(Melissa officinalis var. ‘Lemon Balm’)
Lemon Balm is perennial herb that is native to the Southern Europe but can be commonly found growing throughout the northwestern, south central, and eastern United States. At maturity, this plant reaches the height of 2' and features 3” oval, medium green, wrinkled, lemon scented leaves, and tiny white flowers that have two lips. This plant can be grown in a container, attracts bees, birds, butterflies, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and tachinid flies, repels ants and flies, is resistant to deer, tolerates drought, is used to make essential oils and potpourri, self sows, and is also both edible and medicinal!
Variety: Lemon Balm
Also Known As: Common Balm, Garden Balm, Melissa, Heart's Delight, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm, Bee's Leaf, Honey Plant.
Native to: Albania, Algeria, Baleares, Bulgaria, Corse, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., France, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kirgizstan, Kriti, Lebanon-Syria, Morocco, North Caucasus, Palestine, Portugal, Sardegna, Sicilia, Spain, Tadzhikistan, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia.
Introduced into: Alabama, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Arkansas, Austria, Azores, Belgium, British Columbia, California, Canary Is., Chile Central, Connecticut, Czechoslovakia, Delaware, Denmark, District of Columbia, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Ireland, Juan Fernández Is., Kansas, Kentucky, Krym, Louisiana, Madeira, Maine, Manitoba, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Netherlands, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Poland, Québec, Rhode I., Romania, South Carolina, South European Russi, Sweden, Switzerland, Tennessee, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Siberia, West Virginia.
Ease of Growing: Easy
Grown as: Perennial
Maturity: June to August
Light: Partial shade, but can grow in full sun
Soil: Prefers well drained or sandy soil
Water: Water regularly, but do not over water.
Attracts Beneficial Insects: Yes. Lemon balm attracts bees, birds, and butterflies.
Container: Yes. Lemon balm grows well in containers. Unless you're looking to grow an enormous lemon balm plant, there's really no need for large containers. Lemon balm will happily grow in containers as small as a half gallon! By growing in small containers, you'll be able to prune and maintain your plant much easier. See "Container" tab for more info.
Sow Depth: On soil surface
USDA Zone: 4-9
Produces: 3” oval, medium green, wrinkled, lemon scented leaves, and tiny white flowers that have two lips.
Garden Uses: Herb gardens. Border fronts. Naturalize as a ground cover in informal areas.
Companions: Interplant with broccoli, cauliflower, and the other cabbage family crops. Grow lemon balm as a hedge around the orchard to attract bees for better pollination. Add to an ornamental border or plant with roses.
Enemies: None known.
Health Benefits of Lemon Balm Essential Oils
Cordial: This means that it invokes warm feelings and provides actual warmth to the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. One can avoid frequent colds with the help of this property.
Nervine: Melissa essential oil is also considered a Nervine substance. This means that it serves as a tonic for the nervous system, keeping it healthy, functioning properly and helping to avoid nervous disorders. Problems like vertigo, nervousness, and convulsions can be treated using this property of Melissa essential oil.
Sedative: This essential oil sedates and soothes. It is good for calming inflammation, anxiety, nervousness, trauma and shock. It also promotes sleep due to this property. It relaxes the body, mind and soul while bringing feelings of peace and contentment. In the past, it was used to help soldiers relax and drive away the fatigue and stress of combat.
Antispasmodic: An unexplainable or excessive contraction in the body is called a spasm. Spasms can occur within the respiratory, muscular, nervous and digestive systems and can lead to severe coughs, muscular cramps, convulsions, shortness of breath and severe abdominal pains. Spasms should be taken very seriously, since in extreme cases they may be lethal. The essential oil of Melissa, being an effective sedative and relaxant, can give fast relief from spasms in all parts of the body.
Stomachic: Something that soothes the stomach, tones it up, and strengthens it is called a stomachic. Melissa oil, being a stomachic, helps in the smooth functioning of the stomach and the digestive process. It helps heal any wounds, scratches or ulcers in the stomach, maintains proper flow of gastric juices and bile into the stomach, and also protects it from infections.
