) (6).

5. Support restful sleep (7).

Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Germany’s herbal governing board) has also approved Lemon Balm to be used to calm anxiety, help quell nervous upset of the digestive system, and alleviate insomnia.

On top of these benefits, Lemon Balm is very easy to grow in the Northeast. All it takes is some seeds and a patch of sunny, well-drained soil and you will be delighted by the aroma of bright lemon each year. You can start seedlings or sow the seeds directly into the soil. Just make sure you plant after the danger of frost has passed. Plant 20-24 inches apart. Your bees will love it, and it will self-sow perennially! We recommend placing it near your door for easy access.

Folklore from Ancient Greece

The first recorded use of Lemon Balm is in ancient Greece, where worshippers of the earth goddesses Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis saw bees as divine messengers. They noticed the way that bees clustered around the aromatic flowers of Lemon Balm and decided it was a sacred herb. The priestesses, named the Melissai, gave their name to the herb (hence Melissa officinalis). This is also why the Greek word for bee is melissa (8).

If you would like to purchase some of our organic dried lemon balm, you can reach us with the button below!

Citations

  1. Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V., Kras, M., Scholz, C., Sass, M., Buchwald-Werner, S. “Anti-stress effects of M. Officinalis-containing foods.” Nutrients. 2014 Oct 30;6(11):4805-21. doi: 10.3390/nu6114805.
  2. Liu, Z., Niu, W., Yang, X., Wang, Y. “Effects of combined acupuncture and eugenol on learning-memory ability and antioxidation system of hippocampus in Alzheimer disease rats via olfactory system stimulation.” J Tradit Chin Med. 2013 Jun;33(3):399-402.
  3. Obulesu, M., Rao, D.M. “Effect of plant extracts on Alzheimer’s disease: An insight into therapeutic avenues.” J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2011 Jan;2(1):56-61. doi: 10.4103/0976-3147.80102.
  4. Spiridon, I., Colceru, S., Anghel, N., Teaca, C.A., Bodirlau, R., Armatu, A. “Antioxidant capacity and total phenolic contents of oregano (Origanum vulgare), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) from Romania.” Nat Prod Res. 2011 Oct;25(17):1657-61. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2010.521502.
  5. Ali, Zarei, Saeed, Changizi Ashtiyani, Soheila, Taheri, and Fateme Rasekh. “Comparison between effects of different doses of Melissa officinalis and atorvastatin on the activity of liver enzymes in hypercholesterolemia rats.” Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 15?23.
  6. Zeraatpishe, A., Oryan, S., Bagheri, M.H., Pilevarian, A.A., Malekirad, A.A., Baeeri, M., Abdollahi, M. “Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on oxidative status and DNA damage in subjects exposed to long-term low-dose ionizing radiation.” Toxicol Ind Health. 2011 Apr;27(3):205-12. doi: 10.1177/0748233710383889.
  7. Taavoni, S., Nazem, Ekbatani N., Haghani, H. “Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause.” Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 Nov;19(4):193-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.07.002.
  8. Ransome, H. (2004). “The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times & Folklore”. Chicago, IL: Dover Publications.
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