THE BLOG
07/26/2010 11:52 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Lemon Balm: A Friend for the Bees

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gttd1-53sZs

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) Family. Melissa, the genus name is from the Latin melisso phyllum, meaning, "honey bee," as it is a favorite flower of bees. The species name officinalis means, "long been an official herb of the apothecaries. "

Lemon balm also goes by its folk names: Balm, Bee Balm, Dropsy Plant, Thé de France, Heart's Delight, Melissa, and "Elixir of Life" (a name given by Paracelsus).

Lemon balm was widely used in ancient Greek and Rome. This herb was sacred in the temple of Diana and priestesses of Aphrodite were called Melissa. Avicenna, the great Arab physician (980-1037) said, Lemon Balm "causeth the mind and heart to be merry."

Lemon Balm is made into facial toners and beauty lotions, and is certainly edible. The chopped leaves can be added to salad, fish and poultry dishes, marinades, pesto, greens, jellies, custards, vinegars, or used as a garnish. Simply put a sprig into your day's bottle of drinking water to give it a lemony lift. It is included in the alcoholic beverages Benedictine, Chartreuse and many cordials. It is used to make Eau des Carmes, a mixture dating from the seventeenth century by the Carmelites. Lemon balm was once used for strewing on dirt floors. It makes an uplifting bath herb. In Magical traditions, lemon balm is dried and burned as an incense to attract love and offer protection from negative energies, such as when planted in the garden it will repel many pests.

Lemon balm is sour, cold, and dry and has long been associated with the moon, Venus, Jupiter,
the element of water and a yin or feminine energy. It contains vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, volatile oil (citral, linalol, eugenol, citronellal, geraniol), tannins (catechin), bitter principle, resin, polyphenols, flavonoids, succinic acid, and rosmarinic acid.

Lemon Balm, native to Europe, grows in disturbed areas, and open woods. As a perennial, it grows to about two feet tall and has a four sided stem. The lemon scented leaves are opposite, oval pointed, and round toothed, the flowers are borne on the auxiliary stems and are a light yellow, white to lavender color. The herb thrives in full sun to partial shade, needs only moderate watering, and prefers well-drained soil. Bees love it and growing lemon balm in the garden and/or rubbing the leaves inside bee hives will attract these beneficial pollinators close to home, truly Nature's allies.

This is a safe herb for children and good tasting. Lemon balm tea is best when made from fresh, rather than dried plant, as far as flavor is concerned. This is a flavorful, refreshing, pleasant lemon scented herbal tea that helps soothe the nervous system. It is suitable for daily use. It can be steeped for ten minutes or longer, as it does not become bitter with longer steeping. It is lovely hot or iced, even made as a simple sun tea and suitable for daily use. Lively up yourself with lemon balm!

Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of Nutrition and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Sexual Herbal, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Visit here for more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at brigittemars.com. Brigitte blogs for The Huffington Post, Care2 and My Intent.

Check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at www.rainbeaumars.com