The lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., 1753) is a spontaneous herbaceous plant, perennial and rustic, very sought after by bees and it is precisely for this reason that takes its name from the greco mélissa.
It grows wild in southern Europe and western Asia. In Italy it can be found along the hedges and in the shady areas; also it is grown in the gardens. It is known for its medicinal properties and is much appreciated as a herb.
The Melissa officinalis belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, the Kingdom Plantae, Division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, Order Lamiales, Lamiaceae Family, Genus and Species M. Melissa officinalis.
The genus name comes from the greek “Melitta” = honeybee; It is a melliferous plant par excellence. The specific name comes instead from “Workshop” workshop, for its versatility and usefulness in pharmaceutical, herbalism, the process of liquor, perfume and the like.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Melissa grows wild in shady places throughout Europe meridonale, likes cool, moist soil.
Or Melissa. is a perennial plant, herbaceous, with a pleasant smell of lemon, with a short rhizome, erect stems, quadrangular, branched, with bristly hairs licenses, arranged on the edges, particularly dense at the nodes. Height 30 to 80 cm.
The leaves are petiolate, opposite, yellowish-green color, with lamina ovata, the lower heart-shaped are often crenate-toothed 6 ÷ 14 teeth per side.
The flowers on short stalks, gathered in sparse glomeruli, the axils of leaves and bracteoles lanceolate: have a tubular calyx, hairy, bell-shaped, bilabiato; corolla tubolosa, simpetala, bilabiate, Geoffroy’s upper lip, lower three-lobed with median lobe more developed compared to the two side; yellowish, white becomes pink after fertilization. The fruit is a tetrachenio containing 4 small nutlets (achenes) of dark brown-1.6-2 to 0.8-1 mm.
For the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.
Customs and Traditions –
The Melissa is grown for over 2000 years as a plant mellifera, in fact, the name comes from the greek term for the bee.
The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides applied the leaves of Melissa skin wound.
The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder recommended it to stop bleeding.
In the tenth century Arab physicians recommending the Melissa for nervous and anxious syndromes.
The Arab Avicenna, in ‘XI century physician wrote: “Melissa has the mind and the heart to joy”.
Melissa Paracelsus called the “elixir of life”
In medieval Europe it was adopted Arabic use of Melissa as a remedy for anxiety; “Eau de Melisse” became so popular as a tranquilizer and sedative, inducing Charlemagne ordered that the plant was grown in all the medicinal gardens of his reign, to make sure of proper production.
In the Benedictine monasteries he devoted particular attention to the cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants; an area within the walls of the monastery, was always reserved as a “garden of the simple.” The herbs grown were used to prepare tinctures, ointments, herbal teas, but also for the preparation of drinks, liqueurs, many of which are still known today. The Melissa in the composition of more than one of these famous liquor, the “Chartreuse” and “Elixir of Long Life,” which was produced by Monaco Benedictine Dom Bernardino Vincelli in 1510 and “Cusenier” Abbot of Montbenoit dating back to 1637 . Each bottle of Benedictine, the product still has the initials DOM on the label: Deo Optimo Maximo.
In herbal medicine, Melissa are used mostly leaves but also flowers and stems.
In the plant extracts are traceable: triterpenes, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid and various flavonoids (luteolin, quercetin, apigenin, campferolo). It is also obtainable an essential oil containing citral, citronellal and caryophyllene.
Currently, Melissa officinalis is used as a sedative in with somatic and visceral restlessness and anxiety also were gastrointestinal dyspeptic disorders due to its antispasmodic action and in migraine treatment. The extract of fresh leaves of lemon balm has antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus that is used in the treatment of herpes labialis.
It is contraindicated for patients with glaucoma and suffering from hypothyroidism. No known controlled clinical trials in pregnant women and breast-feeding in accordance with the general medical practice, the product should not be used without first having heard the advice of the doctor.
• For internal use against nervous disorders: stress, depression, insomnia, premenstrual nervous tension; poor digestion associated with nervous tension, excitability, headaches of nervous origin head, palpitations. Useful in stimulating appetite and in case of indigestion, to expel the excessive intestinal gas. Famous were the “spirit of Melissa” and “the Carmelite Water” of the Discalced Carmelites, prepared, the first alcohol and the second non-alcoholic, used as a sedative, digestive, fights for the nausea, vomiting, and seasickness.
• For external use against herpes sores, gout, insect bites, for rheumatic pain and neuralgia, as well as insect repellent.
In Germany, where the herbal medicine is more widespread, the extract of Melissa enters into the composition of ointments for the treatment of herpes labialis and genital. In aromatherapy oil it is used as relaxing, invigorating.
The dried leaves are added to potpourri and scented bags.
In the kitchen, the leaves can be used instead of lemon, in the preparation of sour and, omelets, sauces, aromatic vinegars, salads, desserts, fruit salads, and to flavor milk and wine.
Leaves and flowers of lemon balm are therefore excellent in salads and early summer cold, with their refreshing note and the lemon scent, they are also used in some soups. With the dried leaves make excellent herbal teas. Lemon balm is a medicinal plant known for its digestive qualities and are also given a calming effect.
Care must be careful, however, because the use of essential oil can cause irritations for sensitive skin. Animal studies have shown that it can cause increased intraocular pressure, besides the assumption of Melissa can interfere with thyroid dysfunction therapy is therefore not recommended for use in patients with hypothyroidism. The concomitant intake of barbiturates or benzodiazepines, or other herbs with calming effect, may enhance the effect, causing excessive sedation. This is why it is always good to consult a doctor for its proper use.
Preparation Mode –
To prepare an infusion lemon balm in the form of calculated infusion using 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm leaves per cup of 250 ml of hot water. Pour the dried lemon balm in each cup and cover with hot water. Let steep for 5 minutes and filtered. If necessary, sweetened to taste.
If you want to prepare a lemon balm herbal tea in the form of decoction, then using the fresh lemon balm, you will serve two teaspoons of chopped lemon balm leaves every 250 ml of water. Boil water with fresh lemon balm leaves, simmer for 5 minutes, strain and pour.
To make more pleasant the tea balm can add a few drops of lemon juice or choose a natural sweetener such as honey or agave syrup. You can drink 1 or 2 cups of lemon balm daily.
The lemon balm herbal tea is recommended in cases of stress, insomnia, agitation, flu, fever, abdominal pain and stomach ache.
Melissa flavors ice cream and teas, and is generally used fresh in desserts and savory dishes such as aromatic oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, condiments.
In cooking, Melissa, with its fresh and citrusy aroma, is excellent both in dishes based on fish and seafood, which to mitigate the intense aroma of lamb and vegetables.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Agradi A., Regondi S., G. Rotti, know the medicinal plants. Mediservice, Cologno Monzese (MI). 2005
Please note: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgici uses are indicated for information purposes only, do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it accepts no liability on their use for therapeutic purposes, cosmetic or food.