Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) has been known since the Middle Ages for its mediating properties. It is able to strike a balance between opposing forces that are blocking each other. Combined with other extracts of medicinal plants, Melissa helps to restore harmony to oily, dry and sensitive areas of skin.
Melissa’s ability to bridge great differences can also be seen from its natural habitat. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but can also handle dryness. It needs sun, but can still thrive in partial shade. Its first tender green leaves make their appearance shortly after the snow melts.
With the previous year’s dried stalks still standing, there is a rush of activity in the soil as the first sprouts and shoots emerge. They grow into a strong, bushy plant about 60 to 90 cm tall, which has broad, oval, intensely green leaves with serrated edges. It forms the very picture of lush vegetation. Growing in tiers, the leaves emit a lemony fragrance when rubbed.
As the Melissa (lemon balm) plant begins to bud, its appearance changes drastically. It starts to sprout much smaller, yellow-green leaves. Small, yellowish white flowers appear, clustered in circles between the ranks of leaves. The blossoms and leaves are clustered on multiple levels, giving the bush a lighter and less dense appearance. At the same time, a mild lemony scent begins to surround the plant, enveloping it in a cloud of fragrance and attracting increasing numbers of bees. This is the origin of lemon balm’s scientific name, Melissa officinalis: “Melissa” is Greek for “honey bee”.
The plant’s stems dry out in autumn, to be replaced by new shoots in the spring. Lemon balm yields an evanescent essential oil that has invigorating properties.