Melissa officinalis L.

Fam. Labiatae

Br. Mélisse

Ing. Balm, Balm-gentle, Pimentare

Ted. Balsam, Melisse, Zitronenmelisse

Sp. Cetroncella, Melacitola, Melissa


Herbaceous plant, perennial, with a lignified horizontal rhizome, up to 1 meter high, erect, quadrangular, branched, tomentose caule.

Petiolate, opposite decussate leaves, rhomboid-shaped ovals, 2-6 cm long, corded to the base with crenate margin, shiny on the upper side and with covering and secretory hairs.

Small, white, bilabiated flowers arranged on inflorescences (verticillastri) briefly pedunculated to the upper leaf axils. Persistent calyx, tubular campanulate divided into two lips. Corolla tube with two unequal lips: the upper right bifid, the lower is trifid; 4 stamens. Flowering from July to September.

Fruit: brown tetrachenium and elongated oval shape.

The whole plant gives off a pleasant lemon smell and has a slightly bitter taste


Lemon balm is native to Mediterranean Europe and western Asia; now it is cultivated all over the world. It lives in the shade of the farmyards, in the woods and in uncultivated places up to 1000 m.


It is cultivated in many gardens, loves a soil of medium texture, fresh and deep and sunny places. It is sensitive to cold and excess moisture. However, it needs frequent watering.

It multiplies by seed, by rhizome or by division of the tufts. But vegetative reproduction is not common. In general, it is sown in July in a greenhouse in fine soil and transplanted in October; otherwise in April if the sowing is done in full ground.

The crop is arranged in rows 50 cm apart with 8-10 seedlings / m2. A lower plant density favors a good development of the basal leaves, which are the richest in oil. The cultivation lasts 4-5 up to 7 years.

The first year is harvested in August, the following years at the end of June-July; sometimes two collections are also made. Harvesting takes place a little before flowering, mowing down to the ground: the leaves are gathered on special benches and left to dry in a dry and ventilated place. The leaves collected in July contain, compared to those harvested at the end of the summer, a quantity of aromatic substances greater than 20-25%. The apical leaves contain about half of the essence compared to the basal ones.

Distillation is best performed immediately after harvesting because drying tends to lower the content of active ingredients. The species is abundantly hunted by bees.

Adversity: Mushrooms ( Septoria, Erisyphe, Puccinia ), insects that erode the leaves, viruses and weeds

DRUGS: are the leaves that contain tannins, bitter principles, flavonoids, polyphenols (triterpenes), essential oil in small quantities (therefore very expensive), but with a very pleasant smell containing citral and citronellal.


In plant protection products, lemon balm is antispasmodic and used both in the form of herbal teas and alcoholates (relaxing, nervine, anxiolytic, moderate antidepressant tonic, diaphoretic, digestive, antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory). It is part of sedative and intestinal regulatory specialties. The antispasmodic action in gastric spasms of nervous origin and the mild sedative action are to be attributed to two aldehydes, the citral and the citronellal.

In dietetics lemon balm is used in the preparation of certain liqueurs.