Lemon balm or Melissa Officinalis has a long tradition of use as a herbal medicine. Used mainly to calm spasm in the gut and as an anti- depressive it has more recently been found to improve memory and concentration. This makes it ideal for anyone who suffers from a nervous stomach or could be a good idea this time of year for children under exam stress. Further aided by the fact it is antimicrobial and decongestant it may help keep colds away, which no one wants when they are studying.
It is safe and gentle herb and very easy to grow, tolerant of a range of conditions and unaffected by many pests and diseases. It also has the added benefit of attracting bees, which feed on the small white flowers. A handful of leaves in a mug of hot water make a very pleasant soothing tea.
For real ease of use that has added benefits Lamberts have produced Theanine and lemon Balm complex. L-Theanine is a fascinating amino acid that is present in normal tea and is believed to be responsible for that unique ‘nice cup of tea’ feeling.
It has been shown to raise levels of GABA and alpha waves in the brain and this can result in a calming effect without drowsiness. As a result, L-Theanine is widely recommended for those during times of stress and anxiety.
Three relevant B vitamins are also included. Folic acid and biotin both contribute to normal psychological function and pantothenic acid as it contributes to normal mental performance.
For a naughty treat why not use Lemon Balm in a dessert!
Lemon meringue ice cream with lemon balm (courtesy of Mary Berry)
Lemon balm gives a gentle citrus tang to this impressive but easy ice cream. Try serving it with a raspberry coulis or summer berries.
300ml/½ pint double cream
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 jar good quality lemon curd
50g/1¾oz meringues, broken into chunky pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm
3 passionfruit, halved, pulp and seeds scooped out
sprigs of lemon balm, to garnish
Line a 450g/1lb loaf tin with clingfilm, overlapping the sides. Whisk the cream lightly until the whisk leaves a trail, add the lemon zest and juice and half the jar of lemon curd then fold in the meringue and chopped lemon balm.
Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, cover with clingfilm and freeze for at least six hours.
If the ice cream has been freezing overnight or longer, remove it from the freezer for 10-15 minutes before turning onto a plate. Lift the ice cream from the loaf tin, invert it onto a board and remove the clingfilm. Dip a sharp knife in boiling water and cut the ice cream into thick slices.
Mix the other half of the lemon curd with the pulp and seeds from the passion fruit.
Place a slice of ice cream on a plate and top with a spoonful of the passionfruit sauce. Decorate with sprigs of lemon balm.