Join me as I wander the garden admiring its spring growth.
We'll check in on the bees and the ever-present chickens always make themselves known!
Then I'll take you into the hoophouse and harvest some Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) in the 'loud' pouring rain!
We'll pop inside to the kitchen and I'll share with you how I make my Lemon Balm herbal syrup.
What is a herbal syrup?
A herbal syrup is a strong decoction or tea made from an herb and then preserved with sugar or honey.
Mixing the decoction with honey or sugar is an old method of preserving the active constituents contained in the decoction/tea.
As I do not use alcohol to preserve my herbs, I have come to rely on the 'old methods' of preservation.
The resulting syrup has the added advantage of tasting good too. That makes it so much easier to get my (sometimes reluctant) family members to 'take their medicine'. It's true...a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down!
How to make my Lemon Balm Herbal Syrup
Timestamps in the video are noted below if you want to skip the garden tour!
Correctly identify your herb (4.50)
Video 'bomb' by Plantain (5.47)
Harvest your herb (6.13) - turn up the sound...the rain is loud!
Cut/chop your herb to increase the surface area.
3/4 fill a quart jar.
Top with boiling water.
Leave to infuse for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
Strain the herb.
If you want a 1:2 syrup (which is what I make) Add 1 part honey to 2 parts herbal tea. I'm blessed to have natural honey from my own hives.
Warm the mixture gently until the honey and the tea have combined. You don't want to boil it because the heat will destroy the beneficial enzymes in the honey.
If you prefer to use sugar, Rosemary Gladstar recommends using one cup of sugar to one pint (600ml) of liquid. This will yield a 1:2 syrup.
If you want a 1:1 syrup (which is the traditional way of preserving a herbal syrup and was used prior to refrigeration) you will use equal parts liquid and honey, or two cups of sugar to 1 pint (600ml) of liquid.
1:1 is an overly sweet syrup and I keep all my syrups in the fridge anyway, so I like to stick to a 1:2 ratio and I would suggest that you do the same and keep your syrup in the fridge.
What's Lemon Balm Syrup Good for?
It's my 'happy herb'. I use it daily to help with my mood and manage my anxiety.
It's also a great antiviral.*
Melissa just makes me calm and that's due to the carminative nature of the volatile oils contained in the plant.
This makes it one of our useful green allies for the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system and the nervous system.
So Lemon Balm is good for*:
nausea due to nerves
headaches in pregnancy
One of the things that I love most about herbs is their history. Knowing that I'm holding something in my hands that someone used thousands of years ago delights me in the strangest way. I adore the historical texts describing the herbs and their uses.
"This herb is so well known to grow almost in every garden, that I shall not give any description of it.
"...Let a syrup made with the juice of it and sugar...be kept in every gentlewoman's house...it causeth the mind and the heart to become merry..."
So there you have it. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) simple to grow, she's pretty in the garden, grows with vigour and abundance, makes delicious tea and can be used as an effective and safe medicine.
Love & lettuce,
*Materia Medica of Western Herbs for the Southern Hemisphere - C. Fisher & G. Painter 1996
Culpeper's Complete Herbal - Nicholas Culpeper 1653