Bananas are a popular fruit

It’s amazing what a banana can do for you

Bananas are a popular fruit

Bananas are a popular fruit

I promise you’ll be shocked when you find out what a banana can do for you, but first some background information you might not know.

Although most people believe that bananas grow on trees, in fact the plant which produces this fruit is a (large) perennial herb. Bananas themselves are classified as berries!

There at least 50 different species of banana, but only one variety (the Cavendish) is usually sold commercially in the West. You might see other fruit that looks like bananas in ethnic markets, but these are almost all what we call “plantains”, not sweet and intended for cooking.

A boost for the ‘active man’

Bananas are a great energy boost often eaten by top athletes, as for example tennis players, which have been shown to improve mood, increase oxygen flow and improve performance. They also contain bromelain, particularly important for male sexual function, increasing both libido and stamina.

The reason athletes eat them is because they provide a consistent energy release before, during and after exercise. Two bananas have been shown to provide enough energy for a 90 minute workout – of whatever type you have in mind!

Bananas are also a source of fiber, high in magnesium and manganese (both minerals which many men are deficient in, but which are important for prostate function) as well as potassium, vitamin B6 and C. They are very low in sodium and saturated fat (less than 0.5g per banana!) and contain no trans fats or cholesterol.

The nutrients in bananas help regulate blood flow, resulting in a better and longer lasting erection.

Please note that excessive levels of potassium can be dangerous, so it’s best to obtain it from natural sources, rather than supplements. You should only consume bananas or other high potassium foods in moderation if you are taking beta blockers, as these medicines can cause potassium levels to rise.

Bananas in the garden

Bananas are a popular house plant in cool areas, and in tropical places make a wonderful garden plant. Banana skins are very useful as a compost material, and can be added directly around the base of flowering or fruiting plants or included in the compost heap.

If you’re going to eat the fruit, it’s important to use organic growing methods because they soak up whatever is sprayed on them. It goes right through the skin and into the fruit. This includes fertiliser, weed killer and any other chemicals used on them.  For the same reason, when you’re buying bananas, look out for organic ones.

Bananas and physical health

Nutritional profile
A ripe medium banana (about 118g) contains 105 calories and an estimated glycemic load of 10 (about 10% of the daily target), 0.29g/3% DV* protein, 27g/12% DV carbs, 0.39g fat, no trans fat, no cholesterol, 3g/12% DV fiber, 10g/17% DV vitamin C, 0.4mcg/22% DV vitamin B6, 3mcg/10% DV biotin, 0.3mg/16% manganese, less than 1% sodium, 422mg/12% DV potassium, 0.09mg/10% DV copper. Also contains useful amounts of riboflavin, folate and magnesium.
*DV = daily value. Source

There are many reasons bananas should be included as a regular part of your diet:

