Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), not to be confused with bee balm, Monarda species, is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It grows to 70-150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. At the end of the summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. Usage 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. Medicinal uses The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a repellant for mosquitos. Lemon Balm is also used medicinally as a herbal tea, or in extract form. It is claimed to have antibacterial, antiviral properties (it is effective against herpes simplex), and it is also used as a 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. 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. Lemon balm essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly co-distilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils. Lemon balm is used in some variations of the Colgate Herbal toothpaste for its soothing and aromatic properties. Lemon balm should be avoided by those on thyroid medication (such as thyroxine) as it is believed that the herb inhibits the absorption of this medicine. Despite extensive traditional medicinal use, melissa oil has been prohibited by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)’s 43rd amendment. Chemistry Lemon Balm contains eugenol which kills bacteria and has been shown to calm muscles and numb tissues. It also contains tannins that contribute to its anti-viral effects, as well as terpenes that add to its soothing effects. Traditionally this herb has been used for Grave’s disease, as a sedative, and as an antispasmodic.