Sunday, November 20, 2011
44 Days of Witchery: Day 35
Lemon Balm: Melissa Officianalis
Origins: Mediterranean World
Astrological Associations: Jupiter and Cancer (according to Culpepper.) Moon (Candace Hunter.)
For the Greeks, the honeybee was considered associated with several Gods and Goddesses. Bees attended the birth of Zeus, and several Bee Nymphs were among his nurses. The priestesses of Cybele and Rhea were called Melissae, which means bee. Even the human soul was associated with the bee.
Of all the blossoms that were beloved by bees, the lemon balm was understood as most prized, according to Pliny the Elder. It was traditional to plant lemon balm near hives to encourage them to stay and be happy.
The flowers of lemon balm are tiny, delicate, and lovely. Charlesmagne found the plant so lovely that he is said to have insisted that it be a part of all monastery gardens. In fact it was a main ingredient in Carmelite Water, which was a popular tonic in the nineteenth century and earlier.
It is also included in the liquor Chartreuse and Benedictine, both of which are medieval recipes for tonics. Paracelsus said that Lemon Balm is an herb in the elixir of life.
Shakespeare uses lemon balm as a symbol of sympathy in King Richard II, King Henry IV, and King Lear, where he describes it being used to anoint the kings. His plays also describe using lemon balm as furniture polish. The British colonies in North America use lemon balm in beverages, food, medicine, cosmetics and around the home.
It was believed in the 17th century to be a balm against baldness, mental degradation, and depression. In Polish folklore, new mothers are refreshed by a tonic of lemon balm or chamomile. It even has some reputation of extending the recipient's life.
In magic, Lemon Balm is very soothing and kind. It grows with a sense of resiliency and strength in spite of its delicate appearance. Melissae Officianalis is also known as encouraging joy and peace and self-nurturing. It is a relaxing presence. Some flower languages list lemon balm as bringing merriment and relieving stress.
If you lightly rub the leaves, a light lemon scent fills the air and your hands.
In modern medicine, studies show it can be useful for insomnia, anxiety, cold sores, antibiotic effect, and indigestion.
Shatoiya De la Tour, "Earth Mother Herbal: Remedies, Recipes, Lotions, and Potions from Mother Nature's Healing Plants"
Liebreich, Wagner and Wendland, "The Family Kitchen Garden"
Deborah Anders Silverman, "Polish-American Folklore"
A Modern Herbal: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/balm--02.html
University of Maryland's Herbal Database: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lemon-balm-000261.htm
Mountain Rose Herbs' entry on Lemon Balm: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/lemon_balm.php
The Practical Herbalist: http://www.thepracticalherbalist.com/component/content/article/53-magical-herbs/275-lemon-balm-myth-and-magic.html
Herbal Legacy's entry: http://www.herballegacy.com/Morrison_History.html