  1. The vitamin content makes bananas helpful for avoiding macular degeneration.
  2. They are rich in potassium, which is important for regulating blood pressure and healthy kidney and heart function. Bananas are well known for their high potassium content, which combined with negligible levels of sodium makes them ideal as part of a low sodium (low salt) diet.
    Sodium and potassium are held in balance within the body, so if you have high levels of sodium, you need to increase potassium intake to offset this. The best way to do this is by eating bananas or other natural sources.
    As well as offsetting sodium, potassium is also a vasodilator, which makes it useful for lowering blood pressure. High potassium intake protects against kidney stones, preserves bones and muscles and reduces calcium loss through urination. This means that eating bananas as a regular part of your diet can protect you from the risk of developing osteoporosis.
    The US FDA recognises bananas for their ability to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
    Studies have found that a high potassium intake reduces the risk of dying (from all causes) by 20%.
  3. Vitamins B6 and C, magnesium and fiber are beneficial for the health of your heart, and
    • The vitamin B6 content combined with a low GI helps protect against type II diabetes and aid weight loss.
    • Vitamin B6 also strengthens the nervous system and is helpful for anyone suffering from anemia. It’s vital for the production of red blood cells (hemoglobin) and important to the immune system.
    • Vitamin C is an antioxidant, helping fight free radicals which are known to cause cancer.
    • Magnesium is very important for the regulation of blood sugar levels and blood pressure, maintenance of muscles and nerves, helps regulate the heart, keeps bones strong and maintains a healthy immune system.
    • Fiber is an important part of the diet which reduces the risk of colo-rectal cancer. There are two types of fiber in a banana, the ratios varying according to how ripe the banana is. The water soluble fiber increases as the fruit ripens, and the insoluble fiber reduces. Because of the fiber content, bananas are easily digested and do not impact greatly on blood sugar levels.
    • Part of the fiber in bananas is pectin, which is also known for its ability to remove contaminants from the body including heavy metals, and as a drug detox.
    • Fiber is a natural way to avoid or treat constipation.
  4. Bananas are rich in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which help maintain the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, supporting digestive health and improving absorption of calcium.
  5. A banana will help to protect against muscle cramps from working out and night time leg cramps.
  6. Bananas are a good source of electrolytes after a bout of diarrhea, and also soothe the digestive tract, acting as a natural antacid and helping to prevent acid reflux (heartburn or GERD). They are one of the few fruits that can be eaten without distress by people who are suffering from stomach ulcers.
  7. For those trying to lose weight, bananas are a great low calorie snack to satisfy sweet cravings. If you replace candy or other snack foods with a banana, you’ll be getting lots of nutrition and fiber, a delicious and satisfying sweet treat, and all this for only 105 calories!
  8. Irritated skin, insect bites, psoriasis, acne and similar problems can be relieved by rubbing with the inside of a banana peel. You can also use it on warts: rub the inner skin onto the wart, then use a bandage or sticking plaster to hold it in place; replace daily until the wart has gone (about a week).
  9. Bananas are safe during pregnancy and help avoid morning sickness by keeping blood sugar levels steady.

Bananas and mental health

  1. A recent survey by the charity MIND found that many people suffering from depression felt better after eating a banana. This is thought to be because of the tryptophan content. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin by the body, increasing relaxation and improving both mood and memory. It also helps to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and PMS.
  2. Bananas also contain dopamine, but this does not cross the blood/brain barrier, acting instead as an antioxidant. Although the dopamine in bananas does not work directly to improve mood, recent research has shown a link between inflammation and depression, so the antioxidant action of dopamine and other constituents which act to reduce inflammation may indirectly help to improve mood.
  3. A banana and berry smoothie is apparently great as a hangover cure (if you can stand the noise of the blender while hung over).

I truly think it’s amazing what a banana can do for you. Didn’t I tell you you’d be shocked?

5 different Eucalyptus essential oils, benefits and uses

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil. This is E. citriodors

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Eucalyptus oil is a misleading label, because there are in fact several different kinds of eucalyptus essential oil extracted from various species of eucalyptus tree.

The five types you are most likely to come across are the Blue Gum, the Broad Leaved Peppermint, the Narrow Leaved Peppermint, the Lemon Scented Eucalyptus and the Lemon Scented Ironbark. Any of these (and others) may be sold labeled simply eucalyptus oil. This is unfortunate, as the different types don’t all have the same properties.

Some properties are common to all four types of eucalyptus essential oil. All are antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant and can be used to treat congestion (catarrh), coughs, colds, flu and other viral infections, aches and pains, rheumatism, cuts and wounds.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus globulus, one of the tallest trees in the world. There is a tree in Tasmania recorded at 90.7m (or more than 297 feet) in height! Like all eucalyptus, these trees are native to Australia, although most of the cultivation for commercial use is in Spain and Portugal.

Additional properties listed for Blue Gum are as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, deodorant, insect repellent, soothing agent and vermifuge used to treat asthma, blisters, burns, catarrh, chicken pox, cystitis, debility, headaches, herpes, insect bites, leucorrhea, lice, measles, neuralgia, poor circulation, sinusitis, skin infections, sore throats and external ulcers.

I offer Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil in my online shop.

Broad Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is an extract of Eucalyptus dives and is sometimes referred to as dives eucalyptus. The tree is much smaller than the blue gum and most cultivated trees are produced in South Africa.

It is no longer generally used medicinally except by veterinarians. However, it can be used for broadly the same uses as blue gum.

Lemon Scented Eucalyptus is an extract of Corymbia citriodora (formerly called Eucalyptus citriodora), which reaches the same sort of height as the narrow leaved peppermint. Cultivated trees are mainly grown in China and Brazil.

