The Traditional, Aromatic Use and Properties of Melissa Oil
Melissa (melissa officinalis) was called the ‘Elixir of Life’ by Paracelsus and is one of the earliest known herbs used in medicine. It is thought to have been introduced to England by the Romans and has been a feature of cottage gardens for centuries. Its Latin name is the derivative for its common name, meaning ‘honey’, and historically it is told that Melissa is named for the Greek nymph of the same name who was the protector of bees.
Traditionally, it was used for anxiety, melancholy and a number of nervous disorders; it was also useful for asthma, flatulence and indigestion. Other uses included a remedy for bee stings and use with fertility and menstrual difficulties. Today, France is still a big user of Melissa leaves in herbal and other pharmaceutical products.
The Adulteration of Melissa Essential Oil
True Melissa oil is a precious commodity which is difficult to come by; the reason being is that the oil is frequently adulterated. Melissa has a very low yield, due to a very high proportion of water in the plant’s structure; hence a huge quantity of the plant is needed to make up the smallest amount of essential oil.
Common oils which are used to adulterate Melissa include Lemon (citrus limon), Lemon Verbena (aloysia triphylla) and Lemongrass (cymbogon citratus); more often than not, it is a commercial blend of of these oils which are marketed as Melissa oil rather than the true, unadulterated essential oil.
Use of Melissa Oil in Aromatherapy
Melissa is a calming essential oil for both mind and body, possibly due to its uplifting, lemony fragrance. It is useful in skin care, for allergies, insect bites and as an insect repellent; it can be used to help indigestion, colic and nausea.
It is also useful for asthma and diseases of the respiratory system, menstrual difficulties, shock, migraine, nervousness, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Its properties include being sedative, a tonic, carminative, anti-inflammatory, digestive and anti-viral. Other uses include use in the perfumery world in the formulation of cosmetics, perfumes and soap, as well as in the food industry.
Melissa essential oil, like those of Rose and Jasmine, is a highly priced oil which is frequently adulterated. For aromatherapy use, only true Melissa essential oil will produce the therapeutic properties contained within the plant; anything lesser or subsidized will not have the desired effect.
Davis, Patricia 2005 Aromatherapy An A-Z London:Vermilion
Lavabre, Marcel 1990 Aromatherapy Workbook Vermont: Healing Arts Press
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element