The Backyard Pharmacy – Lemon Balm

There’s a plant, quite possibly growing in your yard right now, that you may not fully appreciate. Lemon balm is a medium sized, leafy green plant with the four-sided stem of a mint, and small light yellow flowers. Originally from Europe, Melissa officinalis is now naturalized in the States and is often considered a nuisance due to its propensity to spread easily through ones garden if allowed to.  Pinch off a leaf, crush it in your fingers, and you will get an unmistakable smell of lemon.

Although rather ordinary looking, lemon balm has an amazingly wide variety of medicinal uses for animals and humans alike.  It’s not considered a particularly strong herb, so its very safe to use.  A tea make from the dried leaves has a mild but pleasant taste, and quite effective for nervousness, mild depression and upset digestive systems.   Let’s say you plan on leaving Heidi, your sweet but anxious German Shepherd with a sitter while you go put of town for a week.  Make a pot of lemon balm tea and have the pet sitter pour it into Heidi’s food at every meal.  It will not only help keep her calm and relaxed while you are gone, but will also sooth her GI tract and help to prevent the stress-induced diarrhea that German shepherds are famous for. Or maybe you have a young colt that is not dealing with the stress of training well.  A handful of the dried
leaves twice a day in the feed can do wonders to help him stay more calm and focused.
It’s also a great help for horses recovering from colic.
Lemon balm has a mild thyroid suppressing effect, so I’ve used it in helping to treating  hyperthyroidism, which is a very common condition in older cats. It also has antiviral properties, so it can be useful in upper respiratory infections.  I’ve also used it effectively
in treating herpes eye infections, another common feline ailment.   And lastly, an oil made from the fresh plant makes a great remedy used topically for burns, blisters, stings and herpes eruptions in any species.
This amazing plant with so many uses is easy to grow and can be found at your local nursery.  And remember, it’s not just for critters!