In addition to the properties common to all four, it is bactericidal, insecticidal, an insect repellent and is used to treat asthma, athlete’s foot, candida, chicken pox, dandruff, fevers, fungal infections, herpes, infectious diseases, laryngitis, skin infections, sore throats and specifically to treat Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph“).

I offer Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon-scented) Essential Oil in my online shop.

Narrow Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus radiata, which is tall (up to 5om), but doesn’t reach the same heights as the blue gum. This was the tree from which eucalyptus oil was first extracted by Joseph Bosisto in 1854, though it is less frequently used nowadays.

In addition to the common properties listed earlier, it is anti-infectious, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic and can be used to treat bronchitis, fever, herpes, nervous exhaustion, poor circulation, sinusitis and sore throats. It’s also listed in at least one place to treat whooping cough but it must be stressed that in this case it should only be used as an addition to orthodox medical treatment, as this is a serious disease which requires immediate medical attention. Narrow leaved peppermint is also said to be supportive and uplifting and can be used as a concentration aid, to improve mental clarity and promote a positive outlook.

I offer Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil in my online shop.

Lemon-Scented Ironbark Eucalyptus essential oil comes from Eucalyptus staigeriana. It is uplifting to both mind and body, a natural immune system booster. Use in blends to boost the immune system, for wounds, abscesses, burns, external ulcers, veruccas (plantar warts), insect bites and for muscle, nerve and joint pain. Use in a burner or diffuser to gain the benefit of its uplifting, antidepressant and stress-relieving qualities. It is safe for use with children.

Eucalyptus oils should always be mixed with a carrier before using them on the skin. They can also be used in an essential oil diffuser, a steam inhalation, or a few drops can be added to a bath after it has been filled. Never take eucalyptus oils internally except as part of a prescribed medication.

Eucalyptus oil deserves a place in every home, and the choice of variety is up to you. Blue gum is the most frequently offered, but you may want to choose one of the others if available from your supplier, for the additional properties which it confers.

Tea health benefits: for auto-immune conditions, the heart and tooth decay

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Tea is helpful for anyone suffering from an autoimmune condition

Tea is helpful for anyone suffering from an autoimmune condition

Tea, which grows as a bush and is cultivated in many parts of the East, is familiar to everyone. The tea plant is sometimes called Assam tea, black tea, China tea and green tea, though these names are usually reserved for the various beverages made from the leaves (which also include sencha, matcha, oolong tea, white tea and pu-erh tea), and often to the processes used in production. The latin name is Camellia sinensis (syn. Camellia bohea, C. thea, C. theifera and Thea sinensis). It is not related to the tea tree.

The tea bush is an evergreen shrub, reaching a height of 13 feet (4m) and spreading over 8 feet wide. However, as it is only the tips which are used, it is usually kept trimmed to a more manageable size.

In common with other Camellias it will not grow in alkaline soil and is virtually allergic to lime and chalk, to such an extent that care must be taken when sourcing water to be used for it. It prefers a semi-shady position on well drained moist soil. It is not very hardy, surviving at temperatures as low as -20ºC (-4ºF) – zone 8 – in its native area, but only down to around -10ºC (-4ºF) elsewhere.

The parts used are the very young leaves and leaf buds of bushes over 3 years old, which can be harvested throughout the growing season and dried for later use. This is called green tea. You can also use good quality commercial green tea, which is readily available.

Green tea is different from other kinds of tea on the market, because the leaves are not fermented during processing. This makes green tea the most natural type of tea, and it is also the one which contains the highest levels of antioxidants (polyphenols) and other constituents.

To make tea using loose leaves, allow 1 teaspoon per person plus “one for the pot” in a pre-warmed teapot. Cover with boiling water and leave to stand for several minutes before use. Many people add milk and sugar, or a slice of lemon to black tea, but green tea is usually served without milk. Do not use artificial sweeteners as these contain noxious chemicals.

Tea is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbalism. Studies have shown that regular tea drinking protects against heart disease and also tooth decay! Use internally to treat diarrhea, amebic and bacterial dysentery, hepatitis and gastro-enteritis, as a diuretic, stimulant and heart tonic. You can use the leaves or teabags as a poultice to treat cuts, burns, bruises, insect bites, swellings, tired eyes etc. Cold tea can be used as a wash for the same purposes and for sunburn.

