Herb Guide: J - L

Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Lobelia, Lovage

 

LEMON BALM

(Melissa officinalis)

Member of the lamiaceae (mint) family

Common names: sweet balm, blue balm, garden balm, balm, balm mint, cure-all, dropsy plant, honey plant, sweet melissa, sweet mary

The sweet nectar of the lemon balm plant is a bee's best friend. Beekeepers have been known to use this fact to their full advantage. They rub leaves of lemon balm directly onto their hives, releasing its sweet fragrance, and attracting the industrious little workers in droves. More bees, more honey, more money!

You can use the leaves of this plant to make your furniture shine. Rub it down with lemon balm leaves, buff it with a soft polishing cloth and you will be rewarded with shiny, lemon-scented goodness.

Then mix up a batch of potpourri (including lemon balm, of course), set it out in a pretty bowl, and your room will smell delightful. The bonus being, that while this herb attracts bees, it serves as a repellent for other insects.

This herb is also a great addition to household sprays; it's lively scent is a real 'mood booster'.

Colonists relied heavily on filling their store rooms with staples to provide food for their families, throughout the winter months. When they couldn't get their hands on fresh lemons to produce jellies for storage, they used lemon balm as a substitute. You can use this herb to replace the lemon flavor in most any recipe; making it wondrously versatile in the kitchen.

Brew a hot cup of lemon balm tea; not only because it is good for you, but just because it's so tasty.

Be sure to add a bit of this herbal delight to your iced tea blends, as well. It enhances the flavor of lemon, lime, or orangeade; mixing lemon balm with citrus really makes it 'pop'. The next time you make a marinade containing citrus juice, don't forget the lemon balm ... mmmmmm delicious!

Sprinkle a bit of lemon balm over your garden or fruit salad, or add a bit to your favorite potato or macaroni salad; it is a sure way to impress summertime guests.

Replace commercial lemon-pepper seasoning blends with the goodness of natural lemon balm and freshly ground pepper. It is amazing what this blend will do for seafood and poultry dishes. Mix some up and put it in a shaker by your stove; you will find endless uses for it!

Medicinally, this herb is fabulous when treating children. They love the taste! It can be brewed into a tea to treat nervousness, colic, gastric distress, colds, fevers, nausea, and even mumps.

Lemon balm is also effectively used when treating the elderly for dementia or alzheimers disease.

Skin responds very well to this herb. Make a poultice from the crushed leaves to treat acne, eczema, insect bites, and wounds.

This herb has shown itself to be an effective treatment for herpes. It relieves irritation during breakouts and increases the time lapse between them.

It has been scientifically proven that, hot water extracts of lemon balm have many medicinal properties. They are antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiviral, antihistaminic and promote antioxidant activity. Brew a batch in the evening, prepare one cup to drink (this herb is a mild sedative) and pour the rest of the batch into your evening bath; a great nights sleep will soon follow!

This wonderfully healing and aromatic herb is used in the cosmetic industry, as well. It provides a light lemony scent to perfumes. It is a key ingredient in many aromatherapy products. It is often infused into lotions and creams, and makes a refreshing addition to bath products.

It's cleansing, antiseptic, and fragrant properties make it a delightful addition to homemade soap.

Do not use this herb while pregnant.

Patch test when using directly on skin.

If using the essential oil of this plant, keep the blend at 1%.

This herb is generally considered safe.


LEMONGRASS

(Cymbopogon citrates)

Member of the gramineae (grass) family

Common names: fever grass, sera, takrai

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The lemongrass plant possesses a sort of wild, care-free beauty. It is a diverse addition to any garden. Plant it as a backdrop, a plot divider, or a centerpiece; mine grows alongside one of my porch pillars. It is attractive, and helps keep 'summer evenings on the porch' insect free.

The grass-like leaves of this plant add both height and character to floral arrangements, and a refreshing, lemon scent to potpourri blends.

