Known now as common balm and lemon balm this is the original “balsam”, a legendary essential oil and botanical medicine. Melissa is Greek for “honey bee” and the plant has a long association of attracting bees. The 16th century herbalist John Gerard said: “It is profitably planted where bees are kept. The hives of bees being rubbed with the leaves of bawme, causeth the bees to keep together, and causeth others to come with them.”
Lemon balm has long been recognised as a tonic for stress, depression and anxiety; in the 17th century John Evelyn wrote: “Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy”, and modern research has now confirmed that high doses of balm “significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness.”
The London Dispensary of 1696 also believed it to be a cure for baldness!