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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Melissa is also known as lemon balm. Unfortunately, it is a frequently adulterated essential oil in aromatherapy; however, true melissa has been used traditionally and therapeutically for centuries.
Historical and Traditional Use of Melissa
Melissa (melissa officinalis) was called the “Elixir of Life” by the 16th century physician Paracelsus. It was one of the earliest known herbs to be used in medicine. Melissa is thought to have been introduced to England by the Romans, like many other herbs, and has been a feature of cottage gardens for centuries. The Latin name for melissa is the derivative for its common name, meaning “honey”, and historically it is told that melissa is named for the Greek nymph of the same name who was the protector of bees.
Traditionally, melissa was used for anxiety, melancholy and a number of nervous disorders; it was also useful for asthma, flatulence and indigestion. Other uses included as a remedy for bee stings and for use with fertility and menstrual difficulties. Today, France is still a big user of melissa leaves in herbal and other pharmaceutical products.
Adulteration of Melissa Essential Oil
True melissa oil is difficult to find as it is an essential oil which is frequently adulterated. Melissa has a very low yield, due to a very high proportion of water in the plant's structure; therefore a huge quantity of the plant is needed to make up the smallest amount of essential oil.
Common oils which are used to adulterate Melissa include lemon (citrus limon), lemon verbena (aloysia triphylla)and lemon grass (cymbogon citratus), as these plants have similar scents to melissa; more often than not, a commercial blend of of these oils are marketed as melissa oil rather than the true, unadulterated essential oil.
Use of Melissa Oil in Aromatherapy
Melissa is a calming essential oil for both mind and body, possibly due to its uplifting, lemony fragrance. It is useful in skin care, for allergies, insect bites and as an insect repellent; it can be used to help indigestion, colic and nausea.
Melissa is also useful for asthma and respiratory diseases, menstrual difficulties, shock, migraine, nervousness, insomnia, anxiety and depression. The properties of melissa include sedative, a tonic, carminative, anti-inflammatory, digestive and anti-viral. Other uses include use in the perfumery world in the formulation of cosmetics, perfumes and soap, as well as in the food industry.
Melissa essential oil, like those of rose and jasmine, is a highly priced oil which is frequently adulterated. For aromatherapy use, only true Melissa essential oil will produce the therapeutic properties contained within the plant.
Davis, Patricia 2005 Aromatherapy An A-Z London:Vermilion
Lavabre, Marcel 1990 Aromatherapy Workbook Vermont: Healing Arts Press
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Melissa Essential Oil
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