Lemon Balm with Maria Noël Groves

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This is Maria Noël Groves’s second time on the show, and I’m thrilled to have her back! You can tell that Maria is an herbal teacher, because this episode is packed with in-depth herbal information about the lemon balm herb. She shares so much wisdom about lemon balm’s gifts that I just can’t wait to get into the garden and work with this wonderful plant again!

Maria also shared many ways to work with lemon balm, including her recipe for Lemon Balm Fresh Tincture. The free, downloadable and printable recipe card can be found in the section below.

When might you turn to lemon balm? Here are just a few instances when lovely lemon balm can be helpful:

► When you want to improve your focus

► When you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, and need some nervous system support

► When you need some immune system and antiviral support

But in all of these cases, you need to know how to source or prepare the most potent herbal medicines with the lemon balm herb. Otherwise, your results will probably be disappointing. Tune in to the entire episode for all the details so you can enjoy the most lemon balm benefits!

By the end of this episode, you’ll know:

► How herbs can help to support you in getting a good night’s sleep

► What makes lemon balm such a powerful herbal ally

► Why it’s important to source high-quality lemon balm (or grow your own!)

► Three tips for harvesting lemon balm when it is most potent

► Maria’s tips for making a glycerite with lemon balm

► Why it’s best to get to know herbs by working with them, rather than simply reading lists about what they’re “good for”

► and so much more…

For those of you who don’t know her, Maria Noël Groves is a clinical herbalist nestled in the pine forests of New Hampshire. Her business, Wintergreen Botanicals, is devoted to education and empowerment via herbal courses, health consultations, and writing with the foundational belief that good health grows in nature. She is the author of the books Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, and the new Herbal Remedies for Sleep.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you today.


  • 01:10 - Introduction to Maria Noël Groves
  • 02:33 - Updates from Maria since her last appearance on the show
  • 04:13 - Herbal Remedies for Sleep
  • 11:24 - The medicinal benefits of lemon balm herb (Melissa officinalis)
  • 23:33 - Grow your own lemon balm!
  • 26:16 - Fresh Lemon Balm Tincture
  • 29:55 - Lemon balm and the thyroid
  • 36:04 - Working with your own lemon balm
  • 41:31 - Closing thoughts about the lemon balm herb
  • 44:22 - Learning opportunities with Maria
  • 46:31 - How herbs instill hope in Maria
  • 50:54 - Herbal tidbit

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Lemon Balm Tincture Recipe

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Transcript of the 'Lemon Balm Herb with Maria Noël Groves' Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hello and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as
medicine, as food and through nature connection. I’m your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created
this Channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when
relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper
into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube, as well as your favorite
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Rosalee de la Forêt:

Okay, grab your cup of tea and let’s dive in.

You can tell that Maria is an herbal teacher because this episode is absolutely packed with in-depth herbal information all about lemon balm. Seriously, grab your pen and your notebook, and get ready for a serious download. This is Maria’s second time on the show and I’m thrilled to have her back and she really brings in all the goodness.

Maria Noel Groves is a clinical herbalist nestled in the pine forest in New Hampshire. Her business, Wintergreen Botanicals is devoted to education and empowerment via herb courses, health consultations and writing with the foundational belief that good health grows in nature. She’s the author of the books, Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, and the very brand new book, Herbal Remedies for Sleep.

Hi Maria!

Maria Noel Groves:

Hey, Rosalee!

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I am so excited to have you back on the show for multiple reasons. For listeners who don’t know you’re on the show before, you talked about motherwort. The comments that came in about that episode are some of the coolest we’ve had, so it was a very valuable episode. If people haven’t listened to that, they should go check it out after we hear from you today. I would love to start in maybe not with your whole story because we’ve covered that in the previous episode, but I’d like to hear what are the updates? What’s going on in Maria’s world right now? 

Maria Noel Groves:

Well, things have been pretty busy. So, anybody who already is following me probably knows that I’ve moved. That’s been a big change that consumed a lot of the last six months, would be looking for a home, buying a home, moving to the home. We are now in a new location which isn’t that far from the old location, but it’ll be a little bit more of a family, calm you, if you will, and that we’re going to be sharing it with some of our relatives, which is pretty exciting, and will be also doing my home business and my classes out of the new home as well. That was just in the last month or so, as far as when we’re recording this. I think it’s going to air quite a bit later. That’s been a big thing on my personal life.

