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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Melissa officinalis | Lemon Balm

Botanical Overview of Lemon Balm

  • Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis

  • Common Names: Lemon Balm, Balm, Common Balm, Sweet Balm, Bee Balm

  • Family: Lamiaceae

  • Description: Lemon balm is a perennial herbaceous plant characterized by its lemon-scented leaves and small, white to pale yellow flowers. The plant typically grows to about 60-90 cm tall and has square stems, a hallmark of the mint family. The leaves are heart-shaped with serrated edges and emit a strong lemon fragrance when crushed. The flowers attract bees, hence the name "Melissa," which is Greek for bee.

melissa officinalis botanical painting

Properties of Lemon Balm

  • Chemical Constituents: Rich in essential oils (including citral, citronellal, and geraniol), polyphenols, flavonoids, and tannins.

  • Edibility: Lemon balm leaves are edible and can be used fresh or dried in a variety of culinary applications. They add a mild lemon flavor to salads, soups, sauces, and beverages. Lemon balm is also popular for making herbal teas and flavored water.

Distribution and Habitat of Lemon Balm

  • Native Range: Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

  • Preferred Habitat: Lemon balm thrives in temperate climates and prefers well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade. It is commonly found growing in gardens, along pathways, and in hedgerows. Lemon balm can be invasive in some areas due to its vigorous growth habit and ability to self-seed prolifically.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Lemon Balm

  • Traditional Uses: Lemon balm has been used since ancient times for its calming and soothing effects. Traditionally, it was employed to alleviate stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The leaves were also used to treat digestive disorders, fevers, and cold sores. In medieval times, it was believed to lengthen life and was often used in herbal tonics and elixirs.

  • Modern Applications: Today, lemon balm is widely used in herbal medicine for its mild sedative and anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties. It is commonly included in teas and supplements aimed at promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Lemon balm extract is used in topical treatments for cold sores due to its antiviral properties. Additionally, it is incorporated into digestive remedies to relieve symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and nausea. The herb’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects also make it beneficial for overall health and wellness.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Lemon Balm

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Moon, Mercury

  • Magical Properties: Love, healing, success, and protection.

  • Uses: In magical practices, lemon balm is revered for its gentle, uplifting energy. It is often used in spells and rituals to attract love and enhance romantic relationships. Lemon balm can be added to love sachets, potions, or baths to foster affection and harmony. Its calming influence makes it a powerful herb for healing rituals, particularly those aimed at emotional or psychological well-being. Lemon balm is also used to promote success and abundance, often incorporated into charms or incense to attract positive outcomes and opportunities. In protective magic, lemon balm is employed to ward off negativity and create a peaceful environment. It can be placed around the home or carried as a talisman to maintain a calm and secure space.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Lemon Balm

  • Historical Context: Lemon balm has a rich history of use in traditional and folk medicine across Europe and the Mediterranean. The Greeks and Romans valued it for its soothing effects and cultivated it widely for medicinal purposes. During the Middle Ages, lemon balm was a key ingredient in the Carmelite Water, a tonic believed to improve mood and vitality.

  • Folklore: In European folklore, lemon balm was associated with longevity and was often planted near homes to bring peace and happiness. It was believed that drinking lemon balm tea could chase away melancholy and uplift the spirit. Lemon balm was also thought to attract bees, and in some traditions, it was used to communicate with bees and encourage them to stay close to the garden.

  • Mythology: The name “Melissa” originates from the Greek mythology of the nymph Melissa, who was associated with bees and honey. According to legend, Melissa was the daughter of a Cretan king who discovered the use of honey and nurtured the infant Zeus with it. The herb’s strong connection to bees and its soothing properties have led to its use in various healing and protective rituals throughout history.

Historical Literary Sources

  • Dioscorides’ "De Materia Medica": Describes the use of lemon balm for calming the mind and treating various ailments, highlighting its value in ancient Greek and Roman medicine.

  • Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History": Discusses lemon balm’s applications in Roman medicine, emphasizing its role in soothing digestive and nervous disorders.

  • John Gerard’s "Herball" (1597): Provides detailed accounts of lemon balm’s medicinal uses and its reputation for promoting longevity and alleviating sadness.


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