There have been many studies into the properties of green tea, and these indicate that green tea is effective against auto-immune conditions including ALS (Lou Gehrig`s disease), cancer and heart disease. Anybody suffering from an auto-immune condition (which includes many chronic diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as more serious problems) would probably find that drinking 2-4 cups of green tea a day will help. It certainly can’t hurt!

I offer many types of tea, including supplements in my online shop.

If you wish to grow it yourself for herbal use do ensure that you follow organic methods to avoid the corruption of its intrinsic components by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Marsh Mallow health benefits: for open sores and external ulcers

Marsh mallow, ancient medicine and sweetmeat

Marsh mallow, ancient medicine and sweetmeat

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The marsh mallow or marshmallow, Althaea officinalis, is also called althea, common marshmallow, mortification root, sweet weed and wymote. It is in the same family (Malvaceae) as musk mallow and hollyhock.

The name “mortification root” refers to the use of the root as a poultice for infected wounds; it is said to heal the most stubborn infections, and thus prevent gangrene. I have not been able to find any explanation for the name wymote.

Marshmallow the herb is the origin of the sweet of the same name, although the stuff you buy in sweet shops nowadays never gets a sniff of the plant. Marshmallow the sweet was once made by drying and powdering the roots, then making the powder into a paste and roasting it.

Marsh mallow is a hardy perennial reaching about 4 feet (1.2m) in height by 2’6″ (75cm) across, a native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It is not fussy as to soil, and can even grow in saline conditions, but prefers a moist situation. It will not grow in shade. It’s an attractive plant, worthy of a place in any ornamental or herb garden and could also be used in a sensory garden because of its downy leaves..

In many parts of the world, marshmallow roots are used as food, particularly during food shortages. All parts of the plant are edible, though all are also mucilaginous (you might say slimy) when cooked, and although the leaves can be used in salads, because they are fibrous and downy, they need to be finely chopped to be palatable. The water used for cooking marsh mallow can be reduced (by boiling) until it has a similar consistency to egg whites, and used as a substitute after cooling – even for things like meringues. This is obviously of most interest to people who are allergic to eggs, and to vegans. The flowers can also be used for tea.

Marshmallow has been used medicinally for centuries. All parts of the plant are active, in particular the roots.

A standard infusion of leaves uses 30g (1 ounce) of dried leaves or 3 handfuls of fresh to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Allow to stand for 15 minutes to 4 hours (the longer it infuses, the longer it can be kept in a refrigerator), strain and take up to 3 cups a day, sweetened with honey if liked. It can also be used externally when cool.

The least slimy of the medicinal preparations is the cold extract, which is made by steeping 1-2 tbsp chopped root or whole plant in 240ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of cold water for 8 hours, after which it is strained. The dosage is 1 cup a day (which can be split into 3 doses).

A decoction is made by adding 1 tsp of chopped root to 1 cup cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-30 minutes, then strain. Use the same dosage as for cold extract.

A poultice is made by mixing chopped root with honey and wrapping in a closely woven bandage. Apply to the area to be treated for 2-3 hours, then replace with a new one as required.

Internally, use the cold extract, standard infusion or decoction to treat chest infections, pleurisy, tickly coughs and catarrh, cystitis or urinary tract infections. Use externally to treat gum disease, as an eye bath for sore and infected eyes, and as a vaginal douche for bacterial vaginitis (bv). Use a poultice to treat boils and similar skin eruptions, splinters, open sores and ulcers, insect bites and gangrene. Give a piece of peeled root to teething infants to chew on.

As I always recommend with plants destined for the medicine chest, marsh mallow should be grown organically to avoid corruption or elimination of the active constituents by the presence of foreign chemicals.

To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Witch hazel health benefits: for bruises, itching and soreness

Witch hazel has a sweet and delicious fragrance

Witch hazel has a sweet and delicious fragrance

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, more properly the Virginian witch hazel, is a deciduous shrub which reaches a height and spread of 16′ (5m). I’ve discovered some alternative names, many of which are confusing (stick to Latin to be sure you have the right plant): spotted alder, striped alder, hazel nut, snapping hazel, pistachio, tobacco wood, winterbloom. It is not related to the alder, the hazel, the true pistachio or tobacco!

