Melissa officinalis, aka lemon balm, is one of my favorite springtime herbs to imbibe.

A member of the mint family, she grows exuberantly and would gladly take over the world if that were an option. The benefits of Melissa are many, as it has the ability to help with an array of common ailments. Her lemon-scented, delicate leaves are easily made into a daily tea or infusion, as well as a potent tincture or hydrosol to be used both topically and internally.

One of the most popular uses of lemon balm is to calm the spirit and regulate cognitive function. Those with anxiety, panic disorder, and general mental confusion can reap the rewards of lemon balm’s calming nature with frequent use. It increases the amino acid GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) in the brain, which helps settle an overworked mind into a place of peace. With a heightened anti-inflammatory effect, Melissa has been used as a supplemental treatment for cancer and obesity because of her ability to inhibit the growth of VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor), which is a protein that encourages the growth of blood vessels.

While VEGF can be beneficial for increasing oxygenation in the tissues, too much blood vessel production can lead to tumors and inflammation throughout the body. With lemon balm blocking the overgrowth of VEGF, there is a possibility of sedating this inflammation. Assisting with sleep, calming herpes simplex outbreaks, and even protecting the cells against UV damage are just a few more uses for the mighty Melissa.

Melissa officinalis has had such an impact on the history of healing that there are two well-known lemon balm healing tonics, both created by nuns several hundred years ago. Carmelite water was conceived by French nuns from the Abbey of St. Just during the 14th century. It was an alcoholic tincture based in lemon balm and blended with other healing herbs that was eventually commercialized. In early 1800s Germany, a nun named Maria Clementine Martin distilled her own version of Carmelite water. It was eventually branded, and her recipe was approved by the European Union as the first traditional medicinal healing product. You can still buy her original recipe of Klosterfrau Melissengeist through the Klosterfrau Healthcare Group in Germany.

For our lemon balm cocktail, I created a fusion of the original Carmelite water and Klosterfrau Melissengeist recipes in a simple maceration of white wine for flavor.

Please remember Medicinal Mixology is solely holistic and not a note of treatment. If you have severe ailments, seek advice from your health care provider.

A Frau Named Melissa, cocktails with lemon balm

A Frau Named Melissa

A Frau Named Melissa

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Spiced or Aged Rum
  • .5 oz. KlosterKarma Tonic*
  • .75 oz. Mint-Honey Syrup**
  • .25 Lemon, Juiced
  • .75 oz. Ginger Beer
  • Fresh Mint (for Garnish)

Preparation: Build all base ingredients (except the ginger beer and garnish) in a mixing tin. Add ice, shake, and strain into a glass of your choice. Top with ginger beer. Lightly smack the fresh mint in between your palms to activate. Garnish the drink with fresh mint and enjoy.

*KlosterKarma Tonic

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Lemon Balm
  • 2 tbsp. Angelica Root
  • 2 tbsp. Gentian Root
  • .5 Ceylon Cinnamon Stick
  • .25 Nutmeg, Grated
  • 1 tbsp. Lemon Zest
  • 12 oz. White Wine

Preparation: Add all ingredients to an airtight container and shake daily for at least three weeks. Strain and use. For an additional exploration of this herbal blend, use the remaining herb pulp that’s left behind after straining to create a honey syrup on low heat, extracting a supplemental set of flavors and benefits.

**Mint-Honey Syrup

Preparation: Using spearmint and/or peppermint, add a mix of 2:1 mint/water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer slightly, and as the infusion cools, add honey to create a 1:3 composition of honey/liquid. Once cooled, strain and use.