Lemon balm – a member of the mint family, this plant grows well in the cool, temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. Its Latin name is Melissa officinalis, and its leaves are used medicinally and are full of volatile/essential oils with a lemony scent. As is the case with most plants that are a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, this herb has an affinity for the nervous system and the digestive tract. Because our stomach and intestines are highly innervated (surrounded with nerves), this herb can help relax the nerves and smooth muscle around the intestines, calming a nervous/anxious or tense stomach and helping to dispel gas and bloating.
Lemon balm’s primary actions in the body are: nervine, antispasmodic, carminative, antidepressant, anti-anxiety (calming), antimicrobial (including antiviral), diaphoretic, and hypotensive.
Based on these primary actions, lemon balm is indicated for both anxiety and depression and for nervous heart palpitations and digestive upset. It is a fabulous calming herb, considered cooling and sedative, gentle enough for children to help promote restful sleep. It is used during colds & flu for its diaphoretic action, helping to break fevers and promote rest. Its antimicrobial properties also make it a beneficial herb or use during viral or bacterial infections, particularly as a hot tea where it can promote perspiration.
Lemon balm is also one of the few herbs that is indicated for use in hyperthyroidism. One herbalist, Sharol Tilgner, found that the fresh juice was most helpful for this (she would press and freeze the juice in ice cube trays to be used when needed).
As a carminative, antispasmodic, and nervine, lemon balm is indicated when someone has gas, bloating, or general indigestion. The volatile oils act locally on the smooth muscle surround the intestines to relax and promote passage of gas so there is not as much gripping and pain.
The essential oil has all of these properties, as well as being used in salves topically for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect for herpes/cold sores.
The fresh herb is the most flavorful, and if you have access to it in your yard or garden, use this to make a tea. However, the dried herb will certainly suffice, using about 1 Tablespoon herb/cup of hot water and steeping approximately 10 minutes, and has a grassy, mild lemon-y flavor. The tincture or glycerite (extract in vegetable glycerine) are also great, because they are extracts of the fresh plant.
The beautiful hawthorn tree, with its leaves that look like mini oak leaves and its spiny branches, is in flower right now, from snowy white to a medium pink depending on the species. They produce prolific flowers, and later red berries, that are both used medicinally. Crataegus oxycantha and C. monogyna are the two species used most often medicinally, and these produce dense clusters of white flowers and red edible berries that resemble small crabapples. As a member of the apple family, this makes sense! The berries have the longest traditional history of use.
Hawthorn is primarily known and used as a fantastic tonic for the cardiovascular system. A safe, gentle, effective herbal remedy, this herb has been used to generally strengthen the heart muscle, lower blood pressure, normalize heart rhythms, act as an antioxidant to reduce and prevent arthrosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries), to lower blood cholesterol levels (LDL in particular) and to increase circulation to the extremities. Many of these uses have been born out in clinical studies, where some of hawthorn’s active compounds, mainly flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins, have strengthened contractions of the heart muscle, increased the amount of blood pumped with each contraction, and promoted a stable, rhythmic heartbeat in study participants.
Aside from being a heart remedy, hawthorn is also used as a gentle diuretic, increasing fluid flow through the kidneys, as a nervous system and lung tonic, and to promote restful sleep and healthy digestion. It is used for allergy-related reactions such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthmatic conditions, for attention deficit symptoms in adults and children, for insomnia, indigestion, & nervous stomach.
It is also used for emotional heart-related pain, such as grief and heartbreak to help protect and support the body, and in particular the heart and lungs which can be affected in times of grief and loss.
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