On the business side, I’ve been very busy working with clients. I have my regular class load and all that, but then writing has been something that I’ve been diving into more the last two years. Last winter, I was writing a book and it is now going to be releasing. It will have released right around the same time that this podcast airs. Right now, as we’re recording, I’m actually writing a manuscript for my fourth book that will come out next year. The big news for right now is really the Herbal Remedies for Sleep book that is in the process of releasing. That’s been the big focus. That’s a little bit of why I’m here today and centers around the plant that I chose to focus on today as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I’m so, so excited for this book. I think probably one of the biggest reasons I’m excited for it, Maria, is because your two other books I consider some of the very best herbals out there on the market. Body into Balance was kind of this instant classic that filled this major hole within the herbal world. I didn’t have the time for this joke, but I wanted to mention if you’re building new gardens in your new home, I know a great book for that too, which would be your second book. Your books are just classics. They are so high-quality, so informative and now, we get one on sleep. I want to know why sleep? Why is this your third book?

Maria Noel Groves:

Certainly sleep is something—first, I’ll say that it was actually the publishers who came to me with the idea. I thought, yeah, this sounds like a wonderful idea because sleep is really of the essence. It’s one of the core aspects to holistic wellness. There are few areas that I think, we, as holistic practitioners and herbalists, focus on in supporting people’s overall well being, and sleep is one of the big ones.

For me, personally, it was my—I won’t go into my whole origin story because you guys have heard it before—but that was my entrance into herbal medicine--my own issues around sleep and anxiety after some traumatic events. The herbs end up really doing a lovely job helping support my healing process in sleep. It’s still one of my taskmasters. When my life gets out of balance, sleep is one of the first things that gets affected. Herbs are not the only way in which I support that, but they have been really tremendous allies. We’ve also come—I don’t know if “coming off of” is quite the right word, but the last few years have been quite stressful for just about everybody. A lot of people are having sleep issues for a variety of different reasons, and so it just seems right.

One thing I will say about this book and the next one as well, is that if somebody already has Body into Balance and Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, we’re actually borrowing quite a bit of content from those books on the background, the plants and some of the recipes, and then diving even deeper into the topic, updating, expanding, adding some new plants and new recipes, and more of the background information. If folks already have the first two books, they will find some of the information in the new books repetitive, but then there will also be additional, deeper dives than what we get into in the first two books. The goal being to reach some audience that maybe aren’t ready for a whole entrance into the world of herbal medicine, but just are dealing with sleep issues and are hoping to find some ways to support that, but I think it’ll speak to a lot of different levels. We’ll be talking about different anatomy and physiology. We’ll be talking a little bit about some of the reasons why people might not be sleeping well. Something we dive much deeper into in this new book than we do in the first two is some of the common reasons why people don’t sleep well, and then going into some of the plan and actions and recipes. That’s in a nutshell a little bit.

Storey Publishing is always great to work with. They did a fantastic job with the layout. It’s just really pretty. We’ve got the main photographer from Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, was back to do some extra photo shoots. I was just really glad to have Stacey back because she’s fantastic.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love that. It definitely does take a big community to make the book happen.

Maria Noel Groves:


Rosalee de la Forêt:

I’m really excited for this book too because there are already books out there on sleep. I’ve read some of the most popular ones, and herbs are rarely, if ever, mentioned. I can’t—although there’s many holistic things and underlying causes and all these things we can do to address sleep without herbs, I actually feel bad that people are missing out on this really key function. So, that’s going to just be such a wonderful addition that’s really going to help a lot of people out there.

Maria Noel Groves:

There are so many ways that herbs can help support us as allies. Certainly, all that background, holistic perspective--that is important too. That’s where we start the book off, but it’s very herb-forward as I always try to be because herbs are my thing. That’s what I—or I’m their thing, I guess will probably be a little bit more accurate. I think that’s what people get really excited about. It’s a little bit more approachable. Even though the sleep hygiene is important and figuring out what’s going on in your body is certainly important, having that cup of tea or that flower essence or that aroma therapy or that sleep pillow or tincture, whatever it may be, there are so many different ways that we can interact with the herbs to help us in setting us up for a better night’s sleep. The plant that we’re talking about today, lemon balm, is a great example because even though I have my favorite ways of working with lemon balm, it is a plant that is very amenable to a lot of different formats. Pretty much all of the formats have the potential of being supportive for sleep.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s wonderful. Yes, we just can’t overstate how important sleep is. Just last night, I brought food to a friend. They had fallen severely ill and had to take the ambulance to go to the hospital and was in the hospital for a week. They were coming home, so bringing them a meal. I asked, “How are things going today?” They said, “This is the first day that we’ve turned a corner.” I was like, “Really? Why do you think that is?” and they said, “We both slept well last night.” There’s just nothing. You just can’t compete with that. It is truly the healer and a core function of feeling over all great.

