Lemon Balm: The Gateway Herb
Lemon Balm is a cheerful little plant. With uplifting, lemon-scented leaves and tiny sweet white flowers, it is a pleasant addition to any garden or kitchen apothecary. I have never found anyone who does not enjoy lemon balm, so I call it a “gateway herb.” Even the most wary newcomers to herbs fall in love with its scent and taste, and then become open to trying many more new and unusual herbs…!
Both bees and humans find this plant irresistibly attractive. In fact its Latin name Melissa refers to “bees” — these insects will flock to it whenever it is in bloom.
Lemon balm is originally from southern Europe but is now widely cultivated around the world. Like many mint family plants it is a very prolific grower. If you have limited garden space, you may want to place it in a container so that it does not take over the whole garden. (However, I don’t think that that would be such a terrible thing if it did happen...)
herbs for stress and over-work
Lately I've been consumed by a project that is near and dear to my heart, work that is both challenging and very fulfilling to undertake. This project will soon be coming to the end of its yearly cycle, and in these final weeks of its unfolding, despite the excitement I feel, I also tend to get pretty stressed out and worn down. So, I've been trying to take adaptogenic and nervine herbs every day for overall support and vitality, and to help keep the stress in check. It's interesting for me to observe that the times I most often need some help from the herbs are the times when I am least likely to actually take care of myself. For me, as for many people I suppose, the more stressed I feel the more likely I am to "forget" to do things that are good for me, the more resistant I am to take the time to cook meals, the more prone I am to let myself be stuck in the stress-cycle rut... But here's where some of my favorite herbs step in to help get me out of my head and to take a more relaxed perspective on things:
In moments when I feel frazzled and with a million things on my mind and to-do list I make a tea of Violet, Oat Tops and Skullcap. Makes me feel soothed. Violet is a more delicate herb, but offers a floral aroma that is uplifting and calming. The Oats provide good nourishment for a frazzled nervous system and the Skullcap is really wonderful for anxiousness.
On evenings when I just need to let the day go and have a restful sleep, I drink an infusion of Oat Tops and Linden. I am always so surprised how quickly and deeply this tea knocks me out, but it never fails to facilitate a deep night's sleep. It seems to let you relax enough to feel how tired you are. The other night I drank this tea right before bed and actually overslept the next morning - the first time in a long time!
On days when I just want to feel fortified and more centered, I drink Tulsi. This is one of my absolute favorite teas, and has a little bit of spice and warmth to it. You can drink it by the gallon to help tame anxiety and overwhelm. I feel that it is also a good match for people who deal with self-induced states of stress like perfectionism and obsessively driven behavior. I definitely recommend using loose Tulsi leaves instead of the pre-packaged tea bags to make a really strong brew. This dark tea goes well with honey - even some milk.
All of these plants have become my dear friends, standing by my side in demanding times. I hope they will be of use to you, too... and help you to come closer to your relaxed and naturally-centered self.