Earthsong Organic Lemon Balm 150 seeds

Melissa officinalis

Carefully selected collection of medicinal seeds for you to create your very own herb garden.

Ahh, for Melissa. Never has such a sweet smell been breathed. Well we love it and so do the bees; so much so that its named after them, as ‘mel’ is the Greek for honey and ‘melissa’ for bee.

Such a welcome flush of lush green pops up in the spring bringing with her these delicate, aromatic leaves. Deemed as ’the elexir of life’ by Paracelsus, the 16th century Swiss physician, lemon balm has long been associated with the nervous system and its gentle, mood-lifting effect. It is also known to relax the digestive system, especially issues caused by agitated nerves.

Although native to more southern parts of Europe, it is a very hardy plant and does well in our British climate. It can grow in full sunshine or partial shade. It prefers well-drained soils, but will tolerate most soils types.

The Earthsong Seed Nursery is in the South-West of the UK & are in the process of officially converting to organic with the Soil Association.

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Description

Lemon balm is one of those herbs that loses its potency when dried; the best way to enjoy its benefits is straight from the garden into your tea cup: sit back, smell the aromas and listen to the bees.

For best results, sow indoors in spring. We normally sow ours sometime in mid-March. Scatter the seeds on the surface (or carefully place in plug trays), cover with a very thin layer of soil and tamp down. It can take several weeks to germinate so be patient and keep the soil moist.

Lemon balm is susceptible to frost damage, especially when young, so avoid planting out until you are confident that last frost has been and gone. Or – if you do plant out early – keep an eye on the weather forecast and cover the plants with fleece if there is a risk of overnight frost.

Lemon balm grows widely in gardens and makes a great plant for anyone to grow themselves, even in a window box. Look out for its characteristic light green leaves: picking and sniffing a leaf will tell you immediately you have the right plant. There is that wonderful aromatic lemony aroma. Chew a piece and the bright, citrusy taste comes through straightaway: the strong aromatic lemon flavour is combined with subtle hints of mint; the slight lemon acidity and tannic astringency combined with a real sweetness.

High in the renowned rosmarinic acid also found in tulsi, sage and, of course, rosemary. It is thought to enhance the volume of the GABA neurotransmitter making more available for inducing calm. The bee-attracting essential oils, replicating the nasonov pheromone given off by bees to help orient the worker bees back to the colony, have well-studied effects on the oral herpes virus. Some of these oils are familiar sounding frangrances; geranial and neral, b-caryophyllene, linalool, geraniol, nerol, citronellal further contributing to the digestive and calming effects too. And just to expoand its complexity it also creates tannins, flavonoids (principally luteolin derivatives and apigenin) and triterpenes (ursolic and oleanolic acid).

So, lemon balm is a digestive with carminative properties and is indicated in flatulence, dyspepsia, spasms and generalised indigestion; particularly where this is exacerbated by anxiety and stress. Especially so for children, who may prefer the taste to chamomile.

It is a gentle circulatory tonic that dilates the peripheral blood vessels, lowers high blood pressure and relieves stress-related symptoms such as palpitations or angina.

This relaxant effect has also been useful where stress affects the chest and heart, with symptoms like palpitations and hyperventilation: these in turn may be associated with acid reflux, hiatus hernia, associated symptoms that can arise when the digestion is stressed.

Lemon balm tea also has a gentle lifting effect that can be very comforting in low moods. In Germany it has long been seen as particularly active on the central nervous system. Modern research supports this view.

Melissa essential oil, or highly concentrated extracts have demonstrated benefits in relieving the symptoms of oral herpes infections or cold sores. However this effect is unlikely to be found with the herb on its own.

Elusive on many levels, the healing-gold of Melissa is hard to capture; it has tiny levels of essential oils (hence the expense), it loses much of its delightful smell on drying, and doesn’t fare much better as a tincture. But….with care and attention you can harness her delicate aromas and caring balm.

Harvest the bright Spring leaves before it flowers. This is when the stems are tender and before they become woody.

Cut into small sections at the stems and lay them out evenly on drying racks. Dry at a low temperature of around 35C overnight and store in an airtight container.

For a relaxing cup of tea, use 1-2 tsp of the dried herb in a cup off boiled water.

Make a fresh tincture with 50% alcohol.

Or you can make Melissa’s herbal honey.

For making an aromatic water, distill away.

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