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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a fairly typical example of plants in the Mint family. Its foliage usually has a mild lemon fragrance, otherwise this plant is rather similar to several other species in the Mint family with small whitish flowers. Unlike some of these species, such as Nepeta cataria (Catnip) and Ocimum basilicum (Basil), Lemon Balm lacks terminal clusters of flowers. Unlike Chaiturus marrubiastrum and most Lycopus spp. (Bugleweeds), it also has broad-based leaves that are less than 3 times as long as they are across. Lemon Balm can be distinguished from the similar Marrubium vulgare (Common Horehound) by the presence of 5 teeth on its calyces, while the latter species has calyces with 10 teeth. According to Wikipedia, Lemon Balm has been used traditionally to calm nervous tension, insomnia, and other conditions; apparently there is some scientific evidence that it really does have some anti-anxiety and sedative effects. In addition, Lemon Balm has been investigated in the medical community as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease and for cold sores of the herpes simplex virus. The leaves are used as an ingredient in herbal teas and salads, where they may have beneficial anti-oxidant effects. Many different cultivars of Lemon Balm are now available that vary in the fragrance of their foliage and other characteristics.
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Description

This perennial herbaceous plant is 1-3' tall, branching occasionally to frequently with ascending to erect leafy stems. The stems are light green, 4-angled, single-furrowed along their sides, and glabrous to finely hairy. Pairs of spreading opposite leaves occur along these stems, becoming gradually smaller as they ascend. The leaves are up to 3½" (9 cm.) long and 2" (5 cm.) across, ovate in shape, and either crenate or crenate-serrate along their margins. The tips of leaves are blunt, while their bases are broadly wedge-shaped to rounded. The upper leaf surface is medium green and glabrous to finely short-hairy, while the lower leaf surface is pale green and glabrous to finely hairy along the veins. The upper leaf surface is wrinkled by indentations along the primary, secondary, and tertiary veins. The petioles are up to 1¼" (3 cm.) long, light green, and finely hairy. The foliage usually has a mild lemon fragrance and rather bland taste, although this can vary with the cultivar. Clusters of 2-10 flowers develop from the axils of the upper leaves on short pedicels that are 1-5 mm. in length; there are no terminal clusters of flowers. Individual flowers are 8-13 mm. in length with corollas that are longer than their calyces. Each flower has a white corolla, a light green calyx with 5 teeth, 4 stamens, and a 4-parted ovary with single style that is cleft toward its tip. Each corolla is tubular-campanulate (tubular and bell-shaped), dividing into a hood-like upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip. The calyx is angular and trumpet-shaped with 3 smaller upper teeth and 2 larger lower teeth; it is finely hairy along its veins and 4-8 mm. in length. The blooming period occurs from late spring to late summer, lasting 1½-3 months. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time on individual plants. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by small nutlets (4 nutlets per flower) that are lanceoloid-ellipsoid and smooth. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Lemon Balm rarely naturalizes in Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it is not native. This plant was introduced from Europe into North America as a culinary and medicinal herb. It is still cultivated in gardens and sometimes it is grown commercially. Escaped plants are typically found in such habitats as thickets, fence rows, abandoned homesites, vacant lots, areas along roadsides, banks of ponds, floodplain areas along drainage canals, and waste areas. Areas with a history of disturbance are preferred. Lemon Balm is especially likely to naturalize in urban and suburban areas, as this is where most cultivated plants occur.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Stems ± erect, pyramidally much branched, pubescent, base glabrescent. Petiole slender, 0.5-2(-4) cm; leaf blade ovate, 1-5(-6.5) × 0.8-4(-5) cm, ± membranous or herbaceous, adaxially villous, abaxially villous along veins, base rounded to subcordate rarely obtuse or acute, margin serrate-crenate to obtusely serrate, apex acute to obtuse. Verticillasters 2-14-flowered, short pedunculate; bracts leaflike, much smaller than leaves, villous, ciliate. Pedicel ca. 4 mm. Calyx campanulate, ca. 8 mm, villous outside, villous inside apically; upper lip short 3-denticulate or ± undulate, teeth with short erect apices; lower lip slightly longer than upper, teeth narrowly triangular, apex spinescent. Corolla creamy white, 1.2-1.3 cm, villous outside; upper lip emarginate; middle lobe of lower lip obliquely spreading, rounded. Fl. Jun-Aug.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Lemon Balm rarely naturalizes in Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it is not native. This plant was introduced from Europe into North America as a culinary and medicinal herb. It is still cultivated in gardens and sometimes it is grown commercially. Escaped plants are typically found in such habitats as thickets, fence rows, abandoned homesites, vacant lots, areas along roadsides, banks of ponds, floodplain areas along drainage canals, and waste areas. Areas with a history of disturbance are preferred. Lemon Balm is especially likely to naturalize in urban and suburban areas, as this is where most cultivated plants occur.
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Habitat & Distribution

