Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)

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  1. sister herb
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    Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), also known as balm or balm mint, is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to south-central Europe and the Mediterranean region.

    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').

    Culinary use

    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.

    Uses in traditional and alternative medicine

    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.

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

    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


    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.

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

    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.

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

    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. At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study's authors call for further research. 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.

    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. Positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

    Essential oils obtained from Melissa officinalis leaf showed high acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase co-inhibitory activities.

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

    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.
  2. sister herb
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    Sleepy Time Lemon Balm Syrup

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    Place about 3/4 cup lemon balm leaves into a small pot and add enough water to just cover the leaves. Simmer, covered partially, until the liquid is reduced in half.

    Strain out & compost the leaves.

    While still quite warm, measure out about 1/2 cup of the concentrated tea and stir 1/4 cup raw honey into it. Add more honey to taste, if you wish.

    You can make larger or smaller batches – keeping a ratio of about 2 parts lemon balm infusion to 1 part honey.

    Store in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Dose by the spoonful at night to help calm and relax.

    (Keeping in mind that honey should not be given to infants under one year old.)

    Source: http://thenerdyfarmwife.com/12-things-to-do-with-lemon-balm/
  3. sister herb
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    Pineapple with Lemon Balm and Mint

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    This uses a whole pineapple, so you be the judge on how many or how little it feeds. If you have left over sugar mix, store in a jar in the fridge for a few days (although it will discolour).

    1 ripe juicy pineapple, peeled and roughly chopped
    1 sprig (8-10 leaves) of fresh lemon balm
    1 sprig (8-10 leaves) of fresh mint leaves
    2 tablespoons raw sugar
    small mint, peppermint and lemon balm leaves, to serve, optional


    To make the lemon balm/mint sugar, stack leaves up then tightly roll them as you would a spring roll. Thinly slice the leaves, then finely chop them, as fine as you can. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and add sugar, lightly crush to form a lovely, fragrant green sugar. Sprinkle onto chopped pineapple and either eat straight away, or leave for up to a few hours in the fridge, so that you're left with a lovely fragrant syrup.


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    lemon balm and mint sugar

    Source: http://www.mydarlinglemonthyme.com/2010/10/pineapple-with-lemon-balm-and-mint.html
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    Citrus Squares with White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing

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    Cookie Crust:

    2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
    1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 ounce pieces
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

    Citrus Center:

    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
    6 large eggs
    3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 5-6 lemons weighing 4 oz each)
    1/4 cup minced orange zest (approx. 2-1/2 oranges weighing 8 oz each)
    1 tbsp minced lime zest (one 3 oz lime)

    White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing

    1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
    8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1 ounce pieces
    1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 ounce pieces
    1/4 pound white chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1 tbsp finely chopped fresh lemon balm leaves*

    *If you are unable to find lemon balm and would like to use an herb, try lemon thyme in the same proportion; or for lemon flavor without an herb, substitute 1 tablespoon of finely minced lemon zest.

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    To Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Lightly coat the inside of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch nonstick rectangular baking pan with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper (or wax paper), then lightly coat the paper with more melted butter. Set aside.

    Place the 1/2 pound of butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed for 1 minute; then beat on medium for 2 minutes until soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium for an additional 2 minutes until softer. Add the flour and mix on the lowest speed (stir) to combine, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Operate the mixer on low for about 20 seconds to finish combining the dough. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Wearing a pair of disposable vinyl (or latex) gloves, evenly press the dough into the bottom of the pan from the center to the edges in a uniform thickness (this is almost effortlessly accomplished as the dough is very malleable).

    Bake on the center rack in the oven until the edges of the crust are lightly golden brown and have ever so slightly started to pull away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside at room temperature while preparing the citrus center.

    Prepare the Super Citrus Center: Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C. In a sifter, combine the flour and baking powder. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside.

    Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds until well combined. Add the lemon juice, orange zest, and lime zest and mix on low speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and mix on the lowest speed (stir) until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Once the dry ingredients have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on low for 15 seconds to finish combining the ingredients. Pour the citrus mixture into the pan over the top of the baked cookie crust layer.

    Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, about 50 minutes (turn the pan 180 degrees F/85 C about halfway through the baking time). Remove from the oven. Immediately use a small plastic knife to cut around all the edges of what is not the lemon bar to free it from the sides of the pan. Now, while the lemon bar is still hot (if it cools in the pan it will be very difficult to extricate), turn it out onto a parchment paper (or wax paper) covered baking sheet. Carefully peel the paper away from the crust. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

    Make the White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing: Sift the confectioner's sugar onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper). Set aside.

    Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed for 1 minute; then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes until soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Beat on medium for 2 more minutes until very soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix on the lowest speed (stir) for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

    Melt the white chocolate. While it is still warm (if it's not warm when added to the mixture, large lumps of chocolate may form) add it and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon balm to the icing mixture. Now beat on medium for 1-1/2 minutes until thoroughly combined and somewhat fluffy.

    Remove the lemon bar from the refrigerator. Invert it (cookie crust layer down) onto a baking sheet. Use a cake spatula to evenly spread the lemon balm icing over the top and to the edges of the baked citrus center. Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.

    To Serve:
    Remove the lemon bar from the refrigerator and place on a clean, dry cutting board. Use a sharp knife to trim the edges of the lemon bar to create an approximately 8-inch-wide by 12-inch-long rectangle with smooth and even edges. Use a serrated slicer to cut the lemon bar into twenty-four 2-inch squares. For a clean cut, heat the blade of the slicer under lukewarm running water (don't get the blade too hot or it will melt the icing) and wipe the blade very dry before making each cut. Serve immediately, or store in a tightly sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.

    Yield: 24 two inch squares

    Source: http://www.goodeatsblog.com/2008/02/slammin-citrus-squares.html
  5. sister herb
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    Lemon Balm Granita

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    • 1 cup packed roughly chopped lemon balm herb leaves
    • ¼ cup honey (optional)
    • 4 cups water
    • The zest of 1 lemon
    • The juice of 1 lemon

    1. Place all ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer gently covered for 5-8 minutes.
    2. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
    3. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a shallow baking dish. I used my 1.8L corning ware dish.
    4. Place the liquid filled dish into your freezer, allow it to freeze almost completely (a few hours) and then scrape the frozen liquid with your fork to create your granita texture.
    5. Store in an air tight container in the freezer.

    Source: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2013/08/lemon-balm-granita-honey-sweetened-and-dairy-free.html
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    Lemon Balm Hummus

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    Ingredients
    2 cups cooked chick peas/garbanzo beans
    1/2 cup Olive Oil
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    3 tablespoons lemon juice
    2 tablespoons tahini
    1/2 bunch fresh parsley
    3-5 cloves garlic
    8-10 sprigs fresh lemon balm (leaves only)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Combine
    all ingredients except for parsley & lemon balm in a food processor or blender. Use a spatula to scrape sides and ensure a consistent mixture. Add parsley and lemon balm and blend until fully mixed. Add more lemon juice, olive oil a/o garlic for flavor and consistency.

    Make large batches and freeze so you have access to fresh lemon balm & a delicious snack year round.

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