Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Balm leaf,
Hebrew: מליסה רפואית, Arabic: ريحان الليمون

Scientific name:  Melissa officinalis L.
Common name:  Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Balm leaf
Hebrew name:   מליסה רפואית
Yiddish name:  Honik-melise, האָניק־מעליסע
Arabic name:   ريحان الليمون "Raihan al-limun"
Family:  Labiatae / Lamiaceae, שפתניים

Israel, Flora, Plants, Flowers, Nature

Life form:  Hemicryptophyte
Stems:  40-80 cm high, erect, branched, shortly glandular-puberulent
Leaves:  Opposite, entire, crenulate
Inflorescence:  Verticillasters 4–12 flowered
Flowers:  Calyx, campanulate, 2-lipped, 7–9 mm, tube ribbed, long-soft-hairy; corolla, 2-lipped, 8–15 mm, white, lilach
Fruits / pods:  Nutlets 1.5-2mm, ovoid, smooth
Flowering Period:   May, June, July, August, September
Habitat:  Mediterranean maquis and forest, Batha, Phrygana, Humid habitats
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon
Chorotype:  Med - Irano-Turanian
Summer shedding:  Perenating

Melissa officinalis,Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Balm leaf, מליסה רפואית, ريحان الليمون


Derivation of the botanical name:
Melissa, Greek, honey-bee; Melissa, the goddess as Queen-bee annually killed her male consort.
officinalis, officina, herb pharmacy; alias, of or pertaining to; sold as an herb; medicinal.
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
  • Dioscorides (ca. 40-ca. 90) says that Melissa is said to delight bees. Both Dioscorides and Pliny noted the plant's healing and relaxing properties.
  • Paracelcus, born Phillip von Hohenheim, (1493-1541), a Swiss, alchemist, physician, astrologer, and general occultist, stated that nature provides substances that could rejuvenate, to some degree, the well being and vitality of the body by attracting and concentrating the source of spirit and soul that was found in particular remedial substances.
    He called Melissa officinalis "the elixer of life", and combined it with carbonate of potash in a mixture known as Primum Ens Melissae and is prepared in the following manner:
    "Take half a pound of pure carbonate of potash, and expose it to the air until it is dissolved (by attracting water from the atmosphere). Filter the fluid, and put as many fresh leaves of the plant melissa into it as it will hold, so that the fluid will cover the leaves. Let it stand in a well-closed glass in a moderately warm place for twenty-four hours. The fluid may then be removed from the leaves, and the latter thrown away. On the top of this fluid absolute alcohol is poured, so that it will cover the former to the height of one or two inches, and it is left to remain for one or two days, or until the alcohol becomes of an intensely green colour. This alcohol is then to be taken away and preserved, and fresh alcohol is put upon the alkaline fluid, and the operation is repeated until all the colouring matter is absorbed by the alcohol. This alcoholic fluid is now to be distilled, and the alcohol evaporated until it becomes of the thickness of a syrup, which is the Primum Ens Melissae; but the alcohol that has been distilled away and the liquid potash may be used again. The liquid potash must be of great concentration and the alcohol of great strength, else they would become mixed, and the experiment would not succeed."
  • Melissa (Melissa officinalis) was an important ingredient in Carmelite water (distilled in France since 1611 by members of the Carmelite Order). It was prepared from a secret formula that we now know included melissa and angelica. It aided both digestion and the complexion, depending upon its use. Modern versions of Miracle Water and Carmelite Water are still sold in Europe today.