The word Balm is an abbreviation of Balsam, the chief of sweet-smelling oils. It is so called from its honeyed sweetness.
Lemon balm is the leaf of a perennial herb in the mint family native to the Mediterranean region, western Asia, southwestern Siberia, and northern Africa. It is widely naturalized in North America and elsewhere.
Lemon Balm as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the oil extracted by distillation, the dried leaves, the fresh leaves and the whole plant. Before flowering, the taste and smell is lemon-like, later becoming astringent to balm-like and warming.
Lemon balm's history dates back at least 2,000 years. In medieval Europe, the tea was valued for disorders of the nervous system. It has long been a popular folk remedy for insomnia.
Lemon balm was official in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia from 1840 to 1890. The German government currently allows preparations of lemon balm to be labeled for difficulty in falling asleep due to nervous conditions and for spasms of the digestive tract. In fact, a lemon balm salve is sold for relief of swollen or painful varicose veins, hemorrhoids, or rectal irritations, especially during pregnancy or postpartum plus cold sores and conditions related to herpes simplex.
Lemon balm has been used to reduce fevers, induce sweating, calm the digestive tract, treat colds, inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria, and relieve spasms related to cramps and headaches.
In folk medicine, the drug is utilized as decoctions of the flowering shoots for nervous complaints, lower abdominal disorders, meteorism, nervous gastric complaints, hysteria and melancholia, chronic bronchial catarrh, nervous palpitations, vomiting, migraine, nervous debility, headache and high blood pressure. It is used externally for rheumatism, nerve pains and stiff necks (compress).
Culinary Uses of Lemon Balm
The dried leaf is available for use as tea. Lemon balm is very popular as an ingredient in herb teas. The fresh leaves have a much stronger, more pleasant lemon flavor. And it's one of the main ingredients in liqueurs such as the French Benedictine and Chartreuse.
Drowsiness may occur. Anyone with a thyroid condition should first consult a physician concerning balm's thyrotropin-inhibiting effect.
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