Native to Europe, lemon balm’s clusters of small, light yellow flowers grow all over the world. It is found in backyard herb gardens, in crops grown for medicine and cosmetics, and is used to scent candles and furniture polish. In the spring and summer, the flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem. If you rub your fingers on these leaves, your fingers will smell tart and sweet, like lemons. The leaves are similar in shape to mint leaves, and come from the same plant family.
As far back as the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, and to treat ailments such as toothaches, skin irritations, and sickness during pregnancy. As a medicinal plant, lemon balm is considered a calming herb that has traditionally been used to soothe menstrual cramps, reduce stress and anxiety, promote restful sleep, and ease gastrointestinal complaints (e.g., indigestion, gas, bloating, and colic). It is often combined with other herbs in teas or tinctures for relaxation, such as valerian and chamomile. In modern times it has been used to treat cold sores (oral herpes).
In Europe, lemon balm has been used for treating thyroid problems and has shown an ability to regulate thyroid hormone production. It has been used in the U.S. as a complementary treatment for Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive.
Lemon balm may be formulated as a tea, tincture, or cream/ointment. Herbs do interact with other medicines and should not be taken without consulting your wellness practitioner for appropriate dosing.