Maria Noel Groves:

That’s been a huge theme in my own life. I came out of the womb needing lots of sleep. I would fall asleep while feeding and my mother would have to flick me on my feet to wake me back up again. As a kid, if I went to go to a slumber party and all my friends stayed up much later than I could do, then I would come back and I would be such a crankypants the next day. It’s still true that if you mess with my husband and my family now, if you mess with my sleep, I am much less pleasant person. My own experience of life is just a lot less pleasant the following day, especially if it’s really bad successive days. When you get a good night’s sleep, you can take on so much more. I had my car stolen and smashed to pieces one day, but I’ve had a good night’s sleep. When I looked out the window, I was like, “Ha. My car is not where it’s supposed to be. Let me take a shower and then I’ll call my work and then the police, and deal with that.” I had a good night’s sleep, whereas if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and I stubbed my toe, I would probably be having a minor melt down.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That is so true. You mentioned lemon balm and you chose it in relationship to this topic of sleep, and also because I know that you love lemon balm, I’m excited to hear what you have to share with us.

Maria Noel Groves:

Lemon balm is the first herb that I really interacted with as a plant. My first herbs that I turned to when I wasn’t sleeping well were kava and valerian, which were very popular herbs in the ‘90s when I was studying plants. Those are the first two I really took medicinally, but then when I started studying herbs and interacting with the plants as beings and not just as remedies, lemon balm because it grows in the garden. My mother was growing it so I thought I’d start working with it. It has become a huge ally for myself, personally, as well as my clinical practice.

As many folks know, this is a plant that is really easy to grow. In some areas, it can even be a little bit invasive. Especially if you’re in a temperate climate, it’s usually quite easy to grow and will typically survive the winters, in my last home, at least. I was in a warm Zone 4 and it will almost always come back the next year. If there was a year in which maybe we didn’t have enough snow cover and then we had a cold snap and it killed off the plants, that’s actually really prime conditions for it to self-seed. The next year we might have—I might have lost my main plant, but then I get a lot of little babies popping up all around the garden. It’s just super generous. Once you have one lemon balm plant, you have plenty of medicine to work with and it’s just really quite lovely in that way.

As you interact with it, you notice immediately that it has that strong lemony aroma. It’s got that kind of lemon pledge. It’s not quite as nice of a smell as, say, lemongrass or lemon verbena, in my opinion, but it’s still nice and it’s definitely engaging. We know that those lemony aromas are fantastic for uplifting our spirits, but also promoting some calm and some focus, at the same time. I’d say that that’s really one of the key pieces of lemon balm. It’s one of the supreme nervines or nervines, depending upon how you want to say it, which is a category of plants that tends to be very wonderful for supporting and nourishing the nervous system.

Often times, nervines do have a little bit of a calming property, but they’re not quite to the level of sedating. One of the nice things about lemon balm is that it’s an herb that you can work with day or night. For most people, it’s not going to be too sedating during the day, but it will be beautifully calming in the evening, especially if you have a nice, potent remedy that you’ve got which isn’t always what you’ll find on the market. We’ll get to later how to make sure that you get really wonderful lemon balm, which the biggie is if you can grow it. That would be the best place to start. It’s a wonderful nervine.

I find that a lot of people will immediately turn to the stronger sedatives when they think of sleep support and that really can work. That’s how I started off, personally, but what I’ve learned as I’ve grown as a human being and an herbalist, and also listening to my own body and that of my clients, is that sometimes just knocking yourself out with a stronger sedative isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s really about supporting healthier regulation of the whole nervous system. Some people specifically don’t respond well to stronger sedatives, which we can get into later on.

With lemon balm, because it’s such a gentle but balancing remedy that hits a lot of different areas. It’s calming but uplifting. It helps with focus, so it’s not just a strong one way or another plant. I feel like it’s one of the more broadly applicable plants that tends to work really well for a wide variety of people. Whereas, at least, in my own clinical practice as well as my own body, since I’m a pretty sensitive person, I attract a lot of sensitive clients, that folks might be pretty sensitive to stronger sedatives that they don’t feel well with them. Maybe it bothers apnea. Maybe it aggravates depression or something like that. Even herbs like ashwagandha that can be very balancing for a lot of people, but some people find them agitating or overstimulating. I find that with lemon balm, it’s a plant that tends to really support a lot of people without being too pushy in any one direction.

