The Spirit of Lemon Balm

P1000185 detail 768x1024P1000185 enh 2 1024x768Lemon balm is a plant that always has a place in our garden and it appears in almost every herbal drink I prepare, in particular for groups of people.

In the mint family, lemon balm is probably at its most attractive in late spring to early summer, before it flowers and the whole plant is bushy with deep green leaves. Attractive to us, that is. When in flower it is beloved of bees – its Latin name of Melissa officinalis refers to both honey and its age-old status as a medicine.

But it’s also a plant that is easy to overlook and its gentle nature belies some quite powerful properties. One of these is its ability to cheer the heart and lift the spirits. Just smelling the lightly squeezed leaves has a noticeably uplifting effect.

Among other actions lemon balm can help improve a poor appetite (plants that do this are called aperients) and assist in cases of nervous exhaustion. The fresh leaves make a lovely tea on their own and you can combine them with different types of mint, rose leaves and other favourite herbs. I also put them in my herbal refreshers in the summer, see here for one I made a few years back.

Lemon balm is also a great presence just as itself, both for people and bees. The ones here at home are particularly vibrant this year.

Text and images by Mark Watson under Creative Commons license with Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives.

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