Aromatic plants

Lemon balm plant

Lemon balm, medicinal plant

As a medicinal plant, lemon balm was already appreciated by Greeks and Romans, although there are few traces of it in manuscripts; in the tenth century, the Arabs considered it a good tonic, capable of dissipating sadness and discontent; in the late Middle Ages, then, it began to be widely used as a tonic and as a sedative in hysterical attacks and convulsions; moreover, with it the miraculous “water of Melissa of the Discalced Carmelites” was produced. In herbal medicine, the infusion of lemon balm is used as a tonic for the skin of the face and to rinse the hair, especially if it is oily; the decoction made with its leaves, on the other hand, can be added to the bath water to tone the body. Also, freshly picked lemon balm leaves offer relief from insect bites when applied to the affected area.

Lemon balm, medicinal plant

As a medicinal plant, lemon balm is appreciated above all for the essential oil, which is extracted from its leaves and which gives it the characteristic lemon aroma; this oil is used in the treatment of anxiety states with gastrointestinal somatization; moreover, it has an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory action, which makes it ideal against menstrual pain, neuralgia, nausea and colitis, and acts as a calming on the nervous system and relaxing on the muscular one. In the form of an infusion, then, lemon balm is particularly suitable as a digestive or in the presence of irritability and insomnia caused by fatigue or nervousness. As for external use, lemon balm has healing, astringent and antimicrobial properties and its fresh leaf extract performs antiviral activity against herpes simplex.

Lemon balm, aromatic plant

As an aromatic plant, lemon balm is appreciated in cooking for its pleasant aroma and the lemon flavor it attributes to dishes; however, it must not be used in excessive quantities, to avoid covering the original flavor of the foods at the base of the different dishes. In the culinary field, fresh lemon balm leaves are used to flavor salads, soups, sauces for fish, jams and desserts. Furthermore, the extract is also used in the preparation of alcoholic beverages, such as some liqueurs, and to flavor vinegar.If intended for use in the kitchen, lemon balm leaves should always be picked before flowering, when they are more fragrant, and used fresh, as dried they lose most of their aromatic properties.

Lemon balm plant: The lemon balm plant: properties

As already mentioned, lemon balm has above all calming and sedative properties, thanks to the action of some flavonoids contained in it, which perform an activity similar to that of benzodiazepines. More generally, it can be said that its properties are aromatizing, digestive, choleretic and antispasmodic; moreover, it has a tonic and stimulating action on the organism. However, there are some contraindications to taking derivatives from lemon balm: first of all, an excessive dosage can cause states of anxiety and / or agitation; moreover, the use of lemon balm is not recommended in the presence of glaucoma, as in some cases an increase in intraocular pressure has been found, and hypothyroidism, especially when following a therapy based on thyroid hormones, given that phenomena have occurred of interference.

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