One of the ways it can be really supportive is for that sleep support, but also during the daytime, to help with stress, help with focus and help with the immune system. It’s one of those plants that has many different aspects and really can’t be pigeonholed into being just like, “Oh, that’s just this kind of plant.” It’s a plant like nettles where the more you get to know it, the more you realize this plant can do so many wonderful things that most of us could use some support with. We can dive a little bit more deeply into some of those things.

When it comes to its relaxing properties, what I find about it is it just bring things into this nicer vibration of being, where people aren’t as apt to jump into that fight or flight mode, that they can be in a greater state of peace and calm, but they’re not necessarily getting knocked out, which can be really helpful because some people, when you try to relax them too much, they resist that. Their bodies are like, “No, no. Do not push me down. I need to be in alert mode.” Whereas, lemon balm is just like, “It’s okay. You can just relax a little bit. You’re still on point. You could still handle what you need to handle if you need to do that, but you’re going to do it from a better place,” especially if it’s a good quality lemon balm. It’s an herb that in my clinical practice, I have worked with quite a bit in folks who need support with focus, especially when they want calm and focused at the same time vs. something like maybe rhodiola that can be quite a bit more zippy or schisandra, which could be kind of mid-range to zippy.

Lemon balm can be nice. It’s beneficial and calming, but also enhancing focus. Folks who are feeling like their nervous system is just pumped up a little bit too much, but they still need to—I keep saying “focus”—focus on what they need to do. Folks who are dealing—or even kids who may be are in the ADHD spectrum of neurodivergence, or folks who are elders, there’ve been some really cool studies on folks with advanced dementia and while it certainly was not a cure for advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s, they found that when folks were interacting with lemon balm and a variety of different formats vs. placebos, that they are more engaged, that they were less irritable.

So, if you have somebody who is feeling stressed, anxious, angry, agitated, overly responsive to stimuli, lemon balm is an herb that could be considered, that tends to be that cool, calm, collected kind of plant. That can support us as we go to bed because even though it’s not strongly sedating, a lot of us when we are in that calmer, cooler state will sleep better because we don’t have as much of those stress hormones and the monkey mind floating around to distract us from being able to sleep well. It really does lead into a lot of really wonderful areas of our nervous system in particular.

Also, really wonderful for folks who do tend to be a little bit more on the anxious side, which certainly I can relate to personally. It’s a great calming herb for that as well, and being in that kind of balancing range can be really nice for those folks because not everybody during the day wants to have their stress knocked so low that now they need to go take a nap. Most of us during the day still need to function. I was listening to—I’d like to share-

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love it.

Maria Noel Groves:

Go ahead, sorry. 

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I’ll just jump in there.

Maria Noel Groves:

Please do.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love what you’re sharing because it’s so nuanced in the gifts of lemon balm in that—I don’t know what it looks like for you when you first started studying, but I would just like grab everything I could. So much of what was available in those early years were lists of uses like, “This, this, this this.” If you took what you’re saying and made a list of it, it could seem contradictory in some ways. It’s like “increased focus but then it’s relaxing,” all these different things, but that is just the true beauty of herbs and why one of my big rallying calls is that people do get to know herbs as kind of how you said earlier--as a being and not just as its use is for because there is so much nuance and ability of these plants to be modulating in a way, that again, we could think about rationally and just say like, “That’s contradictory. That doesn’t work together,” but then everything you said made complete sense. It wasn’t contradictory. You really explained it so well and all those different nuances, so thank you for introducing us to lemon balm in this way. Now, I will let you get back onto your story. Thanks for allowing me to interrupt.

Maria Noel Groves:

Totally, my pleasure. That’s actually one thing I love about the herb books that have been coming out in the later years. They do tend to dive deeper. You’ve got your book, which definitely makes a lot of those really great connections. Christa Sinadinos and her amazing, amazing materia medica book. Other folks, we’ve got Karen Rose whose book brings in the spirit and the personalities.

I love how we are really getting more nuanced in our herbal education nowadays vs. just the quick list of what are these things doing, really understanding their beings on a deeper level because the truth is almost anybody could take lemon balm. If it’s a good quality lemon balm, they’ll feel better than they most likely. No matter whether it really matches up perfectly or not, it’s just a really nice broad herb like that. The more we understand about the plants individually and what they do, also how they interact with our bodies, which can be different for each plant and person, the more we can really match up with the plant that’s going to be the right ally for us, which is beautiful.

