Of all the herbs in my garden, one that I was exceptionally excited about growing was lemon balm; Melissa officinalis. The similarity of the genus name to my name was possibly an influence on my welcoming approach to the herb, but so was the scent. Refreshing and, well, lemon-y.
The genus name, Melissa, means “honey bee” from its Greek origin. Lemon balm has historically and mythically been associated with honey, bees, and hives. It is also true that bees love lemon balm, and that it attracts these wonderful pollinators to gardens.
I’ve been feeling drawn to bees lately, after spending more time in gardens and outside. Several years ago, I purchased a gold pin that is a casting of a honeybee. It’s nothing fancy, just a little fashionable touch to a scarf or lapel, but it’s been begging to come out of my jewelry box and looked at more closely.
Lemon balm is similar to its relatives in the mint family in regards to growth – robust and quick. The leaves of lemon balm are rounded with a serrated edge, and release their characteristic scent if you gently run your hand over the plant.
I was drawn first to lemon balm when I learned that it can be used as a “mood brightener” and that it is also mildly sedative. The calming and anti-depressant properties that it has could be of use if you just need a little boost sometimes. I definitely do, and I felt excited that I could grow the herb in my own garden to have on hand anytime I want. I have crushed the fresh leaves just slightly to release the oils and then placed them in my tea, and I have also made a tincture with the leaves. I personally prefer the tincture for its strength, and because I can also add it to cold drinks (or even just a glass of water) and still reap the benefits. After just a few days of using the tincture, I’m noticing a difference in myself, or at the very least, in my own mind.
My admiration for lemon balm has caused me to want to grow and nurture a much larger quantity of the plant. In the long run, I am interested in offering this tincture to others. It takes so much plant material to make this product – imagine stuffing a tiny 4oz. quilted jar as full of herb as possible, and then attempting to fill the container with liquid. That’s how you make a tincture! The final yield, however, is much less than what is started with.
For me, the process of making my lemon balm tincture was magickal and gentle. Talking to the plant, nurturing it with water to make it strong, and harvesting according to the moon is what lemon balm called me to do. And I believe that cultivating that relationship with the herb is what makes the tincture I made even better for me. I am continuing to tend to the plant so that I may harvest as much as possible before winter hits us.
If you’re interested in learning more about lemon balm, check out this link here.