Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Melissa officinalis

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Medicinal Action and Uses:

Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge. It induces a mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients in cases of catarrh and influenza. To make the tea, pour 1 pint of boiling water upon 1 oz. of herb, infuse 15 minutes, allow to cool, then strain and drink freely. If sugar and a little lemonpeel or juice be added it makes a refreshing summer drink. Balm is a useful herb, either alone or in combination with others. It is excellent in colds attended with fever, as it promotes perspiration . Used with salt, it was formerly applied for the purpose of taking away wens, and had the reputation of cleansing sores and easing the pains of gout. John Hussey, of Sydenham, who lived to the age of 116, breakfasted for fifty years on Balm tea sweetened with honey, and herb teas were the usual breakfasts of Llewelyn Prince of Glamorgan, who died in his 108th year. Carmelite water, of which Balm was the chief ingredient, was drunk daily by the Emperor Charles V. Commercial oil of Balm is not a pure distillate, but is probably oil of Lemon distilled over Balm. The oil is used in perfumery. Balm is frequently used as one of the ingredients of pot-pourri. Mrs. Bardswell, in The Herb Garden, mentions Balm as one of the bushy herbs that are invaluable for the permanence of their leaf-odours, which, 'though ready when sought, do not force themselves upon us, but have to be coaxed out by touching, bruising or pressing. Balm with its delicious lemon scent, is by common consent one of the most sweetly smelling of all the herbs in the garden. Balm-wine was made of it and a tea which is good for feverish colds. The fresh leaves make better tea than the dry.'  

Lemon balm is traditionally used to restore nerves. It helps relieve anxiety attacks, palpitations with nausea, mild insomnia and phobias. It combines well with peppermint to stimulate circulation, and can also be used for colds and flu.

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Scientific Evidence

Numerous test tube studies have found that extracts of melissa possess antiviral properties. 1,2,3 Apparently, the herb blocks viruses from attaching to cells.1
Early studies of melissa ointments showed a significant reduction in the duration and severity of herpes symptoms (both genital and oral) and, when the cream was used regularly, a marked reduction in the frequency of recurrences. In initial study, the melissa-treated participants recovered in 5 days, while participants receiving nonspecific creams required 10 days.1 Researchers also described a "tremendous reduction" in the frequency of recurrence. A subsequent double-blind study followed 116 individuals with oral or genital herpes at two dermatology centers.1 Treated subjects showed a significantly better rate of recovery than those on placebo, according to physician and patient ratings.
A recent double-blind placebo-controlled study followed 66 individuals who were just starting to develop a cold sore (oral herpes).4 Treatment with melissa cream produced significant benefits on day 2, reducing the intensity of discomfort, number of blisters, and the size of the lesion. The researchers specifically looked at day 2 because, according to them, that is when symptoms are most pronounced. Furthermore, long-term follow-up suggested that prophylactic use of melissa can prolong the interval before the next herpes flare-up.

Safety

Topical melissa is not associated with any significant side effects, although allergic reactions are always possible.

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Main constituents

Balm leaves contain no more than 0.1% of essential oil which is of complex and variable composition. Among the more than 50 aroma compounds yet identified, citronellal (dominantly the (R) enantiomer, see also kaffir lime), beta-caryophyllene, nereal, geranial, citronellol and geraniol amount to about 70% of the oil. The composition is similar to that of lemon grass, but balm oil can be identified by its typical pattern in chiral compounds; for example, enantiomerically almost pure (R)-(+)-methyl citronellate is a good indicator of true balm oil. Lastly, determination of carbon isotope ratio by IRMS (isotope ratio mass spectrometry) is also capable to distinguish between the two oils. (Pharmazie, 50, 60, 1995).