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The Lemon balm, also simply called lemon balm, belongs to the labiate family. It originally comes from the eastern Mediterranean, but has long been widespread in Central Europe. Her name refers to the sour taste. Are there any tasting medicines? Yes, lemon balm has a soft lemon taste and is therefore suitable for all recipes for which you would otherwise use lemon juice. The most important facts in advance:
- Melissa tastes lemony and is just as valuable as a medicinal as well as a kitchen plant.
- Leaves and oil of the plant soothe, help you fall asleep, relieve the symptoms of heart disease, help against inflammation, viruses, skin problems and stomach problems.
- Melissa relaxes the muscles, has an antiviral and astringent effect.
- Melissa is easy to plant and dry, making it available all year round.
Melissa contains phenol carboxylic acids, tannins and bitter substances (including rosemary acid), chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. The leaves act against viruses. The essential oil consists of Citral, Geranial, Neral and Citronellal. There are also caryophyllene oxide, Germacren D, and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one. It also contains resins, mucilages, glycosides, saponins and thymol as well as a high vitamin C content.
Effect and application
The antispasmodic properties of lemon balm can be used for a variety of complaints: Melissa is an old remedy for migraines, neuralgia and pain during the period. Melissa promotes the regression of scars through a contracting effect. Rheumatic and neuralgic pain can be treated by applying lemon balm externally. Melissa promotes the secretion formation of the liver cells, has an anesthetic effect and promotes bleeding.
Melissa has traditionally been used as a remedy for stomach complaints and stress. It is said to calm and promote digestion, alleviate flatulence and weaken feelings of fullness. Melissa also relieves cramps and relaxes the muscles. Lemon balm ointments help against herpes simplex. However, you need creams with lemon balm oil, a lemon balm tea has little effect. Lemon balm is used as a home remedy for colds, inflammation of the respiratory tract and circulatory problems.
Melissa increases the production of the "happiness hormone" serotonin, a neurotransmitter. That is why lemon balm oil is particularly effective against stress, inner restlessness, fears and mild depression. It calms nervousness. Melissa also balances histamine levels, and histamine is causally related to stress. Melissa oil also showed improved production of acetylcholine in studies with dementia patients, so it probably improves memory.
The calming effect also makes lemon balm a good remedy for getting sleep problems under control. If you suffer from stress and cannot fall asleep, a combination of lemon balm with valerian, hops, lavender and passion flower is recommended. All of them complement each other.
Lemon balm also means garden balm, beehive (because of its importance as a bee pasture), honey leaf (because of the taste), heart comfort (because of the encouraging effect), women welfare (because of the use against menstrual cramps), bugweed (against bugs) and feverfew (because they are born with pains) and relieves labor related pain). These nicknames indicate that lemon balm was very important in folk medicine.
Melissa soothes the muscles around the stomach and intestines. That is why it helps against stomach cramps, intestinal problems and many abdominal pain. With inflammation of the gastric mucosa, lemon balm counteracts the inflammation. You can swallow it without any problems. Melissa oil insulates the production of substances that trigger inflammation in the stomach and thus relieves gastritis that has already developed.
Melissa oil on the skin
Melissa oil promotes blood circulation to the skin. This can regenerate better, absorb nutrients better and looks younger overall.
Melissa for digestion
Melissa promotes digestion in two ways. On the one hand, the stomach produces more gastric juices and breaks down tough food better, on the other hand, lemon balm stimulates saliva production. This means that difficult-to-digest food is better digested in the mouth.
Melissa during menstruation
Melissa relieves cramps and is therefore ideal for relieving cramps in the lower abdomen during the period. At the same time, melissa drives menstruation.
The bad news first. Melissa oil is expensive. The good news: You can use it in many ways, in a fragrance lamp as well as on the skin, as an aroma for baking, for liqueur as well as a bath additive. Melissa oil smells and tastes very intense. There are hardly any known side effects, but you should not use it for a weakened thyroid.
An old medicinal plant
Already with Pliny, the elder in the 1st century AD, the lemon balm is known as a remedy for heart diseases, stomach complaints and excessive emotions, in fact against diseases for which we still use it today. Above all, however, it served as a forage plant for bees. The insects allegedly preferred not to plant any plants, and lemon balm honey was considered a delicacy. "Melissa" means "sweet as honey" in Greek, and the Greeks came into contact with the "honey herb" in the natural distribution area in the Near East. In today's Germany, Charlemagne had them grown.