Witch hazel has unusual flowers in Fall, which place it and other members (and former members) of its genus in a family all of their own, Hamamelidaceae. Twigs and branches can be harvested in Spring, and the leaves in Summer to use fresh or dried for use later in the year.

When I was a child, mothers and dinner ladies (who doubled up as playground supervisors) kept a bottle of witch hazel in the cupboard to put on bruises. If we fell down or banged our heads, we would run to mum (or the dinner lady if we were at school), and they would soothe us, then get out the bottle and put some of the sweet smelling liquid on a piece of cotton wool, which they dabbed on the bruise. I have no idea how useful this was, but it made us feel better, and the smell was gorgeous. At the very least, I guess the smell was enough to alert teachers to the need to watch out for any symptoms of concussion. Because fragrance is one of the best triggers to memory — if you have similar memories, they are likely to come flooding back every time you pass close to a witch hazel in bloom.

Witch hazel is not fussy as to soil type, preferring well drained, moist soil and a position in full sun or semi-shade. The part mainly used in medicine is the bark. If you are going to harvest bark from your own shrub, bear these things in mind:

– bark is part of the circulatory system of the plant, so it’s important never to take bark all the way round (called ringing), or you will kill every part of the plant beyond that point;
– for the same reason, don’t take more than 20% of the bark from the main stem, and allow at least a year for this to heal before taking any more;
– bark can be taken from prunings by splitting them in half and removing the central part, or for larger branches, using a sharp knife to pare it away;
– twigs too small to be treated in this way can be dried whole;
– dry bark and twigs by laying them out in a single layer somewhere that is dry and preferably with a through draft. Turn it over now and then until it is crisp and dry, then store in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark.

As already mentioned, you can buy bottles of “witch hazel water” in drugstores, which is made by distillation of bark and twigs, and is lacking the tannins which are the most active components of remedial witch hazel. However, witch hazel water on cotton wool or similar can be used as a soothing wipe for the vaginal area, in particular during pregnancy.

Witch hazel is one of the ingredients of gripe water, from which you can take it that it is safe for children, and even infants. Although I can find no contra-indications in pregnancy, I would advise only using it externally during this time.

A decoction is made from 1 teaspoon of dried bark or twigs to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) of cold water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, turn right down and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain and cool. Take 1 mouthful at a time, up to 1 cup a day.

You can also make a standard infusion using 1 teaspoon of dried leaves to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of boiling water, leaving it to infuse for 10-15 minutes before straining. This can be used at a dose of 1 cup up to 3 times a day.

The decoction is used to treat colitis, diarrhea, hemorrhoids (piles), excessive menstruation, internal bleeding, vaginal discharge and prolapse. It can also be used externally to treat bruises, varicose veins and hemorrhoids, insect bites and stings, sore nipples, irritable skin, minor burns and poison ivy, as a gargle for sore throat and a douche for vaginitis. An infusion can also be used in the same ways, if the decoction is not available.

Witch hazel liquid, available in health stores and pharmacies, is used for irritated skin from a multitude of causes, including acne, bruises, cuts and grazes, eczema, infections, insect bites, piles/hemorrhoids, shaver burn, sprains, sunburn and ingrown toenails.

I offer several witch hazel products in my online shop.

As with all plants grown for use in herbal medicine, organic growing methods are essential to prevent adulteration of the active constituents by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic witch hazel visit the Gardenzone.

Cotton Lavender (Santolina) health benefits: for bites, stings and a moth proofer

Santolina is sometimes used as a hedge

Santolina is sometimes used as a hedge

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Cotton lavender, Santolina chamaecyparissus (sometimes labeled Santolina incana) is also known as santolina. It’s usually grown as an ornamental, or for use as an everlasting, and even sometimes as a low hedge. Cotton lavender is a hardy perennial which reaches a height of 1m (3′) by 60cm (2′). It is not related to lavender.

Although not often found in the herbal medicine cabinet, cotton lavender is a very useful moth proofer, which benefits from a less pungent smell than the traditional moth balls (if you can even get these any more). It is also useful for treating insect bites and stings – grind to a fine powder and apply directly on a bandage to relieve pain and aid healing.

