Lemon Balm has a long history, dating back to ancient Turkey where it was planted near bee hives to encourage the bees to return home to the hive rather than swarm away. It’s name, Melissa officinalis, is derived from the Greek word Melissa, meaning honeybee, and it was planted and used by the beekeepers of the Temple of Artemis to help keep the sacred honeybees content.
Lemon Balm was carried into Europe through Spanish trade routes, eventually making its way into the monastic gardens through out Europe. It was included in the formula for Carmelite water, a drink and perfume developed and closely guarded by the Carmelite friars and used as a drink to ward off nervous headaches and as a perfume to bring good cheer while masking strong odors in medieval and renaissance Europe.
In folklore, Lemon Balm was used to ward off evil, and to promote good health, love, and good cheer.
Lemon Balm sachets placed under your pillow or near the bed are reputed to provide a refreshing, relaxing sleep.
Lemon Balm Magic
Lemon Balm’s presence is quiet and strong. Running through the soil like her minty cousins, she spreads just under the surface with steady, clear intention. In this way, she reminds us good cheer and sunny confidence will proliferate even when we’re not aware of their presence on the surface of our lives. Lemon Balm magic is the magic of quiet, steady trust.
Lemon Balm’s effect on honeybees, attracting them and encouraging them to remain in their hives, reminds us to nurture our homes, our friends and family, our communities. Through the simple act of contributing to our household, we nurture ourselves. In this way, Lemon Balm asks us to seek joy and peace in the mundane tasks of life as a way of self-nurturing.
Thriving in both sun and shade, soils of a wide pH, dry and damp conditions, Lemon Balm teaches versatility, particularly in how we grow. If Lemon Balm has popped up in your life, it may be time to ask yourself what conditions are present in your life that you must embrace to thrive. Has a challenge surfaced that you resist? Have you identified an aspect of your life that feels unbearable, burdensome, like a whole lotta work? Lemon Balm can help you identify the trouble and find ways to adapt and thrive amidst it, or maybe in spite of it.
I like to think of Lemon Balm magic as the magic of relax-its-only-life. That’s the feeling I get from bruising her leaves and taking in her scent. However melancholy I may feel, whatever darkness or heaviness seems to plague my life, the scent of Melissa officinalis always brings a smile to my lips. Lemon Balm magic is the magic of steady, calm, persistent, good cheer.
In Astrology, Lemon Balm is considered a feminine plant and is governed by the Moon. Lemon Balm’s element is water. In Ayruvedic medicine, Lemon Balm’s energy is pungent, sour-sweet, cool, and wet.
To learn more about Lemon Balm, see The Practical Herbalist’s entry on this herb.