Cultivated in China [Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan; Africa, SW Asia, Europe]
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Associations

Faunal Associations

Little Information about floral-faunal relationships for this plant is available for North America. The flowers are used by bees as a source of nectar.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Melissa officinalis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Melissa officinalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full to partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, and fertile soil containing loam. This plant is easy to cultivate once it becomes established.
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Wikipedia

Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis, known as lemon balm,[2] balm[3] or balm mint, is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to south-central Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Central Asia.[4]

It grows to 70–150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. It is not to be confused with bee balm (which is genus Monarda). The white flowers attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for 'honey bee'). Its flavour comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%).[citation needed]

Cultivation[edit]

In North America, M. officinalis has escaped cultivation and spread into the wild.[5]

Lemon balm seeds require light and at least 20°C (70°F) to germinate. Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively, as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. Lemon balm grows vigorously and should not be planted where it will spread into other plantings.

M. officinalis may be the "honey-leaf" (μελισσόφυλλον) mentioned by Theophrastus.[6] It was in the herbal garden of John Gerard, 1596.[7] The many cultivars of M. officinalis include:

  • M. officinalis 'Citronella'
  • M. officinalis 'Lemonella'
  • M. officinalis 'Quedlinburger'
  • M. officinalis 'Lime'
  • M. officinalis ‘Variegata’
  • M. officinalis ‘Aurea’

(M. officinalis ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ is an improved variety bred for high essential oil content.)

Usage[edit]

Culinary use[edit]

Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto. It might be a better, healthier preservative than butylated hydroxy anisole in sausages.[8]

Uses in traditional and alternative medicine[edit]

Melissa (M. officinalis) essential oil

In the traditional Austrian medicine, M. officinalis leaves have been prescribed for internal (as tea) or external (essential oil) application for the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, liver, and bile.[9]

Lemon balm is the main ingredient of Carmelite Water, which is still for sale in German pharmacies.[10]

Lemon balm essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly codistilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils.

Research into possible effects on humans[edit]

High doses of purified lemon balm extracts were found to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects, producing "significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness." The authors further report a "significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy" following the administration of a 300-mg dose of extract.[11]

Lemon balm is believed to inhibit the absorption of the thyroid medication thyroxine.[12]

Recent research found a daily dose of the tea reduced oxidative stress status in radiology staff who were exposed to persistent low-dose radiation during work. After only 30 days of taking the tea daily, consuming lemon balm tea resulted in a significant improvement in plasma levels of catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase, and a marked reduction in plasma DNA damage, myeloperoxidase, and lipid peroxidation.[13]

The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a mosquito repellent.[14]

Lemon balm is also used medicinally as an herbal tea, or in extract form. It is used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative, or calming agent.[medical citation needed] At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study's authors call for further research.[15] Lemon balm extract was identified as a potent in vitro inhibitor of GABA transaminase, which explains anxiolytic effects. The major compound responsible for GABA transaminase inhibition activity in lemon balm was then found to be rosmarinic acid.[16]

Lemon balm and preparations thereof also have been shown to improve mood and mental performance. These effects are believed to involve muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.[17] Positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms.[18] Essential oils obtained from Melissa officinalis leaf showed high acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase co-inhibitory activities.[19]

Its antibacterial properties have also been demonstrated scientifically, although they are markedly weaker than those from a number of other plants studied.[20] The extract of lemon balm was also found to have exceptionally high antioxidant activity.[21]

Lemon balm is mentioned in the scientific journal Endocrinology, where it is explained that Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism.[22]

Chemistry[edit]

