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Melissa officinalis

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a medicinal, essential oil and vegetable plant.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
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©H. Zell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Economic importance

Melissa officinalis is widely used as a medicinal, essential oil and vegetable plant. Young greens are used as a seasoning and for the preparation of tonic infusions. Due to the volatility of its delicate lemon flavor, lemon balm is added to ready meals. When dried, lemon balm gradually loses its aroma even in tightly closed containers.

The leaves contain essential oil, which is used in medicine, perfumery and the production of alcoholic beverages.

The aerial vegetative part (“grass”) has an analgesic and antispasmodic effect. Melissa infusions serve as an appetite stimulant, normalize the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, relieve fatigue, have a calming and tonic effect on the nervous system, and help with insomnia and migraines. A decoction is used to rinse the mouth with inflammation of the gums, for the treatment of skin diseases.

For medicinal purposes, use the leaves collected in the budding phase. During this period, they contain up to 0.3% essential oil, as well as carotene and tannins. The seeds contain up to 20% fatty oil.

Crop history

Melissa officinalis has been known as a medicinal plant for over 2,000 years.

The homeland is the Mediterranean.


Currently, lemon balm is grown in small areas in some countries of Europe, Asia, and also in the USA.

Melissa has been cultivated in Russia since the middle of the 20th century.

Botanical description

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) is a perennial herb belonging to the Lamiaceae family.

The root system is in the form of a strongly branched rhizome.

The stem is straight, tetrahedral, branched. Plant height reaches 1.0 m. Creeping in the lower and side shoots.

Leaves ovate, petiolate, light green.

The flowers are small, sessile, yellowish, pink or whitish. The inflorescence is a complex umbrella, located in the axils of the upper leaves.

The fruit consists of four nuts, brown or almost black. Weight of 1000 pieces 0.5-0.7 g.

Biological features

Melissa officinalis is a thermophilic and light-loving culture. Shading leads to a decrease in the content of essential oil in the leaves.

For normal growth and development, plants need sufficient moisture, but lemon balm does not tolerate excess water.

Prefers fertile, light-textured soils.

It has poor winter hardiness, therefore, in the northern regions it is grown only as an annual crop.


The best predecessors of lemon balm are perennial herbs , vegetables, winter grains and legumes .

Lemon balm plantations are usually planted for 3-5 years.

Soil preparation includes:

  • stubble peeling;
  • autumn plowing;
  • early spring harrowing;
  • deep preplant cultivation to a depth of 12-15 cm.

It is recommended to apply organic (20-30 t/ha) and mineral fertilizers for autumn plowing. In the second and subsequent years of plantation use, two fertilizing with nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers is carried out during the growing season . Top dressing is given in early spring and after the first mowing.

Melissa officinalis is propagated by seed, seedling and vegetative methods. For vegetative propagation, parts of old bushes, layering and rhizomes are used. The layout of plants 60-70 × 30 cm.

Landing care includes:

  • 3-4 inter-row loosening;
  • 1-2 weeding;
  • top dressing;
  • 3-4 waterings.

Irrigation rate is 500-600 m3/ha. Watering is carried out in dry weather.

Cleaning and drying

During the summer, lemon balm is mowed 2-3 times. The yield of green mass in this case reaches 20-25 t/ha.

The selection of essential oil is carried out by steam distillation of freshly harvested raw materials. The yield of essential oil is usually 30-35 kg/ha.

To harvest lemon balm as a raw material for the food industry, the green mass is dried in the shade under sheds or in dryers at a temperature not exceeding +35 °C.

Harvesting of lemon balm for seeds is carried out in single-phase or two-phase methods. The yield of seeds is usually 200-300 kg/ha.


V.V. Kolomeichenko. Crop production / Textbook. — M.: Agrobusinesscenter, 2007. — 600 p. ISBN 978-5-902792-11-6.