Beautiful July Sunshine for our West Sussex Herb Group inspired me to make a tincture from fresh Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis. Melissa means of the Bee and the bee’s certainly were hard at work around me as I gathered the leaves of the Lemon balm
For our tincture, we used fresh herb because the dried herb loses the essential oil and I believe that the fresh herb tinctures are more potent in herbs such as Melissa which contain a high percentage of volatile oil.
We have used the Country method for this tincture making rather than the more specific method of weight by volume used for my clinic tinctures. This is because the lesson was an introduction to tincture making and also because we were using Vodka rather than ethanol. If we use ethanol we then add water to adjust the alcohol percentage or strength.
To use the weight by volume method I would weigh out the fresh herb and then use the same amount of liquid.
For example 500g of Herb to 500ml of alcohol, this gives a 1:1 tincture.
Sound complicated? Not really but it takes some getting used to, hence lesson one – the country method!
Culpepper said of Lemon balm ‘ It maketh the heart merry’ I certainly agree with his sentiments, this is a joyful herb, uplifting yet steadying, so can be used for both depression and anxiety.
Particularly helpful in Hyperthyroid, extracts of Lemon Balm have also been shown to bind thyroid stimulating hormone and block activation of the thyroid gland, resulting in decreased circulating TSH, and lowered thyroid hormone levels.
Other studies have shown Lemon Balm’s effectiveness for helping insomnia and again, this is a herb that I have long used in Clinical Practice to help restore sleep and reset diurnal rhythms.
For sleep problems combine with Chamomile or Valerian.
Lemon Balm has an antispasmodic action mainly on the bowel, this combined with a bitter principle (which supports the liver) and the action on the nervous system – make it a first class herb for helping IBS. Most people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome tell me that they don’t deal with stress very well, that stress goes straight to their digestive system and associate a worsening of their symptoms with an increase in stress levels.
Lemon balm also has an anti-viral action which has been shown to act against Herpes simplex – Cold Sores.
I prefer to make a cream with fresh Melissa aromatic water which has a high content of essential oil, I mix this with liquorice and instruct patients to apply at the first ‘ tingle’ if possible.
I have had positive feedback for this cream.
So for some of my clinical combinations, just to give an idea of how I might use Lemon balm:
Hyperthyroid – Lemon balm, Motherwort and Bugleweed
Anxiety/Insomnia: Lemon Balm, Valerian, Chamomile
IBS: Lemon balm, dandelion root, Chamomile, Cramp bark
1. Auf’mkolk M, Ingbar JC, Kubota K, et al. Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and biological activity of Graves’ immunoglobulins. Endocrin 1985;116:1687-93.
2.Dressing H, Riemann D, Low H, et al. Insomnia: are valerian/balm combinations of equal value to benzodiazepine [translated from German]? Therapiewoche . 1992;42:726-736.