Spotlight on Botanical - Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Rub the leaves of a lemon balm plant and smell the bright, uplifting, lemony scent that arises.

Lemon balm, known in Latin as Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant and a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). 

The plant has been cultivated as a “bee plant” for over 2000 years to attract bees to gardens or hives, and in fact, the genus name Melissa is the Greek word for honeybee.

Greeks and Romans used lemon balm to flavor food and made wine infused with lemon balm as a medicinal beverage. Additionally, a famous drink known as Eau de Melisse des Carmes, or Carmelite water, was produced by French Carmelite nuns in the 17th century. It was a medicinal tonic mixture of lemon balm, angelica, and various spices.1

Historically the plant has been used as a natural remedy to address anxiousness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and cognitive and memory problems. 

Modern research suggests the main active compound of lemon balm is rosmarinic acid, which possesses a multitude of biological activities.

  • Antioxidant
  • Supports healthy inflammation
  • Supports metabolic health and healthy weight management
  • Lipid-balancing effects
  • Microbial-balancing effects
  • Supports mood and cognitive health.

The enticing lemony aroma of lemon balm is predominantly due to the essential oils found in the plant. An analysis revealed that the chemical composition of the essential oils extracted from Melissa officinalis was citronellal (37.33%), thymol (11.96%), citral (10.10%), and β-caryophyllene (7.27%).

Lemon balm is most commonly used in the form of tea but can also be found in tincture and extract form, as well as a topical ointment for certain types of skin eruptions or blisters.

As an excellent medicinal plant with numerous health properties, including cardiovascular, neurological, digestive, and psychological support, grab yourself a cup of lemon balm tea and let the soothing lemon scent and flavor ease your troubles away.

  1. Johnson, R.L. et al. (2010) National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. National Geographic Society.