Carminative: Gases that build up in the intestines are forced out by this oil. It is very effective in expelling gases by reducing the tension in the abdominal muscles and reliving things like bloating and cramping.
Antibacterial: Melissa oil has antibacterial properties and has been found to be effective for inhibiting bacterial infections in the colon, intestines, urinary tract and kidneys.
Diaphoretic & Sudorific: Both the words Diaphoretic and Sudorific mean the same thing. That is, they both describe an agent that promotes sweating or perspiration. Melissa oil has these properties as well. These properties are very beneficial to health since along with the sweat, a lot of toxins are removed and the pores on skin are cleaned so that some harmful gases like Nitrogen may escape. This is called helping the skin “breathe”; perhaps you didn’t know that not all gases are formed in the stomach. Perspiration also cools your body down when it is overheated.
Febrifuge: Being an antibacterial, melissa essential oil fights against bacterial or microbial infections in the body, including those that cause fever. Again, since it has sudorific properties, it helps to reduce body temperature and removes the toxins produced during fever, through the process of sweating.
Hypotensive: This is something which may be of immense benefit for hypertensive people who run the risk of heart attack or brain hemorrhage whenever their blood pressure goes up. Melissa oil, being hypotensive in nature, brings down the blood pressure.
Tonic: A tonic is meant for all around benefits for the health of your body. A tonic keeps everything in order, makes sure that all the systems function properly, boosts immunity and gives added strength. Melissa oil has certain components in it which do exactly this.
Emmenagogue: Many problems related to menstruation and Post Menstrual Syndrome can be treated with the help of Melissa oil. These include problems like obstructed menses, irregular menses, pain and extreme fatigue during periods, untimely menopause, annoyance, and depression after menopause.
Other Benefits: This oil is also found effective in the treatment of Herpes, sores, ulcers, fungal infections, headaches, and fatigue. It also boosts memory.
A Few Words of Caution: It is non-toxic, but may cause irritations or sensations for sensitive people. Therefore, pregnant women and those who have sensitive skin should avoid using this essential oil.
Blending: This oil blends very nicely with Basil, Frankincense, Geranium, Chamomile, Rose, Lavender and Ylang-Ylang oils.
Planting Lemon Balm: Once the threat of frost has passed, it's time to plant outdoors. Fill your container with soil and dig a hole in the center that's large enough to fit the roots of the plant. Remove the lemon balm from the small container it was growing in at the nursery, and begin to gently break apart any large clumps of roots. If any roots look damaged or tangled, trim them off. Plant the lemon balm into the container, cover any exposed roots with soil, and water in well.
Watering: As with most mint plants, lemon balm prefers the soil to be thoroughly moist, but not soggy. I recommend watering deeply every other two days, or once the top two inches of soil becomes dry. You may need to increase the frequency of watering if your lemon balm plants begin to droop or have leaves drying out.
Spent Coffee Grounds: Lemon balm will grow the entire season without a need for fertilizers, but an extra little boost here and there surely won't hurt! For this, I like to use spent coffee grounds. By spreading a couple tablespoons around the base of each plant, you'll help to maintain a slightly acidic soil pH, and also feed the plants with a small amount of essential nitrogen. This process can be done two to three times throughout the growing season.
Harvesting: The foliage of lemon balm can be harvested at any point during the season. You can trim off a little at a time, or trim back a large plant to just a few growing shoots. No matter how much is harvested, lemon balm will continue to grow. As essential oils within the leaves degrades rapidly, they should be used or frozen immediately.
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Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield (Heirloom) (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)
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Cabbage: Late Flat Dutch (Heirloom) (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)
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Cabbage is considered one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, since historians trace it back to 4,000 BC in China. The Romans also cultivated it and praised it for its healing qualities; philosophers Pythagoras and Cato both made the lowly cabbage the subject of a book. Jacques Cartier brought the first cabbage to America in 1536. Cabbages were quite popular in colonial America, being pickled and preserved in every possible way to provide food for the winter.