Melissa officinalis

Over the course of the Spring semester at Herb School one of our assignments is to choose one new herb to get to know every week. We take the herb ourselves, make medicine with it, harvest it or spend time with it if it's growing nearby, read about it, and come to know it as a friend and helper. I've come to more deeply appreciate many herbs through this assignment but so far, there has been one in particular that I have fallen deeply in love with, Lemon Balm, or Melissa officinalis.

In the week that I spent taking and learning about Melissa, the world transformed. The trees became painfully, beautifully symmetrical, the light played on everything ever so perfectly, people felt softer and more open. I was content to simply lie on the grass, feeling the Earth beneath me and the Sun warming my skin. The whole world turned me on. It was psychedelic.

However, Melissa is a dynamic herb, not simply one that can make you feel wonderful but also an emmenagogue (blood moving herb which can bring on a stubborn menses). After only 3 days of enjoying a daily cup of Lemon Balm, I got my period. Now, I was only on day 14 of my normal 28-29 day cycle and Melissa is not usually regarded as a strong emmenagogue. However, it was undeniable that it was this sweet herb which had brought on a very early menses.

When sharing about my experience with my classmates I emphasized both the bliss I felt while taking Melissa and the surprise that ensued when I began to bleed so early in my cycle. Perhaps inspired by my deep feelings of joy and connectedness, it seemed that half my class chose Melissa as their next herb of the week. Turns out, as they reported back, my results were repeatable by other folks as well. Bliss, love, and happiness--check. Early menses--check. Two other classmates who took Melissa as their herb of the week also got their periods quite early. One woman, post-menopausal, even had a very vivid dream in which she got her period.

This is an excellent lesson in the efficacy of using mild herbs to achieve a desired effect. Melissa is a very gentle and safe herb to use for this purpose compared to many of the other herbs which would be considered to have an emmenaogogue effect. For delayed menses not due to pregnancy, infuse one heaping teaspoon of herb in boiling water, covered, for at least 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Furthermore, Melissa works as an anti-depressant, anti-spasmodic, and central nervous system sedative, seemingly making it an herb very helpful for many of the problems that can arise during menses (depression, cramping, anxiety, irritability, restlessness).

Want the mood elevating effects of Melissa without having to alter your cycle? Use it in formula. A combination of any of the following makes for a more balanced approach to a blissful cup of tea: Melissa, Rose, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Hawthorn, Motherwort, Lavender. Infuse as described above or if using Hawthorn berries, decoct the berries, then strain boiling decoction over other herbs and infuse as normal.

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