The American Botanical Council (ABC) recently welcomed Four Elements Organic Herbals’ adoption of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae) through ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb botanical education program.
Four Elements’ adoption supports ABC’s extensive HerbMedPro database, ensuring that this essential educational resource remains current for researchers, health professionals, industry, students, consumers, and other members of the herbal and dietary supplements community.
HerbMedPro is a comprehensive, interactive online database that provides access to important scientific and clinical research data on the uses and health effects of more than 250 herbs, spices, and medicinal plants.
“When ABC started the Adopt-an-Herb program, I thought Melissa officinalis should be represented, almost like a parent likes to see his or her child honored for doing well,” wrote Jane Hawley Stevens, the founder of Four Elements. “I hope when people see Four Elements’ logo with Melissa officinalis’ photo, they are reminded that the plant has many benefits (calming, antiviral, joy-enhancing, carminative, and more) while being delicious, abundant, and easy to grow. They should be reminded to drink some lemon balm tea!”
“I feel such deep gratitude for plants and nature in general, and for all the healing potential provided in these aromatic, beautiful packages,” Stevens continued. “Honoring my favorite herb, lemon balm, through this organization, helps to fulfill my mission of connecting plants to people to increase wellness for the people and the planet. I am happy to help support an organization that actively gathers and brings forth herbal research for the good of all. It brings me joy to now claim the nickname ‘Mother of Melissa,’ having adopted her through this worthy ABC program, fortified with my 2,000 Melissa officinalis plants in my field I started from seed!”
About Lemon Balm
Native to southern Europe, lemon balm is a bushy perennial that can grow to two or three feet tall. Like other members of the mint family, it has square stems and opposite, branching leaves. The flowers, which usually appear from about June to September, are small, inconspicuous, yellow to pinkish-white, and have the “lipped” look typical of the mint family. Unlike many members of the mint family, the plant’s roots are not invasive.
The leaves smell like lemon (Citrus × limon, Rutaceae) when bruised or crushed, hence the plant’s common name. When fresh, they may be used in drinks and added to salads, soups, sauces, and vegetables. When dried, they may be used to flavor teas and added to sachets and potpourris. Lemon balm reportedly is one of the few sour-tasting mints.
In his Historia Plantarum, the Greek philosopher and botanist Theophrastus of Eresus (372-287 BCE) provided one of the first known descriptions of the plant. It is thought that the idea of “Carmelite Water,” or Eau de Carmélite, an alcoholic extract of lemon balm and other herbs, originated in about 1200 when Christian hermits living in caves on Mount Carmel in present-day Israel realized the benefits of lemon balm. It is also widely believed that the “balm” of Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor refers to lemon balm. In addition, Thomas Jefferson reportedly cultivated the species at Monticello.
Traditionally, lemon balm has been used to calm nervous disorders, alleviate insect bites, increase perspiration, and treat colds, gastrointestinal and sleep disorders (including insomnia), and fevers. Preparations of the plant have demonstrated antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antiviral, bacteriostatic, neuroprotective, pain-relieving, and sedative effects. The plant contains phenolic acids (primarily rosmarinic acid), flavonoids, and essential oil (with citronellal, neral, and geranial as the predominant compounds).
Lemon balm produces abundant nectar and is highly favored by bees. In fact, the genus name Melissa is Greek for “honeybee” or “bee.” In Greek mythology, Melissa was a nymph who discovered how to obtain honey, and, in one version of the myth, was transformed into a bee by Zeus. In the fourth book of Virgil’s Georgics, from the first century BCE, the Roman poet wrote about “baum” (likely lemon balm) as a bee attractant. And, in 1629, English herbalist John Parkinson wrote: “It is also an herbe wherein bees doe much delight.” When bees swarm, usually in the spring and when the hive becomes overcrowded, the queen leaves the hive with about 50-60% of her offspring to establish a new brood-rearing colony elsewhere. Beekeepers can lose thousands of bees to swarming. Lemon balm has been used effectively (spread inside bait boxes or bait hives) to capture swarms, including feral swarms, and prevent loss of bees.
About Four Elements
Established in 1987, Four Elements offers a variety of herbal wellness products (including arnica [Arnica montana, Asteraceae] cream, soaps and body lotions, herbal tinctures, and herbal teas) that are created and packaged at its farm in the Baraboo Bluffs of Wisconsin. The company is dedicated to growing organic, and has been certified since 1990.
About Adopt-an-Herb and HerbMedPro
Four Elements is one of 57 US and international companies that have supported ABC’s educational efforts to collect, organize, and disseminate reliable, traditional, and science-based information, including clinical studies, on herbs, medicinal plants, and other botanical- and fungi-based ingredients through the Adopt-an-Herb program. This program encourages companies, organizations, and individuals to “adopt” one or more specific herbs for inclusion and ongoing maintenance in the HerbMedPro database. To date, 62 herbs have been adopted.
Each adopted herb is continuously researched for new scientific articles and pharmacological, toxicological, and clinical studies, ensuring that its HerbMedPro record stays current and robust. Access to the studies is conveniently organized by publication type, with each study condensed to a one-sentence summary with a link to the official abstract on PubMed (the US National Library of Medicine’s free-access database) or other publicly accessible database.
HerbMedPro is available to ABC members at the Academic level and higher. Its “sister” site, HerbMed, is available to the general public at no cost, with access to 25-30 herb records from the larger HerbMedPro database. In keeping with ABC’s position as an independent research and education organization, herb adopters do not influence the scientific information that is compiled for their respective adopted herbs.