Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), balm, common balm, or balm mint, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae and native to south-central Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, and Central Asia, but now naturalized in the Americas and elsewhere.
It grows to a maximum height of 70ñ150 cm (28ñ59 in). The leaves have a mild lemon scent similar to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. It is not to be confused with bee balm (genus Monarda), although the white flowers attract bees, hence the genus Melissa (Greek for "honey bee").
The leaves are used as a herb, in teas, and also as a flavouring. The plant is used to attract bees for honey production. It is grown as an ornamental plant and for its oil (to use in perfumery). The tea of lemon balm, the essential oil, and the extract are used in traditional and alternative medicine, including aromatherapy. The plant has been cultivated at least since the 16th century, but research is still being conducted to establish the safety and effects of lemon balm.
Sources date the medicinal use of lemon balm to over 2000 years ago through the Greeks and Romans. It is mentioned by Theophrastus in the Historia Plantarum, dated to around 300 BC, as "honey-leaf" (µe??ss?f?????). Lemon balm was formally introduced into Spain in the 7th century, from which its use and domestication spread throughout Europe. Its use in the Middle Ages is noted by herbalists, writers, philosophers, and scientists, with Swiss physician and alchemist, Paracelsus, deeming it the “elixir of lifeî. It was in the herbal garden of John Gerard, 1596] Lemon balm was introduced to North America with the arrival of early colonists, and is recorded to have been among the herbs cultivated in Thomas Jefferson’s garden.
The plant is used to attract bees to make honey. It is also grown and sold as an ornamental plant. The essential oil is used as a perfume ingredient, but the plant has other culinary and medicinal uses. Lemon balm is used in some toothpastes
In traditional Austrian medicine, M. officinalis leaves have been prescribed for internal use—as a tea—or external application—as an essential oil—for the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, liver, and bile. Lemon balm is the main ingredient of Carmelite water, which is still for sale in German pharmacies.
In alternative medicine it is used as a sleep aid and digestive aid.
Lemon balm essential oil is popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly co-distilled with lemon oil, citronella oil or other oils.