How to best harvest and prepare lemon balm

Saturday, September 17, 2011 by: Lenette Nakauchi
Tags: lemon balm, herb, health news

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(NaturalNews) Known to the scientific community as melissa officinalis, lemon balm is an herb that has been used for centuries. Valued around the world for its soothing properties, lemon balm is a common plant in many home gardens that can be cultivated for a variety of purposes, such as a natural remedy for a diverse list of ailments.

Native to the Mediterranean region and the Near East, this perennial plant yields pale yellow blossoms that sometimes also bloom white or lilac. The blossoms are clustered in groups, and the leaves have jagged edges that are dark green on the top and light green on the bottom. With long stalks and oil glands on the underside of each plant, lemon balm grows between one and three feet in height. According to history books, monks living in the 10th century grew lemon balm to use in tonics. The herb is also known as bee balm, as it has traditionally been used by bee keepers to attract bees to hives.

Lemon balm is highly valued because of its many applications as a natural treatment for a variety of health issues. The benefits of bee balm include:
* Soothing effects on the nervous system
* Treatment of insomnia, tension, and stress
* Relaxation in a lemon balm bath
* Soothing effects when consumed in tincture or juice
* Heightened longevity
* Enhanced mood of homes and offices when used in potpourri and other decorations
* Calming of stomach issues and digestive disorders, including nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, colic, dysentery, and colitis
* Enhanced liver and gallbladder function
* Quieted anxiety and depression
* Relaxed menstrual cramps and irritability related to PMS
* Treatment for headaches, migraines, vertigo, ringing in the ears, and blood pressure (when combined with linden flowers)
* Reduced fever and treatment of infections and coughs, as well as bronchitis, when used in a hot infusion
* Treatment of cold sores and overactive thyroids
* Cleansing of skin when added to natural cosmetics

Lemon balm is easily cultivated, harvested, and prepared. The herb, which requires minimal maintenance, can be grown in garden plots, containers, or window boxes and loves both sunny places and protected environments (though it does thrive in moist soil with good drainage). The plant spreads quickly and does require weeding, which must be handled delicately, as bee balm has shallow roots.

Lemon balm is ready to harvest in May and June, just before the blossoms develop. At this point in development, the herb will contain the most essential oils. Its leaves can be harvested at any time, but it is best to pick them in the morning. When handling the leaves, be careful not to bruise them, as they are fragile.

To harvest the full plant, cut it 2 inches above the ground and either hang it to dry in an airy, shady location or lay it out on a tray. Be sure that the plant is dried quickly, as it will turn black if not promptly prepared. To store parts of the harvest for later, can it in airtight jars or freeze it with ice cubes. Keep in mind that the first year's plants may be scarce, but more will grow during the second year.

Lemon balm is a low-maintenance and highly versatile herb that can provide many health benefits for those that use it, including soothing of several digestive issues as well as the alleviation of stress and anxiety, among other things. Anyone looking for a natural way to enhance their health would do well to grow, harvest, and prepare their own lemon balm.


About the author

Lenette Nakauchi is a vibration exercise and detox expert who is passionate about demonstrating to others how to get lean and fit in a fun, healthy, sustainable way. Learn more about vibration exercise and how it's used for fitness, therapy, and weight loss at http://www.thenoblerexk1.com. Learn more about her detox and cleansing product at http://www.3daycleanse.com.

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