As with all plants used as herbal remedies, cotton lavender should be grown organically to ensure that the active constituents are not corrupted by foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic cotton lavender visit the Gardenzone.

Comfrey health benefits: aids healing of wounds and broken bones

Comfrey is a good wound herb

Comfrey is a good wound herb

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, is also known as knitbone and blackwort, and is a fast growing, large hardy perennial with pretty flowers, reaching a size of 1.2mx60cm (4’x2′) if it’s happy. It prefers a moist situation in full sun or partial shade. A close relative, the Russian comfrey, is used by organic gardeners as a fertilizer for tomatoes and other fruiting crops, and this species can also serve the same purpose. Keep it under control, as it has a reputation for invasiveness, though I have never had any trouble with it myself.

Comfrey should not be used by anybody suffering from disorders of the liver.

Please note that many countries including the UK, Canada and the US prohibit the sale of comfrey for oral use.

Comfrey is used for digestive problems and to reduce heavy periods, and also as a tonic to encourage bone repair. Externally, it’s a good wound herb, and is also used for sores and insect bites. It is said that adding the chopped root to your bath water will help to keep a youthful complexion.

Make a standard infusion using 4 teaspoons of chopped root to a cup of boiling water. Strain before use and sweeten with honey, as it is bitter. The maximum dose is 1 cup a day. You can also make a poultice using finely chopped fresh root mixed with hot water and applied to the area to be treated on a clean bandage, which can be replaced with fresh after 2-3 hours.

Comfrey infused oil can be used to treat muscle strain and sprains, rashes, insect bites and small wounds. Rub a little into the affected area as required. To help broken bones to heal, apply a little on a bandage and leave in place, replacing at least once a day.

I offer comfrey infused massage oil and comfrey ointment in my online shop.

As I’ve emphasized before, all herbs used for medicinal purposes must be grown organically, and the faster the herb grows, the more essential this becomes, as foreign chemicals are absorbed more quickly. To find out more about growing organic comfrey, visit the Gardenzone.

Lemon Balm (Melissa) health benefits: for infections, fevers and insomnia

Lemon balm is safe during pregnancy

Lemon balm is safe during pregnancy

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Lemon balm is also known by a number of other names, including bee herb, sweet balm and melissa. Another name by which it is sometimes known is balm mint, but this is a misnomer, as it is not closely related to the mint genus, though it is similar in appearance. It’s also not related to basil balm (another name for basil thyme). The latin name is Melissa officinalis, the second part (‘officinalis’) indicating that it was in use as a herbal remedy at the time it was named.

One thing lemon balm does share with the mint family is its tendency to be invasive. At least this means that you are unlikely to run out if you have it in your garden! It will be happy in full sun or partial shade in most soils that are not too heavy, whether dry or moist, and can tolerate drought and frost without keeling over.

The leaves can be used to make a tasty lemon tea on their own or added to China tea, and as a lemon flavoring in cooking. They’re also used as a flavoring in the liqueurs Chartreuse and Benedictine.

Lemon balm can be used in quite large quantities without any worries, in fact recent research has found that taking 1.5g of dried leaves a day improves memory. Normally, it is used as a standard infusion, made with 3-4 teaspoonfuls of fresh or 1-2 teaspoonfuls of dried leaves and/or flowering tops to 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to infuse for about 10 minutes and strain before use hot or cold.

A standard infusion can be used internally as a tonic and to treat both viral and bacterial infection, anxiety, depression, and other nervous disorders, headache, insomnia and migraine and to regulate temperature. Use a cooled infusion externally for insect bites – and also as an insect repellent. Lemon balm is also very helpful in combating cold sores, according to research. All in all, lemon balm is a very useful addition to the herbal medicine cabinet.

I offer 400mg melissa capsules and melissa essential oil in my online shop.

Like all herbal remedies, to avoid ingesting large quantities of nasty chemicals, it’s important that lemon balm grown for medicinal use is grown organically. To find out more about growing organic lemon balm, visit the Gardenzone.


Lemon Balm/Melissa essential oil is used for cold sores (herpes), fungal infections, fatigue, depression, anxiety, trauma and shock. It may cause sensitisation or irritation and is not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 6 years of age.

As with all essential oils, Melissa/lemon balm essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.