Hidlegard von Bingen wrote: "The lemon balm is warm and a person who eats it likes to laugh because its warmth touches the spleen and therefore delights the heart." She also believed that the plant helped against white spots on the cornea.
Paracelsus (1493-1541) saw lemon balm as the best remedy for heart disease. The plant entered the official market register of the city of Braunschweig as "Herba melissa". The Carmelites made an alcohol extract with lemon balm from 1611, and this is how the “Klosterfrau Melissengeist” was born.
Grow lemon balm yourself
Planting lemon balm is very easy: it likes sun and loamy soil, then it makes little demands. You can grow the plant on the windowsill as well as in the yard or in the garden. You can sow from May when there is no ground frost left. You then harvest the leaves in August and September. From the second year onwards, the harvest becomes abundant.
Dry lemon balm
You can dry the lemon balm to make tea in winter or use the leaves as a bath additive. The best way to do this is to pick the plants shortly before flowering, when the essential oils are richest and thus ensure the strongest aroma. You rinse the branches with cold water and remove damaged leaves.
Then place the leaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to layer the leaves so that they dry evenly. Preheat the oven to 80 degrees and turn it off when it reaches its temperature. Now push the sheet with the lemon balm in and leave it in the cooling heat. When the oven is cold again, the leaves have dried. The dried plant parts are stored in an airtight container in the dark.
Melissa in the kitchen
Melissa is an all-round talent in the kitchen. The freshly picked leaves go well with salads, mushrooms, fish, game and poultry, scrambled eggs, omelets and other egg dishes, herb sauces, tartar sauce such as mayonnaises, sauerkraut, fruit soups, punch bowls, jellies and as a decoration on ice cream, pudding and creams . You can also use lemon balm for liqueurs, schnapps, fruit wines and cocktails.
Melissa harmonizes with chives, dill, borage, parsley and cress, also with thyme and rosemary. It is suitable for dips, quarks, yoghurts and sauces with these herbs, for grilling or as a spread. For fish, the best way to cook the lemon balm in the oven is to preserve the aroma. It tastes most intense when you sprinkle the shredded leaves over the fish before serving.
For a liter of tea, take two handfuls of leaves. Pour hot but not boiling water on it, cover the jar and let it stand for 20 minutes. Melissa tea tastes warm, but it is ideal as an iced tea in summer. There is hardly anything more refreshing. You can also make a mixed tea and add peppermint leaves to the lemon balm. A lemon balm harmonises excellently with apple juice.
Melissa tea not only tastes delicious, you can also dip an envelope in it and place it on insect bites, abrasions on the skin or other inflammations of the skin. In the event of sore muscles or to prevent them, such an envelope also helps. The skin also smells freshly lemony.
The insider tip among sleeping pills. Place three large dried lemon balm leaves in a cup and pour hot milk over them. They cover everything and let it soak for ten minutes. Before you fall asleep, drink the warm milk.
Lemon balm: recipes
The range of recipes in which lemon balm is used is extremely wide and creative minds have almost no limits here in the kitchen. The spectrum of possible uses ranges from drinks, sauces, starters, main dishes to dessert. Then some examples of the recipe are listed.
Melissa and carrots
Slice a pound of carrots and braise them in butter. Add salt and sugar, quench with apple juice, cook everything at low temperatures, bind it with cream and add three tablespoons of fresh lemon balm leaves at the end.
Instead of basil, you can also use 100 g lemon balm leaves in a pesto. Mix them with 100 ml olive oil, 20 g pine nuts and a little salt, puree everything in the blender - done.
Lemon balm sorbet
For a sorbet on lemon balm you need 400 ml of water, 2 hands full of lemon balm, 150 g sugar and 1 lemon. You boil the water with the sugar to a syrup. As it cools down, put the lemon balm in it. Everything now takes a day. Then drain the liquid and add juice to the lemon. Now freeze it in the freezer. You can serve the sorbet with lemon balm leaves as decoration. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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