After the snow… gardens

As the day lengthens and the snow slowly disappears, I am planning the garden. I think I’ll create a new bed specifically for plants that cross from culinary to medicinal with ease.

As the day lengthens and the snow slowly disappears, I am planning the garden. I think I’ll create a new bed specifically for plants that cross from culinary to medicinal with ease.

I am particularly interested in growing a large patch of lemon balm (melissa officinalis) in the new garden.

Lemon balm is part of the mint family.

Although most mints like to grow on the vertical axis, lemon balm is a humble plant: not exactly a creeper, but low growing like a very small bush.

It has a scent sweet with lemon undertones, and leaves scalloped edges.

The season here is not long enough for it to flower but if it did flower, they are quiet and not bold like the bee balm (Mondara spp.).

Balm, as fondly called by Europeans, has thrived in herb gardens for a very long time. Charlemagne in the 800’s, called The Father of Europe, ordered that balm be grown in every medicinal herb garden through his empire.

In this way, he guaranteed his people a continuous supply of balm’s soothing medicine. Later European herbalist John Gerard (late 1500s) suggested using balm to “comforteth the hart and driveth away all sadness.”

Lemon balm’s medicine is also loved in the Middle East.

Arab herbalist, Avicenna in the 11th century wrote, “Balm causeth the mind and heart to become merry.”

Today balm is favored as a gentle but effect nerve tonic.

But when I hear the word hyper attached to any condition (hypertension, hyperthyroid, hyper-acidity, hyperactive, hypersensitive, etc.) I think of lemon balm.

In traditional herbal medicine, hyper conditions are associated with excess heat and tension in the body and mind.

Lemon balm cools hot conditions, including hot guts and hot heads. Like many mint family plants, lemon balm calms upset stomachs and improves over all digestion while quieting the mind.

Using a lemon balm tincture combined with another mint family plant, bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) I have effectively quieted down the symptoms of a hyperthyroid.

These two herbs effectively manage the sleeplessness, anxiety, heart palpations and sweating caused by an over active thyroid.

Unfortunately they are strictly used to manage the symptoms and it takes more effort and variety of approaches to resolve the underlying issues causing the hyperthyroid.

Many use lemon balm effectively for insomnia. I am hesitant to suggest it as remedy for insomnia though.

Not because of the herb, it is calming. It is my experience that insomnia has many causes.

It is more a symptom than a condition. Simply recommending lemon balm for insomnia without understanding the underlying cause of sleeplessness, may be setting lovely lemon balm up for failure.

But after a long stressful day, lemon balm is a perfect tea to unwind and relax before bed.

Lemon balm is great medicine for children. It has an anti-viral action and has a long history of being used as compresses to calm chickenpox and other herpes virus outbreaks.

Offering an irritable, sick child a sweetened cup of lemon balm tea will quiet them down and ease them into sleep. For infants, adding a couple of cups of lemon balm tea to a bath will calm and soothe them.

In the last month of pregnancy a tea of lemon balm also comes in handy. It settles heartburn and calms the restless anticipation of labour.

Many people like to use chamomile tea during this time. But I like the lightness lemon balm brings to the mind.

It offers hopefulness to heart, a sense of optimism that I find chamomile lacks.

For this reason, it is also favored in formulas designed to ease depression, particularly when it associated with anxiety.

I really like offering lemon balm to someone who has been living on caffeine and adrenaline for months on end. It is perfect for taking them off the edge and re-establishing a sense of calm coping.

Mostly I offer lemon balm as a tea. But with the plants from the garden I make a fresh tincture. This is medicine made without drying the plants first.

I find a fresh plant tincture of lemon balm carries the strongest and calmest medicine.

Unfortunately by this time of year, I have used up all my fresh plant tincture and need to rely on dried herbs.

Hence my plan to enlarge the garden with lemon balm. I am taking Charlemagne’s advice.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached at abrah@shaw.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read