Herb - Lemon Balm
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Lemon balm new growth in the spring.
Melissa officinalis
Herb - Lemon Balm

Acquired: tbd
How started:

An herb that grow vigorously in my edible landscpae. Like other members of the mint family, lemon balm has white flowers full of nectar. Bees love it. The genus name Melissa is Greek for 'honey bee'. Its lemon flavor comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%).

What is it good for. I found many recipes for lemon balm pesto, but most used lemon juice and lemon zest. The one recipe I found using only lemon balm, garlic, olive oil and cheese said the medicinal taste was hard to give over. Stick to herb tea, it said. So a simple herb tea recipe is two parts lemon balm leaves to 2 parts hot water in a french press.

I thought of lemon balm as just another culinary herb. Recent scientific studies are finding extracts of lemon balm to have positive effects on the body. Lemon balm can be used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative or calming agent. At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study's authors call for further research (see the links). Lemon balm extract was identified as a potent inhibitor of GABA transaminase, which explains anxiolytic effects. The major compound responsible for GABA transaminase inhibition activity in lemon balm is rosmarinic acid. Lemon balm was also found to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects, producing "significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness" (see the links). The authors further report a "significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy" following the administration of a 300 mg dose.

Here is a more thorough breakdown of the components of lemon balm tea (see the links). The qualitative and quantitative composition of the main aromatic and polyphenolic constituents of the lemon balm infusion were examined and compared with those of the leaves before and after infusion. The dried lemon balm leaves originally contained 0.32% essential oil of which citral (neral + geranial) 0.13%, total polyphenol compounds 11.8% comprising total hydroxycinnamic compounds 11.3% (rosmarinic acid 4.1%) and total flavonoid compounds 0.5%. The tea contained 10 mg/l of essential oil (extraction yield 31%) with much more citral (74% of the essential oil). It also contained large amounts of polyphenol compounds (about 1.07 g/l) corresponding to a 93% extraction yield.

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