Melissa Officinalis: Family: Lamiaceae
Common names: Lemon balm, bee balm.
Part used: Leaf and stem
Flavor: sour Action: Cooling (Popham, 2021)
Melissa Officinalis has been recorded for healing since the 300 B.C in the Historia Plantarum. Paracelsus (1493–1541) utilized it for “all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system” (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021). In European traditions it was used as aa elixir and memory tonic. In Iran it's been used for anxiety and depression, the Unani system use it for various complaints from halitosis, arthritis, mastitis, bell’s palsy, paralysis and epilepsy whereas in Morocco it has been used as a febrifuge, astringent, depurative and cholagogue and spasmolytic (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021). In Uzbekistan it has been used for many ailments as above and more that are being proven by research today such as Alzheimer disease, virus's, hyperthyroidism, digestion and cardiac issues including arrhythmias (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021). In the Middle Ages it was a treatment for rabid dog bites, toothaches, skin eruptions and baldness. Carmelite water, a wine with Melissa officinalis as a key ingredient became famous as a cure for digestive issues, headaches and to lift the spirits. Culpeper on point again says it’s a cure for ‘weak stomachs, cause heart to be merry, aid digestion, to open obstructions of the brain, and to expel melancholy vapors from the heart and arteries’ (Iverson, Christine).
Today it is known as a nervine sedative which is trophorestorative to the nervous system used for anxious and depressive states. It is considered a nootropic with research showing after four months increased cognitive function and calming of scattered mind (Akhondzadeh, 2003). Studies show neuroprotective activity against 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced cell apoptosis in reaction to free radicals. The anxiolytic action seems to be dose dependent with rosmarinic acid, pentacyclic triterpenes, and oleanolic and ursolic acids being attributed (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021).
It is used as a carminative for digestion and dyspepsia, relaxing spasm and cramping along with expelling gas.
Its antispasmodic action helps relax the whole system making it an ally for tension headaches, cardiovascular constriction and digestive spasm along with being carminative.
Its Anti-Inflammatory action is attributed to the rosmarinic acid and in one study after two months dysmenorrheal pain was significantly reduced (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021). This pain reducing affects due to Melissa affecting muscarinic and nicotinic receptors. (Moacă et al., 2018).
It has been widely studied as an anti-cancer medicine. Both colon carcinoma cells and cell lines of breast cancer showed Melissa Officinalis as an antiproliferative agent and self-induce apoptosis. The rosmaricinic acid and phenolic acids may be the agents (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021), (Moacă et al., 2018).
It is also considered a cardioprotective and used for heart palpitations. The saponins and alkaloids are given credit for this effect.
It is a relaxant diaphoretic making it very useful as a fever remedy relaxing the pores of the skin.
It is considered a useful treatment for hyperthyroidism as it can stop antibody connecting to thyroid cells and so potentially reducing autoimmune based hyperthyroidism (graves' disease). Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary may also be reduced (Popham, 2021).
Anti Viral especially herpes virus-1 (Mcintyre, 2005).
Melissa Officinalis oleanolic acid has shown strong antidiabetic potential for prevention and treatment along with recent studies showing antihyperlipidemic effects which amongst other things can help inhibit visceral obesity (Sharifi-Rad et al., 2021) (Ghazizadeh et al., 2021).
It can be in capsule form, tea, sun tea, tincture, hydrosol, essential oil, used like parsley, and added to salads.
Safety: caution if on other medications for the thyroid or other sedatives and may not be suitable for colder constitutions.
Akhondzadeh, S. (2003). Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 74(7), pp.863–866.
Draginic, N., Jakovljevic, V., Andjic, M., Jeremic, J., Srejovic, I., Rankovic, M., Tomovic, M., Nikolic Turnic, T., Svistunov, A., Bolevich, S. and Milosavljevic, I. (2021). Melissa officinalis L. as a Nutritional Strategy for Cardioprotection. Frontiers in Physiology, [online] 12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8100328/ [Accessed 6 Sep. 2021].
Ghazizadeh, J., Sadigh‐Eteghad, S., Marx, W., Fakhari, A., Hamedeyazdan, S., Torbati, M., Taheri‐Tarighi, S., Araj‐khodaei, M. and Mirghafourvand, M. (2021). The effects of lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis L.) on depression and anxiety in clinical trials: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Phytotherapy Research, 35(12), pp.6690–6705.
Hughes, N. (2018). Weeds In The Heart. Oxford: Seacourt, Aeon Books and Quintessence Press.
Iverson, C. (2019). HEDGEROW APOTHECARY : recipes, remedies and rituals. London: Summerdale.
Mcintyre, A. (2005). Herbal treatment of children : Western and Ayurvedic perspectives. Edinburgh ; New York: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann.
Miraj, S., Rafieian-Kopaei and Kiani, S. (2016). Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, [online] 22(3), pp.385–394. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871149/.
Moacă, E.-A., Farcaş, C., Ghiţu, A., Coricovac, D., Popovici, R., Cărăba-Meiţă, N.-L., Ardelean, F., Antal, D.S., Dehelean, C. and Avram, Ş. (2018). A Comparative Study ofMelissa officinalisLeaves and Stems Ethanolic Extracts in terms of Antioxidant, Cytotoxic, and Antiproliferative Potential. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, pp.1–12.
Popham, Sajah (2021), Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis), Materia Medica Monthly, Volume 11, The school of Evolutionary Herbalism.
Sharifi-Rad, J., Quispe, C., Herrera-Bravo, J., Akram, M., Abbaass, W., Semwal, P., Painuli, S., Konovalov, D.A., Alfred, M.A., Kumar, N.V.A., Imran, M., Nadeem, M., Sawicka, B., Pszczółkowski, P., Bienia, B., Barbaś, P., Mahmud, S., Durazzo, A., Lucarini, M. and Santini, A. (2021). Phytochemical Constituents, Biological Activities, and Health-Promoting Effects of the Melissa officinalis. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, [online] 2021, p.e6584693. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2021/6584693/.
Gérard Debuigne, François Couplan, Vigne, P. and Vigne Délia (2021). 100 Plants That Heal: The Illustrated Herbarium of Medicinal Plants. Pynes Hill, Exeter: David & Charles. (Lemon Balm picture used found here)