In North America, M. officinalis has escaped cultivation and spread into the wild.
Lemon balm seeds require light and at least 20°C (70°F) to germinate. Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively, as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. Lemon balm grows vigorously and should not be planted where it will spread into other plantings.
M. officinalis may be the "honey-leaf" (μελισσόφυλλον) mentioned by Theophrastus. It was in the herbal garden of John Gerard, 1596. The many cultivars of M. officinalis include:
M. officinalis 'Citronella'
M. officinalis 'Lemonella'
M. officinalis 'Quedlinburger'
M. officinalis 'Lime'
M. officinalis ‘Variegata’
M. officinalis ‘Aurea’
(M. officinalis ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ is an improved variety bred for high essential oil content.)
Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto. It might be a better, healthier preservative than butylated hydroxy anisole in sausages.
Uses in traditional and alternative medicine
Melissa (M. officinalis) essential oil
In the traditional Austrian medicine, M. officinalis leaves have been prescribed for internal (as tea) or external (essential oil) application for the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, liver, and bile.
Lemon balm is the main ingredient of Carmelite Water, which is still for sale in German pharmacies.
High doses of purified lemon balm extracts were found to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects, producing "significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness." The authors further report a "significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy" following the administration of a 300-mg dose of extract.
Lemon balm is believed to inhibit the absorption of the thyroid medication thyroxine.
The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a mosquito repellent.
Lemon balm is also used medicinally as an herbal tea, or in extract form. It is used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative, or calming agent.[medical citation needed] At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study's authors call for further research. Lemon balm extract was identified as a potent in vitro inhibitor of GABA transaminase, which explains anxiolytic effects. The major compound responsible for GABA transaminase inhibition activity in lemon balm was then found to be rosmarinic acid.
Its antibacterial properties have also been demonstrated scientifically, although they are markedly weaker than those from a number of other plants studied. The extract of lemon balm was also found to have exceptionally high antioxidant activity.
Lemon balm is mentioned in the scientific journal Endocrinology, where it is explained that Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism.
^Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, VI.1.4, identified as "M. officinalis" in the index of the Loeb Classical Library edition by Arthur F. Hort, 1916 etc.
^As "Melissa" (Common Blam) in both issues of Gerard's Catalogus, 1596, 1599: Benjamin Daydon Jackson, A catalogue of plants cultivated in the garden of John Gerard, in the years 1596-1599, 1876;
^de Ciriano M.G.-I., Rehecho S., Calvo M.I., Cavero R.Y., Navarro I., Astiasarán I., Ansorena D.,"Effect of lyophilized water extracts of Melissa officinalis on the stability of algae and linseed oil-in-water emulsion to be used as a functional ingredient in meat products", Meat Science 2010 85:2 (373-377)
^Zeraatpishe A., Oryan S., Bagheri M.H., Pilevarian A.A., Malekirad A.A., Baeeri M., Abdollahi M. (2011). "Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on oxidative status and DNA damage in subjects exposed to long-term low-dose ionizing radiation". Toxicology and Industrial Health27 (3): 205–212. doi:10.1177/0748233710383889. PMID20858648.
^Jeong-Kyu KIM, Chang-Soo KANG, Jong-Kwon LEE, Young-Ran KIM, Hye-Yun HAN, Hwa Kyung YUN (2005). "Evaluation of Repellency Effect of Two Natural Aroma Mosquito Repellent Compounds, Citronella and Citronellal". Entomological Research35 (2): 117–120. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5967.2005.tb00146.x.
^Kennedy, D. O.; Little, W; Scholey, AB (2004). "Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)". Psychosomatic Medicine66 (4): 607–13. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000132877.72833.71. PMID15272110.
^Awad, Rosalie; Muhammad, Asim; Durst, Tony; Trudeau, Vance L.; Arnason, John T. (2009). "Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity". Phytotherapy Research23 (8): 1075–81. doi:10.1002/ptr.2712. PMID19165747.
^Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003). "Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties". Neuropsychopharmacology28 (10): 1871–81. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. PMID12888775.
^Chaiyana W., Okonogi S."Inhibition of cholinesterase by essential oil from food plant". Phytomedicine. 19 (8-9) (pp 836-839), 2012.
^Nascimento, Gislene G. F.; Locatelli, Juliana; Freitas, Paulo C.; Silva, Giuliana L. (2000). "Antibacterial activity of plant extracts and phytochemicals on antibiotic-resistant bacteria". Brazilian Journal of Microbiology31 (4): 247–56. doi:10.1590/S1517-83822000000400003.
^Dastmalchi, K; Damiendorman, H; Oinonen, P; Darwis, Y; Laakso, I; Hiltunen, R (2008). "Chemical composition and in vitro antioxidative activity of a lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) extract". LWT - Food Science and Technology41 (3): 391–400. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2007.03.007.
^Auf'mkolk, M.; Ingbar, J. C.; Kubota, K.; Amir, S. M.; Ingbar, S. H. (1985). "Extracts and Auto-Oxidized Constituents of Certain Plants Inhibit the Receptor-Binding and the Biological Activity of Graves' Immunoglobulins". Endocrinology116 (5): 1687–93. doi:10.1210/endo-116-5-1687. PMID2985357.