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The Many Uses of Lemon Balm

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/18/2010

Lemon balm, a hardy, lemon-minty scented plant, has many uses as an herbal remedy. From insect repellent to cold sore treatment, this plant can be a useful addition to your herb garden. Explore the many uses of lemon balm and add some variety to your herbal medicine cabinet.

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    A Calming Herb

    Lemon balm is a hardy perennial herbal plant, and a member of the mint family. The leaves of the lemon balm plant are lemon-mint scented. The plant has many practical as well as medicinal uses. One of the most well-known uses of lemon balm is for its calming, anti-anxiety properties. It has been used for years as a mild form of the drug Valium. Lemon balm can be taken as a tea or the essential oils can be inhaled for its calming effects. As an anti-anxiety herbal remedy, lemon balm appears to be more effective when taken with Valerian, another calming herb. Valerian and lemon balm are commonly sold as anti-insomnia remedies.

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    Other Medicinal Uses

    In addition to its calming effects, lemon balm remedies for stomach ailments have been quite popular. It is used for abdominal gas and various digestive discomforts when taken as a tea. The herb has antibacterial as well as antiviral properties, and is made into a natural ointment for sores and cuts. Lemon balm is a popular natural treatment for oral as well as genital herpes sores. When using lemon balm for cold sores, a 1% cream is applied to the sore twice a day or more until the sore heals. Lemon balm can decrease the time it takes for sores to heal and even double the time between outbreaks when used as a preventative treatment. Lemon balm is also beneficial for body aches from colds and flus. It relaxes the body, reducing muscle spasms and aches.

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    Side Effects

    Lemon balm should not be used by people who have hypothyroidism. Lemon balm inhibits the absorption of thyroxine, which could worsen hypothyroidism. If you are using sedatives, be aware that lemon balm can enhance the sedative effects of any current drug you might be taking.

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    Insect Repellent

    One of the more interesting uses of lemon balm is as a great repellent for mosquitoes and other insects. It contains compounds similar to the citronella plant, which repels mosquitoes. For a quick backyard remedy, just crush a handful of lemon balm leaves and apply directly to the skin. The mosquitoes will leave you alone for quite a while. Reapply as needed.

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    Dietary Uses of Lemon Balm

    Lemon balm makes a great addition to salads and teas, and is sometimes used in wines and liqueurs. It can be added to certain seafood and meat dishes too. It works well with crab and chicken. Lemon balm is an ingredient in many dessert recipes too, adding flavor to cakes, cheesecakes, sauces, and pies. If you're thinking of starting an herb garden, lemon balm might just make a great first plant to grow. With all the uses of lemon balm, and the ease of growing it, this herb appears to be a real winner.

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    Resources

    1. Gardens Ablaze: www.gardensablaze.com

    2. Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.org

    3. Health Central: www.healthcentral.com

    4. Herbal Musings: www.herbalmusings.com/lemon balm

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    Disclaimer

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