Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
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Lemon balm is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, the small white flowers, rich in nectar, appear in the summer. The flowers attract bees, hence the name Melissa, which is Greek for honey bee. The essential oil made from the plant is used in parfumes, aromatherapy and liquors, while the crushed leaves, when rubbed onto skin, are used as a repellent for mosquitoes. Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream, herbal teas, and various dishes.
Medicinal tea made with dried lemon balm leaves relaxes and strengthens nerves; it is a digestive and a sedative with mild antibacterial and antiviral effect. A cup of lemon balm tea promotes healthy sleep. It is also used externally for treating herpes.
Lemon balm contains essential oils (citral, citronellal, geraniol and linalool), tannins, rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and saponin. It is a fungicide and has antiviral effects. The essential oil is used for its refreshing, toning and anti-inflammatory effects on sensitive skin.