Herbal lore

Melissa - Balm for the heart and stomach

The medicinal plant Melissa has a gentle calming effect on a stressed nervous system by gladdening the heart, lifting the spirit and creating a pleasant feeling in the stomach.

Melisse gross

Melissa, also known as lemon balm, has a lemon-like warm fragrance which attracts swarms of bees. It is therefore said that it got its name "melissa" since it is a popular source of food for bees, derived from the Greek "melissa" or "melitta" (bee) and "meli" (honey). To this day, beekeepers still like to plant it in front of hives in order to ensure a rich crop of honey. Another explanation is based on the name "lemon balm" which means "meliteia" in Greek. The bees are not the only ones which benefit from the extensive riches of melissa: plant collectors also appreciate its prolific growth. Its leaves can be harvested up to three times a year if they are picked shortly before the flowers form. The taste becomes bitter and astringent afterwards.

Most effective when fresh

In her work "Physica", Saint Hildegard of Bingen described melissa as a herb which has the combined effect of fifteen herbs. She recommended taking it to strengthen the heart and the spleen, and in order to bring cheerfulness and joy into your life. Paracelsus considered melissa to be the best thing for the heart of all natural produce. Melissa was also called "heart herb" or "heart comforter", because it comforts the heart, strengthens vitality and eliminates melancholia.

Moreover, the following statement is attributed to ancient herbalists: "Take melissa if you are heavy-hearted, have low vitality, a knotted stomach or tired eyes." The nun, Maria Clementine Martin, immortalised this incredible effect of melissa by inventing the famous "Klosterfrau Melissengeist" (nun's melissa spirit) in 1775.

Melissa has a calming effect when nervous tension plays havoc with the heart, stomach and mood. It relaxes your stressed heart if you are unable to sleep because of it, soothes your stomach and thus is effective in case of a lack of appetite. The medicinal herb alleviates flatulence, aids digestion, slightly raises blood pressure if it is too low and gets rid of a melancholic mood.

However, melissa also warms the pelvic region, arouses desire and gently relieves menstrual pain which is caused by too hectic a pace in daily life. When applied externally, a cream containing melissa extract prevents the spread of cold sores. It should be applied as soon as the first signs appear. This enables its ingredients to prevent the spread of viruses in good time and stop the dreaded cold sores from forming.

Melissa works best when freshly prepared. The tea can be drunk twice to three times a day after meals. While the tea is steeping, it is essential to cover the cup so that the essential oil cannot escape. Those suffering from severe ailments can choose from a fresh plant tincture, a spagyric essence and essential oil. A six-week course of treatment lifts the heart and soothes the stomach.

Characteristics

Family
Lamiaceae

Appearance
Melissa is a bushy subshrub which lignifies in the bottom section and grows up to 90 cm tall. The white flowers sit in the leaf axils and surround the stem. Before the plant flowers, the heart-shaped leaves give off a lemon-like fragrance and then its flavour becomes sharp and bitter. The square stems only branch out after withering.

Location
Sunny to partially shady with protection from the wind if possible. Prefers nutrient-rich, sandy clay soil or clayey sandy soil. Mineral-bearing compost aids cultivation. It is important to have porous soil.

Botanical classification
Hardy perennial

Flowering season
June to August

Use
The leaves are collected before flowering from June to July. Only harvest the leaves if the stems have not branched out yet.