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Melissa officinalis

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Melissa officinalis, known as lemon balm,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> balm,<ref>Template:Cite EB1911</ref> common balm,<ref>Template:PLANTS</ref> or balm mint, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to south-central Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Central Asia.<ref>Kewe World Checklist of Selected Plant Families</ref>

It grows to Template:Convert tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. It is not to be confused with bee balm (which is genus Monarda). The white flowers attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for 'honey bee'). Its flavour comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%).Template:Citation needed



M. officinalis is native to Europe, central Asia and Iran, but is now naturalized around the world.<ref name=HerbSoc>Herb Society of America. 2007 Lemon Balm: An Herb Society of America Guide</ref><ref>United States Department of Agriculture, "PLANTS Profile for Melissa officinalis," Retrieved July 2, 2010.</ref>

Lemon balm seeds require light and at least 20°C (70°F) to germinate. Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively, as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. Lemon balm grows vigorously and should not be planted where it will spread into other plantings.

M. officinalis may be the "honey-leaf" (μελισσόφυλλον) mentioned by Theophrastus.<ref>Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, VI.1.4, identified as "M. officinalis" in the index of the Loeb Classical Library edition by Arthur F. Hort, 1916 etc.</ref> It was in the herbal garden of John Gerard, 1596.<ref>As "Melissa" (Common Blam) in both issues of Gerard's Catalogus, 1596, 1599: Benjamin Daydon Jackson, A catalogue of plants cultivated in the garden of John Gerard, in the years 1596-1599, 1876;</ref> The many cultivars of M. officinalis include:

  • M. officinalis 'Citronella'
  • M. officinalis 'Lemonella'
  • M. officinalis 'Quedlinburger'
  • M. officinalis 'Lime'
  • M. officinalis ‘Variegata’
  • M. officinalis ‘Aurea’

(M. officinalis ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ is an improved variety bred for high essential oil content.)


Culinary use

Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto.<ref name=HerbSoc/>Template:Rp

Uses in traditional and alternative medicine

Melissa (M. officinalis) essential oil

In the traditional Austrian medicine, M. officinalis leaves have been prescribed for internal (as tea) or external (essential oil) application for the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, liver, and bile.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> It is also a common addition to peppermint tea, mostly because of its complementing flavor.

Lemon balm is the main ingredient of Carmelite Water, which is still for sale in German pharmacies.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Lemon balm essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly codistilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils.

Research into possible effects on humans

High doses of purified lemon balm extracts were found to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects, producing "significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness." The authors further report a "significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy" following the administration of a 300-mg dose of extract.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Lemon balm is believed to inhibit the absorption of the thyroid medication thyroxine.<ref>University of Maryland Medical Centre, "Lemon Balm"</ref>

Recent research found a daily dose of the tea reduced oxidative stress status in radiology staff who were exposed to persistent low-dose radiation during work. After only 30 days of taking the tea daily, consuming lemon balm tea resulted in a significant improvement in plasma levels of catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase, and a marked reduction in plasma DNA damage, myeloperoxidase, and lipid peroxidation.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a mosquito repellent.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Lemon balm is also used medicinally as an herbal tea, or in extract form. It is used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative, or calming agent.Template:Medcn At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study's authors call for further research.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Lemon balm extract was identified as a potent in vitro inhibitor of GABA transaminase, which explains anxiolytic effects. The major compound responsible for GABA transaminase inhibition activity in lemon balm was then found to be rosmarinic acid.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Lemon balm and preparations thereof also have been shown to improve mood and mental performance. These effects are believed to involve muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Essential oils obtained from Melissa officinalis leaf showed high acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase co-inhibitory activities.<ref>Chaiyana W., Okonogi S."Inhibition of cholinesterase by essential oil from food plant". Phytomedicine. 19 (8-9) (pp 836-839), 2012.</ref>

Its antibacterial properties have also been demonstrated scientifically, although they are markedly weaker than those from a number of other plants studied.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The extract of lemon balm was also found to have exceptionally high antioxidant activity.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Lemon balm is mentioned in the scientific journal Endocrinology, where it is explained that Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>


Lemon balm contains eugenol, tannins, and terpenes.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Melissa officinalis also contains 1-octen-3-ol, 10-alpha-cadinol, 3-octanol, 3-octanone, alpha-cubebene, alpha-humulene, beta-bourbonene, caffeic acid, caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, catechinene, chlorogenic acid, cis-3-hexenol, cis-ocimene, citral A, citral B, citronellal, copaene, delta-cadinene, eugenyl acetate, gamma-cadinene, geranial, geraniol, geranyl acetate, germacrene D, isogeranial, linalool, luteolin-7-glucoside, methylheptenone, neral, nerol, octyl benzoate, oleanolic acid, pomolic acid, protocatechuic acid, rhamnazine, rosmarinic acid, rosmarinin acid, stachyose, succinic acid, thymol, trans-ocimene and ursolic acid.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Lemon balm flowers may contain traces of harmine.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>



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External links

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  • This page was last modified on 18 February 2016, at 08:27.
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