Lemon balm, the sacred herb from the temples of Diana, was used medicinally by the Greeks two thousand years ago. An old legend tells that the gods were so careful with this plant that they had it protected by snakes. Picking the plant was only possible after playing a special melody that intoxicated the animals.
Melissa and the bees
The herb has traditionally been praised for its magical attraction to bees. Pliny claims that swarming bees find their way home if there is Lemon Balm in the garden. Honey must have meant much more to people of the past than it did to us. The Bible speaks of ‘The promised land’, the land flowing with milk and honey’. People 10,000 years ago would also have noticed the extraordinary attraction Lemon Balm had on bees. Undoubtedly, Melisse was therefore held in high esteem. We can hardly imagine how important they thought that was. The oldest names in all languages refer to honey or bees. The Romans placed sprigs of Lemon Balm in the beehives to prevent the bees from swarming. According to an old folk belief, bees would not leave the hive if there was Lemon Balm in the garden. Beekeepers, unwilling to let their new bee swarms fly away, rubbed their hives with balm sprigs; then the bees stayed at home. Empty beehives were rubbed with the plant to attract a new swarm. Melissa was planted around beehives to attract bees.
Dioscorides and Melissa
Dioscorides recommended covering wounds with a lemon balm liniment, which stopped the bleeding, reduced the risk of inflammation and made the wound heal better. Pliny came up with the idea for Melisse to tie a sword or smear it with one. This would allow the opponent’s injuries to heal faster!
In the past, people made wreaths of Lemon Balm and wore them around the head: it was thought that the smell and appearance of this herb was beneficial for the wearer, especially for the brain and memory.
Melissa originally grew in the East. The Arabs brought the plant to Spain and the Benedictine monks brought it to our region, where it was grown in monastery gardens. Nowadays it is grown everywhere on a small scale. From the early Middle Ages, the Carmelites and later the Carmelite nuns used Melissa for the preparation of the famous ‘Eau des Carmes’, which was used in every household as a remedy against all ailments. Melissa was part of the Balm of Azoth (the universal medicine ) consisting of Egyptian wine and the Elixir of Acharat that was used in rejuvenation treatments.
Lemon Balm was reputed to be one of the morning teas enjoyed in the 13th century by Llewelyn Prince of Glamorgan who lived to the age of 108, while John Hussey of Sydenham lived to the age of 116 after having breakfasted on Lemon Balm and honey for fifty years.
The Swiss physician Paracelsus called Melisse the ‘elixir of life’. He believed that the herb could restore a person to full life and this view was supported by the London Dispensay of 1696: “Lemon balm, if administered every morning, will make one younger, strengthen the mind, and cheer a languishing nature.” Paracelsus called Lemon Balm the elixir of life in a mixture with potassium carbonate known as ‘primum ens melissae’. This essence has been used for medical purposes since the late sixteenth century.
The famous Cagliostro, occultist at the end of the 18th century, used five herbs for rejuvenation treatments: Rue, Sage, Valerian, Vervain and Melissa.
Quotes from literature about Melisse
In older literature, the physical and the psychological (emotional ) heart are often linked together, as are the mind and the brain. The antispasmodic effect is extended into the brain (delusions, obsessive thoughts, uplifting and mentally relaxing effect, anxiety, jealousy, panic, etc.).
A person can indeed also experience mental cramps.
Avicenna: “…Lemon balm makes the heart content and joyful and strengthens the vital forces – drives out bad thoughts and melancholy from the mind – is good to help with indigestion and clear congestion in the brain – it is good for the liver and spleen .”
Hildegard von Bingen: “One tends to laugh when one eats it. Melissa makes me happy. Melissa combines the powers of 15 other herbs!”
Rembert Dodoens: “Melisse is drunk with wine / is good against the bites and stings of those vicious animals: It strengthens that heart and drives away that bad mood… it is good to look at and feel sorry for the women who are affected by the ascent from the mother.” The juice of the self is good in fresh wounds / because it heals and heals itself.”
Joseph Miller: “It is good for all disorders of the head and nerves; cheers the heart and cures palpitations; prevents fainting, melancholy, melancholy and hysterical disorders, prevents decay and is useful in malignant and contagious diseases.”
John Gerard: “…Lemon balm is good for the heart and a remedy for its diseases.”
Culpeper: “… It is a herb of Jupiter, and under Cancer, and strengthens nature well in all its actions. … Syrup of Melissa is a good remedy that provides relief to weak stomachs and sick bodies and that every good housewife in the house to meet the needs of his own family members, as well as of neighbors, friends and acquaintances.”
Seraphio: “…it cheers the mind and heart and awakens life in the heart – is good for fainting and swooning – drives away all the troublesome worries and thoughts arising from melancholy and black bile, especially if this happens during sleep .” (nightmares?)
Stephaan Blankaart: “It is therefore often used for sly brain congestion, fainting, fainting, heart attacks, mother maladies, sly stomach ailments, wind, sleep ailments, twinges of the baby, etc.” Bro. Aloysius: “Freshly bruised lemongrass, placed on the heart region , stops the palpitations.”
A. Dinand: “… has a gently stimulating and calming effect on mild nervous diseases and abdominal disorders due to insufficient nerve activity… strengthens the heart and brain, purifies the chest and puts an end to panting.” Juliette de Baïracli Levy: “… a remedy to
relieve gnawing pain in the intestines … against painful or delayed menstruation… to expel the afterbirth when it does not come naturally… to treat nervous disorders with including confused thinking and nightmares.”
Mellie Uyldert: “… strengthens the heart, calms the nervous system, gives sweet, beautiful dreams when taken with dinner. It makes people soft at heart. – Melisse binds the ‘vital body’ to the material and provides vital fluid.”
Melissa against melancholy
Its ability to dispel melancholy has been described by herbalists for centuries and today the herb is still used to reduce depression and for all kinds of disorders of nervous origin.
The properties that have been attributed to Lemon Balm for two thousand years have been confirmed mainly by practical experience, but also by recent scientific research. The latter also revealed a number of new and extremely interesting effects. The preparation of essential oil is not profitable, which makes its use very limited, even almost impossible. In addition, cultivation of Lemon Balm on a large scale is difficult due to the common occurrence of leaf spot rust. Through selection it should be possible to develop a variety with a much higher essential oil content and sufficient disease resistance. The herb is still very suitable as a gentle phytotransquillizer without toxic or other side effects and is therefore preferred over the ‘hard’ working chemical psychotropic drugs, especially in chronic conditions.