Lemon Balm–Melissa

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Hi, everyone! Today we’re going to take a look at lemon balm, also known as melissa officinalis. This grows plentiful in our garden and is one of my favorite things to make a hydrosol from. This herb has several actions one can find helpful to lead a more balanced life.

Sedative

I have never used lemon balm for this purpose, but it can help with light insomnia. Lemon balm brings about a feeling of calmness, but it is also a mild sedative. Something stronger may–or may not–be needed for chronic insomnia. There are varying degrees of insomnia and everyone is different, but if you haven’t tried lemon balm and you’re awake but want to be sleeping, give it a try.

Stress

This is a great herb for tension/anxiety headaches. It probably won’t help for a migraine, but if your headache is more psychological, this is one of your go to herbs. Making a strong tea will help. I actually use my hydrosol for tension headaches, but that’s not always an option and a tea will work just as well.

Depression

Depression is serious and affects the lives of those suffering from it and their loved ones. There are many lifestyle changes and routines to help battle this, but sometimes a little extra help is needed. There are many who, for very good reasons, want to avoid medication. Having a cup of lemon balm tea can be a useful ally in the war with depression. Even the ritual of just making the tea can have its own calming effect.

Diaphoretic

Lemon balm isn’t the only herb that possesses this lovely talent. Anything that is a diaphoretic makes you sweat. Nice, right? In the right circumstances, sweating is the goal. The main reason people want to induce sweating is if they’re trying to break a fever. There is nothing pretty about sweating and fevers, but it’s just one brick on the path of recovering from nasty colds and the flu.

Antiviral

How cool is it that lemon balm is antiviral? It’s very cool, but there are different viruses out there so it’s not effective for EVERY virus. Sorry. Less cool now, but knowledge is power, so knowing what virus lemon balm is best at defeating is important. Herpesviridae is the virus family most effected by lemon balm. Not a very pleasant family, this is where your cold sores come from. Using lemon balm on the effected area topically is best. Other common conditions caused by this virus family are:

  • chicken pox
  • shingles
  • mono
  • sixth disease (roseola infantum)

You can try it with colds and the flu, like previously stated. Honestly though, when using it for other virus families, the strongest way it is going to help is with breaking the fever, which is still important. But actually attacking the virus? Not this herb’s speciality.

Carminative

This is just a fancy word that means this herb can help if you’re a little gassy. It happens and no one appreciates the discomforts paired with flatulence.

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Culinary

You don’t see it called for in a lot of recipes, but lemon balm is a fantastic culinary herb. You can infuse an olive oil and make amazing salad dressings (I do this with garlic, too). Recipe calling for zest of lemon? Don’t have a lemon or just don’t feel like doing it? Don’t. Chop some fresh lemon balm (or use dried) and adjust to your personal tastes.

Growing

Lemon balm is part of the mint family so it’s easy to grow. It’s also invasive. We have a lot of herbs and produce that grow randomly from their designated locations.I have tomatillos that still randomly pop up in the three acres we have. I have not grown tomatillos in THREE YEARS. I blame the birds. It doesn’t really bother us, but if you’re on a smaller lot and have a tidy personality, keeping it in a large pot can help with that invasiveness.

Bees

Bees love it. This is a great herb to keep around other plants that may rely pretty heavily on pollination to be successful in all endeavors of plant life.

Pure Melissa (lemon Balm) essential oil is expensive, but a great way to incorporate it into your life. If you want pure Melissa essential oil I suggest using Rocky Mountain Oils brand. If you can’t afford it but want a blend, try this.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Eucalyptus

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I won’t lie, I will use eucalyptus essential oil in my diffuser even if I’m NOT congested at times. Too much can be too much for me sometimes, but even a little bit smells heavenly.

Eucalyptus is commonly known for congestion of the sinuses and chest. In Ayurvedic practices, it is considered a cooling and moist herb.

Congestion

The volatile oils found in eucalyptus aid in congestion by relaxing airways and actually thinning mucus. Most people are pretty familiar with using it in steam, or as an essential oil in a diffuser. Interestingly enough, this herb can be helpful as a tea. This is a very potent herb though, so use with caution as it can be overwhelming. A safe start would be 1/2 a teaspoon of dried eucalyptus per cup of water. If you grow this herb, you can also use one torn fresh leaf per cup of water. It is not recommended to take more than 3 cups a day. When steeping, do not exceed 15 minutes due to its potency.

Diaphoretic

Eucalyptus is a herb that is diaphoretic and can mildly induce sweating. As much as most of us hate the idea of sweating, it is our body’s natural response to avoid overheating. When we’re sick and we have a fever, that’s our body’s immune system killing whatever is foreign in our bodies. When we finally break into a sweat, our fever will break and we’ll feel a little bit better.

