Skip to main content

Materia Poetica

My dear friend Melissa
is always there for me.
She is the friend I lean upon
when filled with anxiety

Her bright green leaves are cooling,
even though she loves the sun.
Her stems are square and hollow,
but she’s all about the fun.

Mint plants are family members
so they grow and spread quite fast.
Pinching leaves before the flowers
means the leaves will last and last.

If you let it flower,
they are hermaphrodite.
They have both male and female parts
and are a bee’s delight.

Not just bees, but butterflies
and birds are also friends.
But to pesky human biting bugs,
it vehemently defends.

This friend known as Melissa
has a sour lemon taste.
That’s why we call her Lemon Balm,
she is to be embraced.

Episode 160

My Shamanic Life Podcast

Hosted by Debbie Philp

Do you know Melissa? You will after listening to this podcast. 

LISTEN SOON
lemon balm isolated
Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis goes by many common names, such as Lemon Balm, Melissa, balm, garden balm, balm-mint, sweet balm, and honey balm to name a few. It is an herbaceous perennial that originated and is native in the Mediterranean and Central Asian regions, but has been naturalized throughout many parts of North America and grows throughout Europe and most temperate climates. 

It is pollinated by bees and other flying insects, but is not really considered “home” material for wildlife species. John Gerard, a 16th century herbalist stated that “It is profitably planted where bees are kept. The hives of bees being rubbed with the leaves of bawme, causeth the bees to keep together, and causeth others to come with them.” 

 

FUN FACTS

  • In 2007, The International Herb Association designated Melissa officinalis as the Herb of the Year
  • The genus name, Melissa, means “bee” in Greek.
  • Records of lemon balm date back as far as 300 BCE, where it was referred to as “honey leaf” by a Greek scholar named Theophrastus.
  • In antiquity, lemon balm was grown as food for bees. In fact, in the Capitularies of Charlemagne, the order was given for Lemon Balm to be planted in every cloister garden.
  • Lemon balm was the main ingredient in Carmelite Water, an alcohol-based extract first created by the Carmelite nuns in the 14th century.
closeup of lemon balm in the garden
Preserving

Harvesting and Drying

Lemon balm is a prolific giver, as long as you are respectful and not greedy. Choose well-established plants that are putting out new growth and have not yet gone to flower. The leaves will be more tender and have retained more of the volatile oils if you choose these younger plants.

To use the fresh plant for tea or culinary uses, it’s the leaf parts you’ll be after, so cut the stem (no more than 25% of the plant’s foliage) and remove the leaves. Don’t forget to make a stem offering back to Mother Nature (my offering spot is the outdoor, in-ground compost).

When drying, Lemon balm will loose much of its aroma, so gentle drying methods are preferred. Cut the plant as described above, but instead of removing the leaves, leave them on the stem. Make small bundles (4 stems in a bunch) and tie them together. Hang them upside down (that’s important to ensure the volatile oils move downward into the leaves) in a shaded spot and leave them to dry for a week or two (depending on your humidity levels). I dry mine in my basement, as I have two dehumidifiers running around the clock to keep my herbs from getting moldy. Be sure to check them as they are drying to be sure they have plenty of air circulating around the plant material.

If you do not have a clean area or space to hang them for that long, you can put them in the oven or a dehydrator and set the temperature at about 170 degrees until dry.

Because it is ultimately the leaves you are after, harvest during a waxing moon, just before the full moon for full energetic potency.

Herbal Actions & Medicinal Uses

Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves

Flavors: Sour

With any herbs and supplements, always consult with a licensed health professional before use.

Herbal Actions

The state of a person’s health should not be judged by physical traits alone, because mental and emotional states plays such a huge role in a person’s overall wellbeing. Lemon Balm (or Melissa) is a friend that supports you when matters of the heart and spirit can be weighing you down.

Recently, there was a very traumatic incident involving tow of my neighbors and their dogs that resulted in two dogs having to be euthanized, one dog seriously injured, and one person needing stitches from multiple dog bites. Needless to say, after helping to get the one dog and her owner to safety, I was traumatized by the ordeal. The next day, I was invited to a friend’s house and shared what had happened the previous day. My nerves felt like they were still on edge. She made a pot of Lemon Balm tea and poured it over ice for us. Not only was it delicious, but I could feel my nervous system calming down. It was lovely.

