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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lemon Balm: Melissa officinalis

Lemon Balm, or Melissa is in the mint (Lamiaceae) family. The mint family holds a treasure of plants, well beyond the typical mint sprig used to adorn your dessert or tea (although those mints hold great benefits, as well). Once you delve into the world of mints, you soon realize how different our culinary and preventative health world would be without them.

Melissa is one of my favorites. I love this plant; although, I must confess when I first purchased it years ago, I hardly knew how to use it! I just loved the fragrance and beauty of the plant. Now that I know more about Melissa, I get excited at the numerous ways I could use this plant in the kitchen as well as in my health and beauty treatments.

When I'm outside gardening and get bitten by a mosquito, I instantly reach for the leaves of Melissa. I gently bite them with my front teeth to release the oils and quickly rub the leaves on the bite. I've never had anything else work so fast at taking away the irritation and itch of a mosquito bite as I have had with this plant.

The leaves have essential oils containing citral, citronellal, geraniol, and linalol. Smelling the leaves has been an herbal remedy for anxiety. It has anti-depressive qualities. This plant is an anti-spasmodic; good for digestive issues such as flatulance and spasms.

In researching a cooking recipe, I stumbled upon this recipe for a cleansing milk for the face. This cleansing milk is specific for troubled skin and acne.

Cleansing Milk for Acne:
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt (yogurt has alpha hydroxy acids, which is good for the face)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon dried Melissa (lemon balm calms inflammation)
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (lavender flowers also calm inflammation)
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves (thyme helps fight bacteria and is an antimicrobial)

Mix all together in a jar and steep in the refrigerator overnight. Next day, strain our the herb and pour the "milk" into a new container. This keeps in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. To use, dampen your face with warm water and then apply the milk much as you would a toner. Use a couple times then rinse.

More about the fabulous ways we can use Melissa in another post. All for now though... must finish unpacking my bags from a trip we took to the coast. We visited great friends and made new ones. I did feel guilty about not updating my blog, though! Glad to be back in the hill country herb world researching new ways to use our plant friends.

References: The Herb Companion & David Hoffman's "The New Holistic Herbal".

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