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Expectorant

This herbal action promotes the dispelling of sputum (spit and mucus). This is very helpful for coughs and chest congestion.  Even just inhaling steam that’s been infused with eucalyptus has the potential to be a huge help.

Antimicrobial

Eucalyptus has a pretty major component called eucalyptol. This is the component of eucalyptus that is antimicrobial. Eucalyptol can have the potential to effect many bacteria. The list of bacteria it effects consists of, but is not limited to:

  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • various viruses
  • various fungi (even candida)

This herb is a fantastic addition for inflamed tissue in the respiratory tract and even for fever.

Young children should not be exposed to eucalyptus. Eucalyptol can actually have severe effects on young children and babies.

Avoid eucalyptus oil if pregnant or breastfeeding. Using it in food amounts when pregnant or breastfeeding should be fine. If you worry about consuming too much, just avoid it altogether. Always better safe than sorry.

Looking to buy eucalyptus essential oil? My favorite brand is here, with an organic option here.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Chamomile

I. Love. Chamomile. My favorite characteristic of this herb is its smell, German and Roman variations. The scents are light, floral, and sweet. I love it in soaps, shampoos, and lotions and butters.

Chamomile is harvested when the flowers open. Flowers are commonly dried and used in tea blends. Most people know chamomile for its calming effects. It is also very soothing to the GI tract and can be consumed after dinner to ease digestion. Because it is soothing to the GI tract and a nervine, chamomile is a great addition to a blend targeted toward IBS symptoms (or similar symptoms).

Along as a sleep aid, chamomile can aid individuals suffering from mild anxiety.

I also personally love it as a tea. It’s lightly sweet and has a delicate taste. Many use it in sleep blends to help relax an individual before bed. I know science does not back up the theory that warm milk helps one sleep. I know this. I don’t care though. I find it soothing. What I do with warm milk though is I gently steep it with lavender buds and chamomile flowers. If milk does not irritate you, the warmth and the taste is rather soothing. The fragrance is intoxicating. The milk helps me crave midnight snacks less, too.

Another great property of this herb is that it’s safe for children. When my children were babies I would make chamomile tea to add to their bath water when they had colds. It helps calm down any anxiety or distress and can help with sleep.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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Dotted Horsemint

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Today, I want to talk about dotted horsemint. Why? Because it’s found pretty easily throughout Florida. There’s a small bike path near my parents’ house that has a plethora of horsemint. Horsemint attracts quite the variety of pollinators ranging from bees to wasps. Dotted horsemint is the only herb in the monarda family that is native to Florida. I can appreciate its attractiveness to pollinators and nativity alone.

This herb is VERY aromatic. It can be overwhelming to some. This herb is also very invasive, so if you ever grow it in your garden regular maintenance is a must.

Also, it’s gorgeous. When you research this herb online, many call it rough  but it captures my attention aesthetically just as much as many other plants and herbs in the garden. I think it’s prettier than lavender and sunflowers even.

One very interesting property of horsemint is its high content of thymol. Thymol has strong antiseptic properties and also gives horsemint (and thyme) its strong flavor. So used topically as a poultice is great. It can be consumed as a tea. It’s a diaphoretic and can help break a fever. Thymol is created synthetically in lab settings and used in modern medicine. Even in its nonsynthetic, natural form it is quite strong.

In a culinary aspect, the herb is still useful. If I go to the supermarket, I’m not going to find this stuff dried next to many other common culinary herbs and spices, but I easily substitute this herb for thyme and oregano. It doesn’t taste like mint at all. It really is a perfect addition to any savory dish.

Curious about what else we have growing on the farm? Check out this page.

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Garlic

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I don’t know about you, but we consume a lot of garlic in my house. We use it whenever possible in recipes and we use extra garlic in during cold season. It was traditionally believed that, due to its odor, garlic could ward off evils spirits and vampires.

We’ve grown quite a bit as far as superstitions go, but garlic’s potential for benefits is often indisputable. Garlic is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, diaphoretic, diuretic, and cholagogue. Garlic has a heating energy.

photography of garlic on wooden table
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If you can handle raw garlic, it can be used for those harsh winters when colds suck the most. Its anti-inflammatory properties can ease a cold. A cold’s duration can be shortened due to the immune system stimulation caused by the consumption of garlic.

Garlic can also aid in breaking a fever while you have a cold.

Some with gastrointestinal sensitivities can find garlic aggravating to their specific conditions. Medicinal amounts of garlic should be avoided while pregnant and breastfeeding.

two white garlics
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When chopping garlic for cooking, it is best to let it sit for about ten minutes after chopping/mincing at room temperature before cooking. This allows the enzyme reaction that triggers a boost in the healthy compounds found in garlic. Too high of a heat–or cooking for too long–can damage the beneficial properties.

Want to see what herbs we have in our garden? Take a look here.

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