Native to European mainland, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), is now grown all over the world. It is an easy to care for perennial herb that is part of the mint family. It is sometimes referred to as lemon mint. It has no relation to the citrus fruit lemon or any part of the lemon tree. It often grows to about 2 feet tall and has light green heart shaped leaves. In the summer it has blooms of small white flowers, but it is most often grown for its lemon scented and flavorful leaves.

The lemon balm leaves have a very pleasant lemon, minty taste. The leaves are dried and used in a wide variety of herbal teas and spices. They can also be used fresh and add great flavor to marinades for chicken and fish. Lemon balm leaves also make a very attractive and edible garnish.

You will also see lemon balm leaves used in natural cosmetics. Lemon balm leaves have a strong anti-viral and anti bacterial property. Lemon balm contains substances called tannins, which are thought to aid in many of the antiviral benefits. Because of these medicinal qualities it is commonly mixed into lotions to treat skin lesions formed as a result of infections like herpes simplex. In a study of 116 people with herpes simplex virus, those who used lemon balm cream on their lip sores experienced significant improvement in redness and swelling after only 2 days of use. Since it is extremely soothing, it also helps ease skin inflammations caused by insect bites, poison ivy and oak, and is used to heal cold sores.

It is believed that the Arabs first began to use lemon balm for its medicinal properties as far back as the middle ages. They found it very useful for treating stress, anxiety and depression. Several modern studies have found that lemon balm is useful for promoting quality sleep. These studies show that it is particularly effective when it is combined with other natural sleep aids such as valerian root, hops, L-theanine, melatonin, passion flower and magnesium. In one study of people with insomnia, those who took a combination of valerian root and lemon balm reported sleeping much better than those who took a placebo.

Similar findings have been found in studies using lemon balm for anxiety. In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 18 volunteers took two separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract or placebo for 7 days. The lemon balm study group reported less stress, anxiety, and a much better overall sense of well being. The placebo group was still burdened with anxiety. Just like using lemon balm for sleeping problems it seems to be most effective when combined with other relaxing herbs such as passion flower and valerian.

Author's Bio: 

David Oromaner is a vitamin, herb, and nutritional supplement specialist with over 25 years experience in the health and wellness industry. He is a certified personal fitness trainer and bodybuilder with 25 years of experience in these areas of health and fitness. He owns a company called Guaranteed Supplement Designs that specializes in development and distribution of cutting edge natural products such as the natural sleep aid GuaranteedToSleep.

If you like this article you can read more at his Healthy Notes blog.