Lemon balm, which is commonly known as Melissa, is a perennial herb of the mint family Lamiaceae. It bears white flowers towards the end of the summers. Its bright green leaves have a distinct lemony taste. It is a native of southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. The sweet nectar of the flowers attract honey bees. It is this characteristic that gives the plant its scientific name Melissa officinalis, as melissa is the Greek word for bees.
The uses can be attributed to a number of compounds like flavonoids, polyphenols, and terpenes present in the plant. These compounds help in curing a number of ailments. It has a soothing effect on people affected by stomach problems, and improves the functioning of the digestive system. It provides relief to symptoms like formation of gas and bloating. It also relieves pain and discomfort that may be caused due to indigestion. Chemicals like citronellal, and citrals A and B present in the volatile oils of lemon balm have sedative properties that induce a calming effect when consumed orally. Higher doses can also induce sleep. Therefore, it is effectively used to treat anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia.
Case studies on human beings have shown that melissa improves the memory of patients with Alzheimer's disease. This could be due to the presence of antioxidants that protect the body from the harmful oxidation reactions that release free radicals.The herb also helps control the secretion of the thyroid gland. Also, it has been consequently used to treat Graves' disease, which is caused due to excessive secretion of thyroid hormone released by an overactive thyroid gland.
Although there is no evidence about the efficiency of this herb against infections caused by fungi and bacteria, ointments and creams containing its extracts are successfully used to treat infections caused by certain viruses, especially the herpes. Not only do the ointments cure and arrest the spread of the infection, patients who used it have reported relief from symptoms like redness and itching.
Lemon balm is used in aromatherapy to effectively calm overexcited individuals, especially those with dementia. As a cosmetic, it works wonders when used as a skin cleanser. It is effective in acne prevention when used in steamy facials.
It is also reputed as an effective insect repellent. It can be used with other herbs such as lemongrass, rue, and lavender. The kitchen table could be rubbed with this herb to keep bugs from contaminating the food. Also, some of these herbs when thrown into a campfire or barbecue pit may repel insects.
It is used to flavor ice creams, candies, etc., and also served with certain fruit dishes.
Benefits with Other Herbs
Lemon balm is frequently combined with other herbs and plants for added benefits. For example, it helps cure an upset stomach when taken along with peppermint. When consumed along with valerian, it helps in relieving nerve pain and treating insomnia. A combination of melissa and lavender may help reduce PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping.
The numerous benefits of melissa have helped human beings to fight diseases, improve health, and add flavor to food. Although its health benefits are many, more research is being done to test its usefulness in treating many other diseases.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.