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Lemon Balm by Jane Chitty[/caption]
Lemon balm must be one of the most satisfying herbs to grow. It looks pretty, it smells good and it has a whole host of uses and health benefits.
Mine is growing very happily in a large terracotta pot in the herb corner of my courtyard garden - as you can see from the photo!
If you rub the leaves, which look like mint leaves and range from yellowish green to dark green in color, your hands will smell fresh and lemony.
Some of the reasons why you need a lemon balm herb in your life!
Native to the East Mediterranean region and West Asia and a member of the mint family of herbs, it has been used for centuries for its many therapeutic properties and comes ready packed with antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic and antidepressant compounds.
- Lemon balm is a calming herb, helping to promote improved sleeping patterns. Make a tea from the leaves and drink the liquid thirty to sixty minutes before bedtime to reap optimal benefits.
- To reduce stress and anxiety. Finely chop the leaves and then boil them in water. After several minutes, strain the liquid before cooling and sipping. Or if you rub the freshly picked leaves on your skin, the oil will seep out and into the bloodstream to produce a relaxing effect and soothe aching muscles.
- Use to treat insect stings and bites. Lemon balm is also a natural and safe insect repellent with its high levels of a compound called citronellal, giving the herb its lemony aroma and flavor which insects dislike. There is an age old tradition among gardeners to rub the leaves of lemon balm on their skin to keep mosquitoes and other unwelcome insects from biting. Just crush the fresh leaves and rub them directly on your skin, especially around the ankles, arms and other areas most exposed and vulnerable to bug bites. Another method is to combine with some olive oil to make it easier to spread. Safe for both adults and children.
Boosting the brain. The natural compounds in the leaves are said to boost alertness and energy and can be especially beneficial when one needs to concentrate for a big exam or work project. Plus research has also found improved problem-solving and memory in those who consume lemon balm - whatever your age. For these benefits, the leaves should be dried before consuming or taken in a supplement format.
- Researchers also believe that dried lemon balm could be used as a helpful addition to conventional treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that lemon balm's positive effects on memory could be due to its powerful antioxidant known as eugenol.
- Improve those blood sugar levels with the help of lemon balm which is high in antioxidants that can keep the body's cells safe from free radical damage.
Soothe sunburn. With its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, lemon balm can help to calm, soothe and heal the skin, particularly sunburn. Two of its compounds (caffeic acid and ferulic acid) are believed to penetrate through the top layers into the deeper cutaneous layers of the skin and provide protection against UV radiation-induced skin damage.
Growing and harvesting your own lemon balm
Plant as many plants as you can in a sunny spot that preferably gets some shade during the day. Grow from seed or from a shoot of lemon balm placed in a glass of water (changed every day) until you see the roots forming. Lemon balm prefers moist, well-drained soil with the occasional treat of some organic fertiliser every couple of months. As soon as the plant is big enough, you can start to harvest the leaves and stems.
If you grow plenty of lemon balm in your back yard and allow some of it to flower, the bees will love you for it.