Well-known to herbalists as “lemon balm,” melissa is a southern European native. A medieval favorite, it was the main ingredient in “Carmelite Water,” along with lemon peel, nutmeg, coriander and angelica. It was used for nervous headaches and neuralgia, and to improve the complexion. It is still produced as Eau de M‚lisse de Carmes and is found in Klosterfrau Melissengeist in Germany. Not easily distilled, the expensive, low-yielding oil is often adulterated with lemon or citronella.
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Extraction: Distilled from leaves. The sweet smell is soft, lemony.
Medicinal Action: Melissa treats indigestion, lung congestion, high blood pressure, muscle spasms, menstrual problems, and sometimes infertility. It fights inflammation and viral infections such as strep, herpes and chicken pox.
Emotional Attribute: Shock, distress, depression, nervousness and insomnia are helped by melissa’s sedative action. Gerard (agreeing with Avicenna) said it “maketh the heart merry, joyful, strengtheneth the vitall spirits.”
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla, formerly Lippia citriodora) –Similar in fragrance and cost to melissa, lemon verbena is often adulterated with less expensive oils. It is used on oily complexions and for nervous indigestion. The soothing fragrance encourages both sleep and concentration.