If you’re familiar with my work as an herbalist, you’ll know that I love to create ‘grab & go’ tincture formulas. At our apothecary, Grateful Desert, we have a wide range of them to address a litany of ailments and imbalances. People seem to love them, including my family! They’re convenient tools to have on hand. For instance, Sleep Deep contains a variety of sedative and anti-anxiety herbs, approaching insomnia from many angles, and so addressing a wide scope of sleep issues.
I also believe in the power of creating customized formulas for folks going through specific issues. I usually do this after an in-depth private consultation with a client or customer. This in-depth investigation is especially effective if one is experiencing chronic health problems, coming off pharmaceuticals, or has chosen a holistic route to address serious illness.
In addition, I also deeply believe in empowering people to forge relationships with individual herbs. This can be done by gradually building up a home apothecary with single herbs to work with, exploring how each herb interacts with your own unique physical and energetic constitution. In time, you’ll know which herb to grab off the shelf to address the day’s therapeutic needs. You can get to know your own systems and plant allies intimately, creating an empowering and collaborative relationship with these herbal teachers.
At Grateful Desert, we also have a large selection of single herb tinctures. I encourage and seek to empower our customers to start their own home apothecaries by getting to know single herbs. To facilitate, we are publishing an ‘Herb of the Week’ letter to whet your appetite for our wonderful family of single herb tinctures. They are by no means complete herbal monographs, so if any of these pique your curiosity, please explore further and do your research, particularly if you have any health conditions, are on any pharmaceuticals, or are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive. And of course, we are always here to use as a resource if you have any questions, so please feel free to reach out.
This week, we’re turning our attention to the gorgeous Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). When you spend time interacting with herbs, you definitely get to know their energetic signatures, and Lemon Balm’s is a delightfully buoyant one. She’s light, joyful, one might even go so far as to say giggly! But don’t let this bright and breezy energy detract from her potent and health-supporting properties- Lemon Balm is a gentle, yet powerful force to be reckoned with!
I often seek out Lemon Balm when I’m working with people who have digestive issues associated with nerve disorder and/or depression. What many of us already felt and is now being scientifically proven is that our digestive and nervous systems are intimately connected, the precursor for many brain chemicals being made in the gut. "It has recently become evident that the gut microbiota has the ability to influence physiological aspects of the body, including a direct communication to the brain from the gut" (O’Mahony et al., 2015).
So, as Lemon Balm’s work as a nervine restores the CNS (Central Nervous System) in much the same way as Wild Oat Milky Tops, she is wonderfully effective for people with depression-related digestive issues.
She’s been especially helpful in a case where one of my clients who suffers from a chronic nerve disease has severe nerve related pain and discomfort. This extremity of pain alone can frequently lead to depression, and indeed gastric and intestinal discomfort, and Lemon Balm is one of their greatest allies.
As a carminative, Lemon Balm reduces gas and relieves spasms in the digestive tract.
Chronic and painful conditions such as Crohn’s Disease also respond well to Lemon Balm, as the severe intestinal pain can cause depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Issues such as Crohn’s can be especially tricky, because untreated depression or anxiety can often be the trigger for outbreaks of intestinal pain and vice versa. Lemon Balm, with her carminative and nervine properties is a wonderful herb to build a relationship with in instances such as this.
Lemon Balm contains the active compound ‘rosmarinic acid’ which is an enzyme that helps to replenish GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) in the brain, which is part of what gives Lemon Balm her considerable powers as a nervine. GABA is an essential inhibitory neurotransmitter, used by the brain to achieve calm and reduce nervous tension and hypertension. The rosmarinic acid present in Lemon Balm is also neuroprotective, that is, it helps to slow down aging effects on the brain.
Migraines, especially those caused by tension and neuralgia, are alleviated by Lemon Balm’s nervine actions. She also helps to bring gentle relief from anxiety and anxiety-related insomnia, so it’s a wonderful herb for children, especially as a tea or tincture with the alcohol evaporated (heated) off or as a glycerite.
Also a vasodilator, Lemon Balm opens up the capillaries, helping to lower high blood pressure.
As mentioned above, Lemon Balm has diaphoretic actions. So if you’re sick, sipping Lemon Balm as a tea or taking her in tincture form induces a fever to ‘burn’ out the illness-inducing microbes, thus supporting diaphoresis.
I go to Lemon Balm often when working with clients who suffer from both Herpes simplex 1 or 2. She’s well known for being extremely effective in the treatment of this stubborn and chronic viral condition. I have many clients who have seen a marked decrease in outbreaks of both simplex 1 and 2 and many more whose outbreaks have ceased altogether.
There are many other ways to help prevent Herpes outbreaks in addition to taking Lemon Balm. For instance, for those who experience severe anxiety or panic, which can then cause a viral outbreak, taking Lemon Balm with another nervine, whether it’s Avena or Skullcap and adding the additional calming qualities of Chamomile is very effective. But just on its own, Lemon Balm is wonderful for cold sores and other symptoms of Herpes.
Lemon Balm is a potent anti-viral, and many studies have been done for this particular action, both in clinical and lab trials. A lot of people are taking her right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there aren’t any studies as yet on Lemon Balm’s efficacy with this virus, knowing that we have a tried and tested anti-viral in our home apothecary is empowering. We sold a lot of Lemon Balm at the beginning of the outbreak to herbalists who are aware of her anti-viral properties.
If you’re pregnant or beastfeeding, Lemon Balm is a herb that's safe to take in small/culinary doses, ideally as a tea. And to emphasize, with any herbs that are safe to take during pregnancy and lactation, it's always best to err on the side of caution, and take small/culinary doses as opposed to therapeutic ones.
According to Nicholas Culpeper, Lemon Balm is ruled by the beneficent energy of the planet Jupiter, and associated with the element of water in the Zodiac sign of Cancer. This dovetailing with the buoyancy of Jupiter and the watery qualities of Cancer shines an energetic light on Lemon Balm’s wonderfully restorative effects on the emotions, and has been used through the ages to uplift the spirits.
Melissa is actually the Greek name for honeybee- and Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) is loved by bees. In the Greek mythic pantheon, a group of nymphs called the mellissai were said to have discovered honey. The bee became their symbolic representation. In the old stories, these nymphs were imagined as shapeshifting into bees. And of course the beautiful honeybee is a potent symbolic representation of the health and well-being of the Earth, our living Mama.
Lemon Balm is a wonderful single herb to create a relationship with. If you’re curious to find out more about her, please do explore her further by doing more research with regards to your own health and constitution, and of course, please drop us a line if you have any questions. We love to hear from you!
And as she is our Herb of the Week, we’re offering 10% off our Lemon Balm tincture until June 13. This applies to both online and in-store purchases.