• Words by Sonia

From Olympus, Melissa

Updated: May 4, 2020


To truly obtain a full understanding of lemon balm, within ancient historical context, we must look to the scientific name ‘Melissa officinalis’ for the beginning clues.


The mystique that surrounds lemon balm is rich and spans thousands of years beginning in ancient Ephesus, known today as Turkey. It is here we begin to understand where lemon balm’s scientific name originates as well as its magical attributes and cherished healing powers.


Lemon balm’s herbal use dates back over 2000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it medicinally, and information about the herb was recorded as far back as 300 B.C. in Theophrastus’s Historia Plantarum. The plant likely originated in Southern Europe and was brought to Spain by the Moors in the 7th century; by the Middle Ages it was cultivated and used throughout Europe . The genus name, Melissa, means “bee” in Greek, and the plant was likely named for its reputed ability to attract bees. First century Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, wrote that lemon balm planted near bee hives would encourag