Lemon Balm Tea is known as “The Calming Herb”, a quality that transcends in herbal tea form. Choosing to enjoy this tea is essentially choosing a delicious and refreshing Beverage with extraordinary Lemon Balm Tea Benefits. Its nickname alone suggests a peaceful night’s sleep or a meditative state of harmony. And it does just that, and so much more.

Perhaps most fascinating of all is the fact that at one point in time it was considered a vital ingredient for making the “elixir of life”. Naturally, we can’t guarantee you’ll live forever from drinking this brew, but we can tell you with confidence that it tastes amazing. Lemon Balm Tea has been enjoyed for literally hundreds if not thousands of years. Now, it’s your turn with The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.

Lemon Balm Tea

What is Lemon Balm Tea

There’s an obvious reason why we call this aromatic herb Lemon Balm. That’s right; it smells just like everyone’s favourite bitter citrus fruit, the lemon. But unlike its namesake, this wonderful herb is not bitter in the slightest. In fact, it’s known for its notable sweetness.

The Melissa officinalis plant is recognised by many names including balm, common balm, and balm mint. The latter name, in particular, is especially interesting as Melissa officinalis belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae.

Lemon Balm is a perennial, herbaceous plant that can grow to heights of 1 or 2 feet. It consists of a short root and a stem square with multiple branches. These branches grow joint pairs of broadly ovate or heart-shaped, crenate or toothed leaves. When the leaves have been bruised, they exude a potent lemony aroma. White or yellowish flowers often bloom in small bunches from the axils of the leaves from June to October.

Aside from being a popular choice for humans, the Melissa officinalis plant is commonly flooded by bees in their droves. Lemon Balm contains many of the same chemicals that are found in bee pheromones, making it a very attractive to the insects. In fact, ‘Melissa’ is from the Greek word signifying “honeybee”. The word ‘balm’, on the other hand, is an abbreviation of ‘Balsam’, the main component of sweet-smelling oils. Quite simply, everything you need to know about Lemon Balm is in the name.

Lemon Balm - Lemon Verbena - Lemongrass

Lemon Balm vs Lemon Verbena vs Lemongrass

Contrary to popular belief, there are numerous differences between Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora), and Lemongrass (Cymbopogon). However, it’s important to note their one main similarity: the scent. All three of these herbs have scents resembling the citrus lemon fruit. Yet none are related to the Citrus limon tree. Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena, in particular, are often confused with each other.

Although the herbs have a similar fragrance and flavour, they differ in appearance and hardiness. Lemon Verbena can grow to be much larger at 5 to 10 feet high, while Lemongrass can grow to a very similar height.

All three can be consumed as herbal teas, but can also be used for other culinary dishes. Lemon Verbena is often used as a seasoning for fruits and desserts. Lemon Balm is more commonly used for flavouring meats, fish, and poultry, or added to vegetable dishes. Lemongrass shares similarities to Lemon Verbena in this sense, as it too is added to dessert dishes with inclusions of fruit. There is, of course, one other titanic difference: not one of these plants is related to the other.

Lemon Balm History
History of Lemon Balm

Similar to today, the history of Lemon Balm begins with bees. In Greek mythology, the nymph who nursed the infant Zeus, and who discovered honey, was called Melissa. Nymphs were said to be able to take the form of bees, and these insects were also sacred to the Goddess Artemis. Priestesses who served the Great Mother, also known as the Goddess of Earth and nature, and especially the Goddess Artemis considered the honeybee to be a form of the human soul when descending from Artemis herself.

Thus anything that attracted honeybees to a hive, or would keep honeybees from swarming, became sacred unto itself. Lemon Balm was one such herb worshipped at Temples of Artemis. From here, Lemon Balm first entered the pages of history.

Lemon Balm continued to be used to attract honeybees in Ancient Greece and later spread to Rome. According to Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 CE), bees were “delighted with this herb above others”. Sprigs of Lemon Balm were placed into beehives to attract wandering bee swarms, and it was likewise planted around bee hives to maintain happiness.

Dioscorides (circa 40 - circa 90 CE) was also greatly interested in the herb. He believed there were health benefits to be had from using Lemon Balm, and recommended its external application for “the stings of venomous beasts and the bites of mad dogs”. He stated that Lemon Balm could “assuage the pains of gout”.

Lemon Balm Benefits were further considered during the Medieval and Renaissance ages. In the ninth century, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne (742-814 CE), thought the medicinal qualities of Lemon balm were so vital that he proclaimed the plant be grown in every monastery garden within his domain.

These monasteries were, by rights, hospitals to peasants and nobility alike. Monks would use Lemon Balm to treat wounds and also created tonics for internal health. A perfume called Carmelite Water also incorporated Lemon Balm. It was used to cover the stench of unwashed bodies (charming) as bathing oneself was considered sinful due to the exposure of naked skin to the eyes of a bather.

Most people of this period washed only once a year, or in some cases once a lifetime (doubly charming), so the need for sweet smelling perfumed water was very high. Carmelite Water with the inclusion of Lemon Balm was a common sight in times of plague as it helped to rid the stench of death and disease (triply charming).

Centuries later, the most famous playwright of all time, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), reflected on the popularity in his lifetime. In his plays “King Richard II”, “King Henry IV”, and “King Lear”, Shakespeare refers to Lemon Balm as a herb used in the anointing or consecration of monarchs. In other plays such as “The Rape of Lucrece”, “Macbeth”, and “Antony & Cleopatra”, this herb is also referenced.

