(Lemon) Balm - Melissa officinalis L.
The balm was originally native to Asia Minor to Southwest Siberia. Today it is farmed in Central Europe and it also occasionally grows wild. It is visited by bees, which is reflected in the generic name (Gr. "melissa" = bee), which can also bring with it the pleasant scent of honey (Gr. "meli" = honey). The epithet officinalis leaves leads one to conclude that it is an old medicinal plant, because the "officina" is the sale room of a pharmacy and "officinalis" means used in the pharmacies. The balm is a shrub that grows up to 80cm high with branched, angular stems. The stalked, broadly ovate leaves are opposite each other on the stem and have a more rippled, serrated leaf edge. The lemon-like smell of the leaves is created by an essential oil, which is in the glandular scales on the leaf surface. If these glands are broken when rubbed they release the essential oil. There are several pale-white flowers in the leaf axils of the upper leaves and they have a strikingly large lower lip and double lip cup. The flowering period is June to August.
The leaves are used with their typical lemon-like scent, which is clearly perceived when rubbed. The commercially available drug comes from crops in Central Eastern and Western Europe.
Lemon balm leaves contain an essential oil mainly made up from citral and citronella, which are responsible for the lemon-like aroma and also Lamiaceen tannins (main representatives: rosmarinic acid) and flavonoids.
Internally for functional gastrointestinal disorders and related nervous sleeping disorders. Externally for herpes infections (cold sores caused by herpes simplex) (Commission E, ESCOP). The HMPC has classified lemon balm leaves as traditional herbal medicinal products (see traditional use).
The HMPC has categorised lemon balm leaves as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience balm leaves can be used to improve stress-related symptoms and are used as a sleep aid for mild cramping discomfort in the gastro-intestinal tract (with flatulence).
Lemon balm leaves in combination with other drugs (e.g. valerian root) to improve the state of nervous stress, to improve the cardiovascular function (traditional use acc. to § 109a).
Pour 150ml of hot water over 1.5 to 4.5g of finely chopped lemon balm leaves (do not boil!). Let it stand for 5 to 15 minutes and then strain.
Lemon balm preparations must be avoided with known allergies to lemon balm.
There are still no studies on the safety of the use of lemon balm leaves during pregnancy, breast-feeding or for use in children under 12 years old.
Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 433
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 180
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 204
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Lemon balm leaves, no. 1447; Lemon balm leaves dried extract, no. 2524)