Lemon balm contains eugenol, tannins, and terpenes.[23] Melissa officinalis also contains 1-octen-3-ol, 10-alpha-cadinol, 3-octanol, 3-octanone, alpha-cubebene, alpha-humulene, beta-bourbonene, caffeic acid, caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, catechinene, chlorogenic acid, cis-3-hexenol, cis-ocimene, citral A, citral B, citronellal, copaene, delta-cadinene, eugenyl acetate, gamma-cadinene, geranial, geraniol, geranyl acetate, germacrene D, isogeranial, linalool, luteolin-7-glucoside, methylheptenone, neral, nerol, octyl benzoate, oleanolic acid, pomolic acid, protocatechuic acid, rhamnazine, rosmarinic acid, rosmarinin acid, stachyose, succinic acid, thymol, trans-ocimene and ursolic acid.[24] Lemon balm flowers may contain traces of harmine.[25]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Melissa officinalis information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  2. ^ "Lemon balm". University of Maryland Medical Center. Apr 5, 2011. Retrieved Oct 18, 2014. 
  3. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Balm". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ Kewe World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  5. ^ United States Department of Agriculture, "PLANTS Profile for Melissa officinalis," http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MEOF2. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, VI.1.4, identified as "M. officinalis" in the index of the Loeb Classical Library edition by Arthur F. Hort, 1916 etc.
  7. ^ As "Melissa" (Common Blam) in both issues of Gerard's Catalogus, 1596, 1599: Benjamin Daydon Jackson, A catalogue of plants cultivated in the garden of John Gerard, in the years 1596-1599, 1876;
  8. ^ de Ciriano M.G.-I., Rehecho S., Calvo M.I., Cavero R.Y., Navarro I., Astiasarán I., Ansorena D.,"Effect of lyophilized water extracts of Melissa officinalis on the stability of algae and linseed oil-in-water emulsion to be used as a functional ingredient in meat products", Meat Science 2010 85:2 (373-377)
  9. ^ Vogl, S; Picker, P; Mihaly-Bison, J; Fakhrudin, N; Atanasov, AG; Heiss, EH; Wawrosch, C; Reznicek, G et al. (2013). "Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine-An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 149 (3): 750–71. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. PMC 3791396. PMID 23770053. 
  10. ^ Hiller, Sabine (September 6, 2010). "FOOD Using lemon balm in the kitchen". The Mayo News. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB (2004). "Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)". Psychosom Med 66 (4): 607–13. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000132877.72833.71. PMID 15272110. 
  12. ^ University of Maryland Medical Centre, "Lemon Balm"
  13. ^ Zeraatpishe A., Oryan S., Bagheri M.H., Pilevarian A.A., Malekirad A.A., Baeeri M., Abdollahi M. (2011). "Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on oxidative status and DNA damage in subjects exposed to long-term low-dose ionizing radiation". Toxicology and Industrial Health 27 (3): 205–212. doi:10.1177/0748233710383889. PMID 20858648. 
  14. ^ Jeong-Kyu KIM, Chang-Soo KANG, Jong-Kwon LEE, Young-Ran KIM, Hye-Yun HAN, Hwa Kyung YUN (2005). "Evaluation of Repellency Effect of Two Natural Aroma Mosquito Repellent Compounds, Citronella and Citronellal". Entomological Research 35 (2): 117–120. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5967.2005.tb00146.x. 
  15. ^ Kennedy, D. O.; Little, W; Scholey, AB (2004). "Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)". Psychosomatic Medicine 66 (4): 607–13. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000132877.72833.71. PMID 15272110. 
  16. ^ Awad, Rosalie; Muhammad, Asim; Durst, Tony; Trudeau, Vance L.; Arnason, John T. (2009). "Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity". Phytotherapy Research 23 (8): 1075–81. doi:10.1002/ptr.2712. PMID 19165747. 
  17. ^ Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003). "Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties". Neuropsychopharmacology 28 (10): 1871–81. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. PMID 12888775. 
  18. ^ Akhondzadeh, S; Noroozian, M; Mohammadi, M; Ohadinia, S; Jamshidi, AH; Khani, M (2003). "Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 74 (7): 863–6. doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.7.863. PMC 1738567. PMID 12810768. 
  19. ^ Chaiyana W., Okonogi S."Inhibition of cholinesterase by essential oil from food plant". Phytomedicine. 19 (8-9) (pp 836-839), 2012.
  20. ^ Nascimento, Gislene G. F.; Locatelli, Juliana; Freitas, Paulo C.; Silva, Giuliana L. (2000). "Antibacterial activity of plant extracts and phytochemicals on antibiotic-resistant bacteria". Brazilian Journal of Microbiology 31 (4): 247–56. doi:10.1590/S1517-83822000000400003. 
  21. ^ Dastmalchi, K; Damiendorman, H; Oinonen, P; Darwis, Y; Laakso, I; Hiltunen, R (2008). "Chemical composition and in vitro antioxidative activity of a lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) extract". LWT - Food Science and Technology 41 (3): 391–400. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2007.03.007. 
  22. ^ Auf'mkolk, M.; Ingbar, J. C.; Kubota, K.; Amir, S. M.; Ingbar, S. H. (1985). "Extracts and Auto-Oxidized Constituents of Certain Plants Inhibit the Receptor-Binding and the Biological Activity of Graves' Immunoglobulins". Endocrinology 116 (5): 1687–93. doi:10.1210/endo-116-5-1687. PMID 2985357. 
  23. ^ "Lemon balm | University of Maryland Medical Center". Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "Melissa officinalis | Featured Extracts". Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  25. ^ Natalie Harrington (2012). "Harmala Alkaloids as Bee Signaling Chemicals". Journal of Student Research 1 (1): 23–32. 
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Notes

Comments

Used for flavoring salads, soups, and liqueurs. Oil employed in perfumery; commonly known as balm tea; a home remedy sometimes used for headaches and toothaches.
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