Anxiety attacks really make no sense to a rational mind. They come on strong and there is really very little you can do in that moment, completely overtaken by smothering emotions.
I woke up one morning last week completely consumed with anxiety over my son’s teeth. Mind you, he had not been in an accident and gotten his teeth knocked out. He’s just a kid with teeth. The fact is that teeth change very, very little from one day to the next. While that daily hygiene matters, it does not matter in the time scale of one day. Waking up one morning with completely all-consuming anxiety over something that changes on a microscopic scale is a sure sign that the problem is not in the teeth at all.
On that bad day, I had a busy day ahead and I needed a survival plan. I had a few extra minutes and so I set out on a short but vigorous hike on our property in the crisp air, ending right near a new stand of lemon balm I planted earlier this year.
Lemon balm is a useful plant with a delicate citrus flavor. It also helps fight anxiety. I had read a study that used lemon balm extract here. In this study, 14 of 20 study participants reached full remission of anxiety symptoms. That is quite an impressive outcome for a simple green leaf. (The active ingredient in the study is a formulated extract of the lemon balm plant that is available to consumers commercially here at our Amazon partner.)
Of course, I didn’t have any lemon balm extract but I did have the plant itself and I had about ten minutes.
The hike helped kick me out of my whirlwind of anxiety. I made a tea that I actually allowed to steep in my stainless steel thermos until I got to my destination. I nursed the tea through the afternoon and ended up having quite a good day.
Because that day ended up as such a success, I picked another batch of lemon balm the next day as I happened by it on a chore. I have to say that my overall sense of wellness really did improve markedly in basically a day and a half. Sure, lemon balm may not have been the cause of my boost but with the research and traditional use, I made a third batch as well and then a fourth…
Funny thing — I began to cultivate the lemon balm earlier this year for these very benefits. This is one of the “Good Day Strategies” I mention in my email series. Some time last spring I was feeling the gardening bug and moved some lemon balm seedlings that would have otherwise been trampled by chickens. The seedlings struggled through the summer drought with less-than-optimal water and made a little recovery this fall. When that bad day hit, I had the resources in place to respond. The lemon balm was thriving and was a key tool to help me cope. It may be why I like gardening so much and, especially lately, herb gardening. The gardening itself gives you mood-boosting exercise and if you plant strategically, you’ll have a keen collection of tools to fight off the “bad days.”
I had a similar experience with this special variety of sage over a year ago now, a tale I recount in a post here. In honor of that amazing plant, I planned to plant fifteen sage plants on one of my hillsides. The plants grow to twelve feet wide and so that is a whole lot of sage. It was such a great success that the fifteen plants turned into thirty-five. I lay out there on my hill like the queen of the world and, of course, I am the queen of that world, no doubt.
All that is to say, consider this an early announcement on a hillside of lemon balm. I have lots of hill, especially now that our forest fire performed some natural clearing. And really, lemon balm has a lot of useful medicinal qualities.
In James Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, he offers quite a few benefits. These are the highlights:
I have found no studies that say something along the lines of “Make a tea with XX parts water and XX parts lemon balm and drink XX times a day.” The studies use extracts of lemon balm with standardized components. There is variation between plants themselves (that is between all lemon balm plants) and so there is no way really to standardize a tea. That said, lemon balm grows like a weed here and if it is an easy, weedy plant for you playing around with these teas is your cheapest (and I think most satisfying) path to wellness.
My typical recipes look like this: “toss some leaves into some boiling water.” I took a moment today to look at what my usual proportions are. I harvested a fist full of leaves (about 20 large fresh leaves) and covered them with about a quart of boiling water. The recipe below fits these proportions.
You are creating more of an “infusion” than a “tea” with the added benefits from your herbs — allowing the water to extract the lemon balm components for a longer period of time.
I should make one note on the issue of “dried” lemon balm: Your tea won’t have much flavor. The flavor of lemon balm is delicate to start with and it seems to be lost in the drying. You could add a mint for a daytime tea or a chamomile in the evening for a little flavor boost if you wish.
“And so it is written…”
I wrote up this lemon balm post one early morning and thought I’d get started on that hillside. Freezing weather is upon us and any lemon balm seedlings will be zapped. I potted them and have them under green house conditions for the winter. By spring, I should have a nice collection, ready for my hillside.
Go forth and plant lemon balm in your area.
I leave you with some views of “sage hill” that you can also find on Instagram (here).
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Harvesting lemon balm (one of my favorite herbs for anxiety)