Some of the herbal actions of Lemon Balm include:

  • Antiviral – Helps eliminate viral conditions.
  • Cardiac Nervine – Calms the heart.
  • Carminative – Relieves gas and cramping from stomach pains, indigestion, and lack of appetite.
  • Nervine Relaxant – Calms the nerves.
lemon balm in the garden
Recipe

Lemon Balm Bath Soak

This summer, you are bound to end up with itchy skin. Take a soothing bath with Lemon Balm and let Melissa officinalis take you away to a calmer place. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 QT glass jar, heat safe (canning jars work great!)
  • ¾ jar filled with fresh Lemon Balm leaves, cut into smaller pieces
  • 4 C water, just off the boil

DIRECTIONS

Fill your quart glass jar 3/4 full with fresh, chopped lemon balm leaves. Fill a tea kettle with water and bring that water to a boil and turn off the heat. Carefully pour the hot water over the lemon balm leaves to create an infusion. Let it steep for a minimum of 15 minutes. Once done, pour the water into your bath and enjoy!

lemon balm tea in a quart jar
Recipe

Lemon Balm Infusion

Watch this 9:06 informative video by Dina Falconi titled, “Calm Uplift Immune Support: How to Make a Potent Lemon Balm Infusion.” Dina describes the different types of dried plant material used, measurements/proportions, steeping time, and suggestions on compounding with other herbs, such as Chamomile and Linden to enhance its relaxing qualities.

Potent Lemon Balm Infusion

As shown above in the video.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 0.5 – 1 oz dried herb (cut/sifted or whole dried leaves)
  • 1 qt canning jar with tight fitting lid
  • 1 qt hot water (just off the boil)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Bring a teapot of filtered water to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  • Measure between 0.5 oz and 1 oz of the dried lemon balm and place it in the canning jar.
  • Pour the hot water over the herbs, filling it to the tippy top.
  • Place the lid on the jar and close tightly – don’t let those volatile oils escape!
  • Let it steep for at least 30 minutes.
  • Strain and drink 1 – 8 oz cup of lemon balm infusion 2 to 3 times a day.

CAUTIONS:

  • With any new food or medicine, go slowly, learn, and discuss using it with your healthcare provider.

BONUS!

Want three other delicious lemon balm infusion recipes? CLICK HERE for Rosalee De La Forêt’s “Three Ways to Make Lemon Balm Tea” recipe cards!

Horticultural Information

Lemon balm does well as a potted plant,. It is recommended that the pot be between 15″ to 18″. Mine picked up a friend this year and is happily growing alongside a new neighbor that just showed up – Anise hyssop. Both are happily sharing the same pot in my south eastern facing steps. If you are going to grow it in a pot, consider leaving it in a sunny spot over the winter. Indoors, it will probably fall victim to those dreaded spider mites. I am in Zone 7b and mine has overwintered just fine outside for three years now.

It is a member of the mint family, so it will spread if direct planted in the soil. It prefers well-drained loamy soil with a pH level between 4.5 and 7.6, but will grow in most conditions. The bulk of my lemon balm plants are in my back garden bed where the soil has a higher ratio of sand (I supplement with compost). It can grow 2′ to 3′ high and will produce little white flowers if left to go to seed.

New USDA Hardiness Zone(s), as of 2023: 4-9

New USDA Hardiness Zone Map as of 2023
New USDA Hardiness Zones as of 2023

Materia Magicka

Folklore says that Lemon balm and the mint family equates with wisdom, virtue, and abundance. Lemon balm is associated with the emotional self and the divine feminine. According to The Herb Society Of America,

Lemon balm has been associated with the feminine, the moon, and water, and was considered a sacred herb in the temple of the Ancient Roman goddess Diana. According to magical folklore, the herb has powers of healing, success, and love, and can be made into healing incense and sachets or carried to help the bearer find love.

Use her in your healing spells & rituals for those suffering from mental or nervous disorders, and those needing to counteract moodiness and melancholy.

  • healing spells
  • love spells
  • strength spells

Below is some of the symbolism associated with Lemon Balm.

