The footsteps echo on the cobblestones and the gentle branches caress our ankles while we are invaded by fascinating and fresh aromas. Suddenly, we are enveloped in a scent of lemon, the friar who accompanies us smiles and with a wave of his hand shows the expanse of plants from which this persistent and pleasant aroma comes, they are lemon balm seedlings! We are in the Venetian convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars and this is the garden of medicinal plants that produces the lemon balm seedlings that will be used to prepare the famous Water of lemon balm. This precious product of nature is still made today according to a seventeenth-century recipe learned from Parisian monks, who in turn had learned it from Arab scholars and herbalists. The fame of lemon balm water has withstood the centuries and nowadays, lemon balm water is still a highly appreciated product used for its beneficial properties for the body, mind and nervous system. So let's try to understand what lemon balm water can do for our health, referring, as always, to scientific research. Finally, we will try to capture the secrets of the discalced Carmelite friars and understand how to make lemon balm water at home, according to the ancient recipe also adopted by the famous herbalist Messegue.
Lemon balm water, properties
The lemon balm water of the Discalced Carmelite friars is a product obtained by maceration in alcohol of various plants, including lemon balm, which is the main ingredient, but also lemon, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coriander. The result is a product with antispasmodic action on the digestive tract and sedative of the central nervous system, with antiviral, soothing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, alcoholic extracts of lemon balm leaves have been shown to be able to counteract anxieties, nervousness, sadness and depression (Ghazizadeh et al, Exp Physiol, 2020). Not only that, lemon balm is also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, able to inhibit the herpes simplex virus. Also noteworthy is the antispasmodic, relaxing and pain-relieving action of the alcoholic extracts of lemon balm, therefore useful in case of anxious states, but also insomnia, cramps and abdominal pain (Miraj et al, J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med., 2017). The anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and soothing action is useful in case of insect bites (Sipos et al, Molecules, 2021). As mentioned, other ingredients are added to the preparation to complete the beneficial action of lemon balm, such as lemon peel, which is useful to counteract heartburn and poor digestion (Sun et al, Altern Med Rev, 2007). Cloves are anti-stress, antioxidant and counteract the formation of gastric ulcers (Singh et al, Indian J Pharmacol, 2009). Alcoholic extracts of cinnamon protect the liver and improve its action, as well as acting as antivirals, preventing the proliferation of viruses, especially that of herpes simplex (Kanuri et al, J Nutr, 2009 - Moshaverinia et al, Dent Res, 2020). Nutmeg is antibacterial, antioxidant, pain reliever and hepatoprotective (Morsy et al, J Food Sci Technol, 2016). Finally, coriander is digestive, counteracts abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea, is antioxidant and even neuroprotective (Hosseini et al, Avicenna J Phytomed, 2021).
Lemon balm water, how to prepare it according to the ancient recipe
Get a liter of brandy. Add three handfuls of dried lemon balm leaves, the zest of an organic lemon, 10 cloves, 2 pinches of nutmeg, 10 pinches of cilantro and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Let it rest away from direct sun for a week. Filter the preparation and store it in an airtight glass bottle.
Lemon balm water, how to take it
Lemon balm water can be used both internally and externally. Oral intake is useful in case of indigestion, abdominal pain, poor memory, stress and anxiety. In this case you can take a teaspoon dissolved in water twice a day, only in adults. Externally, the lemon balm water helps in case of canker sores, irritation of the oral cavity and sore throat. Add a teaspoon of lemon balm water to a glass of warm water, use for rinsing. In case of a headache you can rub a few drops of lemon balm water on your temples, while to counteract nausea you can smell the perfume of the product or rub a few drops on your wrists and temples. A drop of lemon balm water on cold sores or insect bites helps healing and is soothing.