In one of Shakespeare’s plays, “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, Lemon Balm is used as a furniture polish to scent the chairs and banquet table before a feast. The 17th Century was a fascinating time for scientific endeavour, particularly with Lemon Balm. Most notably, the renowned English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer, Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), stated that Lemon Balm was a “herb of Jupiter” and could be used to “open obstructions of the brain”.

He also wrote of how it can be used to “expel those melancholy vapours from the Spirit and Blood which are in the Heart and Arteries”. Finally, Culpeper believed it was good to “wash aching Teeth” and was beneficial to the liver and spleen.

In the New World, meanwhile, European colonists of 17th Century North America used Lemon Balm for cooking and cleaning, and also added it to countless culinary recipes. Lemon Balm Tea, in particular, grew in popularity owing to the quick naturalisation of the plant in the Americas.

By the time that Thomas Jefferson began writing the Declaration of Independence for a new “United States of America”, it’s said that he grew it in his garden for its sweet, delicate aroma. Who knows, perhaps he drank Lemon Balm Tea, too?

The 1773 Boston Tea Party was the next crucial moment in the history of Lemon Balm Tea, and all herbal teas for that matter. In protest against extortionate British tea taxes, soon-to-be American citizens dumped large quantities of Green Tea into the Boston harbour. Herbs such as Lemon Balm became an excellent alternative to regular tea as they grew in great abundance across the American landscape.

Today, it’s not just Americans who enjoy  Lemon Balm Tea. In Switzerland its used as a flavouring agent to certain cheeses. Across the rest of the world, however, this herb is recognised as a medicinal wonder.

Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm Tea Benefits

As history dictates, we as a species have long had a fascination with Lemon Balm for its potential health benefits. Although it remains to be seen whether our tea can treat the stings of venomous beasts, as Dioscorides put it, we can at least say with confidence that it has calmative properties, enhances cognitive function, and supports liver health. And this is just to name a few of the benefits, with much more waiting to be discovered.

Help with Stress, Anxiety and Sleep

In one study, 18 healthy participants received two separate single doses of Lemon Balm extract (300 mg, 600 mg) and a placebo, on different days separated by a 7-day washout period to examine laboratory induced psychological stress. The results established that the 600 mg dose improved the adverse mood effects of stress with significantly increased calmness.

A significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy, was also observed after ingestion of the 300 mg dose. In children, another study examined the effects of a Lemon Balm and Valerian combination for restlessness and sleep problems. Among the more than 900 children studied, the mixture was found to improve sleep problems in 80% of children and restlessness in 70%.

Improve Cognitive Function

During the 17th Century, Lemon Balm was often added to wine for medicinal purposes. The London Dispensary in 1696 wrote:

“An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness”.

The English writer and botanist, John Evelyn (1620 - 1706), wrote:

“Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy”.

Today, a series of experiments at Northumbria University suggests its reputation is warranted. The results were recently presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Bournemouth, and showed that healthy adults given capsules containing doses of Lemon Balm were significantly better at standardised computer memory tests than those who took a placebo.

This is similar to the previously referred study where participants saw an increase in their speed of mathematical processing from consuming a 300 mg dose of the herb. Many scientists are, in fact, wondering if it can be taken one step further. Dr David Kennedy, a researcher at the Northumbria University, said:

“We believe that [Lemon Balm] could be used as a helpful adjunct to conventional treatment for Alzheimer’s disease”.

Improved Digestive Health

Lemon Balm Tea have long been used to treat numerous gastrointestinal ailments. It can soothe an upset stomach, ease bloating, and prevent intestinal gas (flatulence), according to the Georgetown University Medical Center, USA. This herb also has antispasmodic properties, which can help with muscle spasms, according to the Bastyr University, USA. The calmative properties of Lemon Balm also have a positive impact on the digestive system.

May Help with Herpes

Lemon Balm Tea contains a wealth of flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other compounds that fight the herpes virus, according to the University of Michigan Health System, USA. Numerous studies have been conducted, with one suggesting that applications of Lemon Balm can speed up the healing of herpes simplex virus sores on the mouth. Georgetown University, USA, also cites studies that used Lemon Balm Tea which, in turn, found significant improvements in patients with herpes lesions around the mouth and genitals.

Lemon Balm Tea and Getting Old

Lemon Balm Tea and Reaching 100

Most of us today are aware of the short life expectancies of people living in the 18th Century. But one man called John Hussey, of Sydenham, Kent (not too far from The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company), surpassed these expectations and lived to be 116 years old.

How, you might ask? Lemon Balm Tea. It’s said that for 50 years, Mr Hussey enjoyed balm tea sweetened with honey at breakfast time. Then there is the Welsh Prince of Glamorgan, who apparently died in his 108th year. He too enjoyed Lemon Balm and other herbal teas. Whether consuming Lemon Balm Tea had an impact on their longevity might never be known, although it certainly makes for an interesting story. Could Lemon Balm Tea really be the elixir of life after all? Who knows?

Drink Lemon Balm Tea for the health benefits, or for the taste? Either way, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company have our very own Lemon Balm Tea for you to enjoy.

This beverage will evoke warm memories of sitting out on a vine-covered veranda while looking out towards the blooming flowers of a summer garden, the bees waltzing through a fresh, fragrant breeze. What more could you possibly want from your morning brew.