Planets: Constellations:
 ♃ Jupiter   ♋️ Cancer
Element: Chakra:
  🜄 Water   Heart Chakra
Deities: Tarot:
  Welsh: Rhiannon
  Roman: Diana
  Greek: Zeus
  Egyptian: Thoth
  Major Arcana: XVIII The Moon
  (The Herbal Tarot)
Lemon Balm heart chakra

Self-Love Spell with Lemon Balm

This spell suggests* that you find a quiet space where you will be undisturbed. Make sure it is an area that will not set off smoke detectors, as this will involve smoke from your incense – more than a stick you’d buy at the store. Create your sacred space, whether it is setting up an altar, lighting a candle, or calling the quarters and setting a sacred circle. Your way is yours and nothing is “right” or “wrong.”

*Please note that all spells you read (including this one) should be considered a guide, as your intuition and intention are the power behind them. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Teapot
  • 9 oz filtered water
  • 1 pint Mason/canning jar with lid and ring
  • Strainer
  • Tea cup
  • 2 oz dried lemon balm leaves
  • Mortar & Pestle
    • If you don’t have one, you can use a bowl and a rock, or just your fingers (they’ll smell wonderful!)
  • Incense charcoal disc
  • Resin powder of your choice (I like peach, as peach is one with the heart)
    • If you can’t make or find peach resin, you can use others, such as copal, frankincense, or dragon’s blood. Remember, this is your spell.
  • Fireproof holder for loose herb incense
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Journal (optional)

Directions For Lemon Balm Infusion:

  • Put the filtered water in your teapot. When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
  • Add 1 oz of the dried lemon balm leaves to your 1 pt canning jar.
  • Pour your hot water over the herbs and fill the jar to the top. Seal the jar with your lid and ring. 
  • Let it steep for no less than 15 minutes. 

As you are going through the process of making your infusion, think about what you want for yourself. What dreams would you like to manifest? How will you honor the person that is you? 

While the infusion is steeping, you’ll work on the next part.

Directions for Lemon Balm Incense:

  • Holding on to those manifestations, dreams, and affirmations above, really focus them into these next steps.
  • Put the other 1 oz of dried herb in your mortar & pestle. Grind the herb until it is a fine powder, thinking hard about your intentions.
    • If you don’t have one, you can use a bowl and your fingers. Pinch the dried herb between your fingers over and over until it is as fine a powder as you can get it. Do not worry if it is a bit lumpy. This is your spell – you make the rules.
  • Mix a bit of resin with the powdered lemon balm.
  • Place the incense charcoal disc into the fireproof holder and put a good pinch of the dried herb and resin mix on top. 

When your infusion is ready, strain off the herbs and pour yourself a cup of lemon balm tea, imagining all the while that you are the cup and the tea is your intentions pouring into you. Light your incense and sip your tea.

Now envision that the smoke you inhale and tea you drink are filling your soul with all that intended energy. As the steam rises from your cup and smoke rises from the burner, envision that you are sharing your positivity and love into the universe – out to those who might also benefit.

Enjoy your moment for as long as it feels right. If you want to journal, it is a perfect time to do so while sipping your tea and inhaling your incense. Take the thoughts from your head and put them to paper, making your manifestations even stronger.

When you are done, close your sacred space, then take the used herbs from your tea and the ashes from your incense outside as a gift to Mother Nature to show gratitude for everything she offers us. 

✨💖 ✨ Blessed Be. ✨💖 ✨

References

The following sources were used to research the above information. 

  • https://www.herbsociety.org/file_download/inline/d7d790e9-c19e-4a40-93b0-8f4b45a644f1 
  • https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/lemon-balm-uses-and-recipes 
  • https://mountainroseherbs.com/lemon-balm 
  • https://goldenpoppyherbs.com/working-with-the-heart-chakra/
  • https://www.avogel.com/plant-encyclopaedia/melissa_officinalis.php 
  • https://www.laboratoirealtho.fr/en/lemon-balm-organic
  • https://wallflowerstudiogarden.com/2019/03/24/lemon-balm/  
  • https://typeset.io/pdf/plant-lore-legends-and-lyrics-embracing-the-myths-traditions-11azy4rizu.pdf
  • https://greg.app/lemon-balm-benefits