Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Tincture

Herbs are playing an increasing role in our the food we eat, the soap we make and the medicinal preparations we ingest to take advantage of various healthful properties.

We brought a lemon balm plant that grew in our Carlsbad, New Mexico garden back midwest with us this spring and were surprised to find it putting on new growth late this summer after an earlier flowering. New growth of lemon balm contains the most potent powers: "cooling and sedative. It combines this property with the typical nerve-calming powers of the mint family to make a strong, but safe and simple sedative. A tinctured fresh melissa should be on the shelf in every household..." (The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood).

We harvested the new growth...

Chopped them up, put them in a ball jar....

and poured 100 proof vodka over the top to extract the medicinal properties. We opted for a moderate percentage of alcohol to try and balance extraction with the sensitive chemical properties of the plant. The lemon balm is steeping in the vodka for 6 weeks and then we will strain out the used plant material and bottle the tincture for use during stressful times. According to Wood, dosage of the tincture can be small 1-3 drops to large 10-30 drops. (We take tinctures in a small glass of water.)

Fun little factoid: officinalis as a species name, "denotes a plant that was traditionally sold in apothecary shops and was considered to have medicinal or healthful properties." Watch for it in your field guides and garden magazines!


  1. Um, so how does one actually use a tincture? Spread it on toast, gulp it by the spoonful, add a few drops to tea, or rub it all over your body?

  2. this is great! we have an abondanza of lemon balm (it really likes to spread!). i've always used it to make simple syrup for "lemonade", and now i have another easy use! thanks!

  3. Hi, what is the shelf life of the melissa tincture? I have some left over from the autumn and I'm wondering if it's still good.


  4. Tincture life varies depending on storage conditions. If you are storing it in a cool, dark, dry place your tincture should be good for at least a year and probably longer!


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