Like other lemony herbs, it makes a delightful addition to tea blends; both hot and cold.

When setting the table for your next dinner party, be sure to include a pretty glass pitcher full of ice water, and topped off with cucumber slices, orange slices, and bruised lemongrass leaves. It is both refreshing and elegant. Your guests will love it!

If you find yourself in the middle of making a great dish, only to discover that someone has used the last of the lemons you need for it (ooops!), this herb can be used to replace them with great success. It is also a fabulous replacement for the green vegetables you usually use when making pasta and rice dishes.

Lemongrass makes amazing oil and vinegar infusions.

Studies show that lemongrass is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic. It is used to treat athletes foot, ringworm, lice, and scabies.

It will keep fleas and ticks away from pets, as well. Powder this herb and rub a small amount into the coat of your four-legged friends.

A massage oil made with lemongrass is a medicine chest essential. Applied topically this oil stimulates circulation to the skin, and helps ease the discomfort of aches and pains. It is great for tired feet!

Lemongrass is a fabulous addition to cosmetic products. It provides a luscious eye-opening scent for soaps, lotions, and more. It cleanses oily skin and gives hair a gorgeous, glossy shine.

This herb is generally considered safe.

Do not use the essential oil of this plant while pregnant, or when treating babies and toddlers.

Lemongrass essential oil should be diluted to 1 percent of blends, and is for topical use only.

Patch test on sensitive skin.


LOBELIA

(Lobelia inflate)

Member of the campanulaceae (bellflower) family

Common names: Indian tobacco, puke-weed, asthma weed, gagwort, vomitwort, bladderpod

There was a time when lobelia was used as a smoking cessation aid. It was believed that smoking crushed lobelia leaves would help smokers 'kick-the-habit'. However, studies have shown that this is not effective.

Lobelia is a beautiful, delicately flowered herb, and makes an attractive addition to any garden.

While some herbalists still use this pretty little gem medicinally, it's potential side-effects do not make it worth the risk. With all of the herbal alternatives out there, it is highly recommended that you find another route to improved health.

Lobelia can dangerously slow respiration, severely lower blood pressure, and toxically effect the central nervous system.

Large doses cause nausea and vomiting, and can even lead to convulsions and respiratory failure.


LOVAGE

(Levisticum officinale)

Member of the apiaceae(carrot) family

Common names: sea parsley, love-ache, love parsley

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Queen Victoria had an affinity for the seeds of the lovage plant. She had them candied and sewn into the hems of her garments, so that they were always available to her. When she felt the need for something a bit sweet, between meals, these little candied treats were at her disposal.

She was not alone in her love affair with lovage, however. This herb was widely used in the Middle Ages. It was a monastery garden staple. This highly flavorful treasure was known as a 'salad herb'. Try adding it to your own salad; it provides a nice twist. Not too much though! Just a little goes a long way.

Dry lovage's hollow stems and break them out at your next picnic or garden party. They make great drinking straws. Your guests will be quite impressed with your cleverness. Want to give them even more to talk about? Use the dried flower stalks of these plants as a disposable baster for your grilled barbecue dishes; it adds just a bit of flavor to the marinade and provides a great conversation starter.

If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, lovage will soon become your new best friend; soups, sauces, and stews will never see the salt shaker in your kitchen again. Don't stop there! Lovage will make your potato and macaroni salads just as tasty.

Studies show that this herb relieves gastric distress. It is also believed to be an effective diuretic.

Chewing a few lovage leaves after dinner will freshen your breath. Colonists chewed them to stay alert.

Cosmetically, lovage is a great bath aid; it is cleansing, deodorizing, and fragrant. It is also used to prepare skin washes, lotions, and creams; providing pure nourishment for dry skin.

If wild harvesting lovage, be aware that it is easily confused with other members of the parsley family, such as; poison hemlock, water hemlock, and fool's parsley. Some of which are poisonous.

 

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