Melissa (botanical name Melissa officinalis) is also referred to as lemon balm, while Paracelsus, a physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist of the Renaissance period, described it as the 'Elixir of life'. In southern Europe, melissa is also known as the 'heart's delight'. Melissa has been traditionally used for its therapeutic properties for several centuries and is said to be one of the earliest herbs used in medicine. Its use has been widespread since the 17th century. Traditionally, this essential oil, reported to be introduced in England by the Romans, is used to alleviate melancholy, anxiety, depression and several other nervous problems.
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Melissa possesses reassuring properties and this oil works excellently as a general tonic. Belonging to the Lamiaceae family, melissa is also known to be a balm oil and is extracted by steam distilling the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. Since, this Labiate contains very small amount of genuine essential oil, it is highly expensive. Traditionally, melissa has also been used as a remedy for bee stings as well as to treat infertility and menstrual problems.
The lofty reputations earned by the melissa essential oil as 'sweet oil and 'common oil' are not for nothing. The oil is highly valued for its widespread use in almost all types of balms owing to its comforting and gentle attributes as well as its charming and enjoyable fragrance.
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As aforementioned, this essential oil is obtained by steam distilling the freshly collected buds, leaves and small green branches of melissa. Chemical analysis of melissa essential oil has revealed that it primarily encloses compounds, such as citronellal, cis ocimene, caryophyllene, acetate, trans ocimene, beta bourbonene, linalool, octanone, methyl hepenone, octanol, octenol, cis hexenol, copaene, neral, alpha humulene, delta cadinene, nerol, gamma cadinene and geraniol.
The melissa plant is native to the Mediterranean region and is popularly known as the bee plant for it is effective in treating bee stings. Nevertheless, this is not the only reason for the reputation of the plant. This plant is especially well known for its comforting, memory enhancing and anti-depressant properties. The several therapeutic properties of this plant are discussed briefly below.
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Melissa essential oil possesses soothing properties that helps to provide comfort to the body as well as the mind. This essential oil's ability to make the body relax is attributed to its inspiring and lemony aroma. As a result, melissa essential oil is effective in treating several medical conditions, including allergies and insect bites. It can also be used to provide relief from colic, nausea and indigestion. Melissa essential oil is also useful for skin care and is often used as an insect repellent.
The essential oil obtained by steam distilling the leaves, flowering tops and twigs of melissa, is also beneficial for patients suffering from respiratory tract ailments, asthma, shock, migraine, menstrual problems, insomnia, nervous anxiety as well as depression. This essential oil possesses sedative, carminative (any medication that helps to expel gas from the body or relieves flatulence), and tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral as well as digestive properties. In addition, melissa essential oil also has other uses, especially industrial. It is expensively used by the perfumery industry for preparing various aromatic formulations and is also used in cosmetics, fragrance soaps. This essential oil is also used to add flavour to foods, especially confectionery, and beverages.
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Similar to the essential oils obtained from rose and jasmine, melissa essential oil is very expensive because it is available in scant amounts. Hence, this oil is often adulterated by adding other oils, such as lemongrass essential oil. Only pure melissa essential oil containing the valuable therapeutic properties of the plant is used in aromatherapy, as only this will yield the desired results. A substandard quality of the oil or melissa essential oil adulterated with other oils will not have the desired results and, hence, would render the exercise futile.
Since the leaves, buds and twigs of the melissa plant yields very less amount of essential oil, it is pretty expensive. This is one reason why unscrupulous traders often adulterate melissa essential oil by mixing citrus or lemongrass oils that are available in plenty. Hence, when you are buying this essential oil, you need to be extra cautious to ensure that you are getting the genuine melissa oil.
The benefits offered by melissa essential oil notwithstanding, it should never be used internally, primarily because it has been identified as a narcotic and may result in adverse after-effects. Pregnant women should avoid this essential oil during the initial five months of pregnancy. In addition, always use this essential oil in low concentrations. Water down melissa essential oil with appropriate carrier oils or by blending it with other essential oils before use.
Although melissa essential oil is known to be non-toxic and safe for external use, it may occasionally cause skin irritations or commotions, especially among those who are sensitive. Hence, it is advisable that people having sensitive skin should keep off melissa essential oil.
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