Starting with one plant is always a great place to start. Lemon balm is a wonderful one to consider for that one plant to really deep dive into because she’s so accessible and also so wonderful, and really appropriate for a lot of different people, which is not always the case. I feel like, especially in the last year or so working with clients, that so many people are just really stressed, really have been working in adrenal overload for a while now. They’ve become very, very, very sensitive and so I hearken back to a quote that I have heard. I don’t think I actually heard him say it, but I hear other people talk about it. It might actually be you with jim mcdonald saying that, “Gentle does not mean weak.” I feel like that can really apply. I don’t think he was talking about lemon balm at the time. I feel like you’ve said it maybe about chamomile and I feel like it definitely applies to lemon balm as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s interesting because I actually see a lot of parallels between chamomile and lemon balm, which is another discussion entirely. They both have a lot of similar features and both have that same kind of balancing nuance. Anyway, definitely, I think that applies here too.

Maria Noel Groves:

I’m not a chamomile person because I’m one of those allergic to chamomile people, so she is not my ally, but I do think it’s another wonderful plant that can really fit into a lot of those categories. I think one of the tricks with lemon balm is that it’s a plant where potency really makes a big difference. A lot of what’s on the general market is not very potent. You could say that about chamomile, but I think that lemon balm is a plant that is one of the most sensitive to reduce potency depending upon how long it’s been kicking around, how it’s been processed, where it’s grown, what season it’s grown. It’s very sensitive and that’s where I think a really big difference—some people might take lemon balm tea that they buy in a teabag and think, “This does nothing. It’s barely anything. What is this person talking about?”Or even buying a commercial tincture. There are some companies that I adore for their tinctures, but I have yet to find a commercial brand even amongst the ones that I generally adore for all sorts of other plants that is anywhere near as effective as what you can make in your own garden.

I think that’s because lemon balm is such an ephemeral plant in terms of its aromatics. So, being able to access it directly, make a remedy—even in my own tinctures. A tincture of mine that’s three years old, still works better than things that I might buy at the store. I’ve been working with lemon balm a lot in my own life. The tincture that I made in the fall was dramatically better than the tincture we made in the summertime. Even just these subtle differences—and tinctures hold their properties pretty well, but even with that, I feel like lemon balm loses its potency. You can still work with a two or three-year old lemon balm tincture and get great results with it, but I think maybe that freshness is one of the reasons why it’s tricky to get good quality and commerce even if the company started with good quality material. It’s just the fact of the market that anything that you’re buying in the store is often one or sometimes three to five years old from the time it initially was harvested, to when it ended up in your hands, and then it might sit on your shelf for a while too. That’s just—the lemon balm is not going to hurt you, but it’s not going to do as much.

I’ve had a lot of clients say that. I no longer have an apothecary for my clients that I run, but when I did, I would have clients say, “I ran out and I tried to buy it here,” or there. “I need yours because it didn’t work as well.” It’s not me. It’s not that I am special and you can only get it–because I don’t even sell products anyway, but it’s what you actually make fresh from your own garden. I use really high-proof alcohol. That’s my recipe.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Let’s talk about your recipe. That’s a good segue into it because everyone listening can make their own with your wonderful written instructions. You walk us through that. Especially for folks who may be only familiar with the folk method of tincturing, why do you include some measurements?

Maria Noel Groves:

I was trained by a couple of different people, but I’d say Michael Moore was one of my biggest influencers. The tincture style that I do for most tinctures including lemon balm—if anybody is a brand newbie, tinctures would be an alcohol extract. In commerce, I don’t think they’re allowed to call them “tinctures,” so they call them “liquid extracts,” but it’s basically, an alcohol or alcohol water extract.

When I make my fresh plant tinctures, I do what Michael Moore did, where I harvest my fresh plant material. I do find that lemon balm is more potent if it is earlier in the day. If it’s a cooler season like spring or fall, I find is a little bit more potent than summer, but I do harvest lemon balm all year long because the more frequently you cut lemon balm, it’ll bounce right back so you can get many multiple harvests. I do find that those shoulder seasons tend to be a little bit more potent. I harvest them and it’s before it flowers, usually, is a better quality, especially if you’re going to be drying it later for tea.

For tincture, I’ll use whatever I’ve got, but I find that those pre-flowering, shoulder seasons plant material I harvest, maybe the top two thirds. You can really harvest lemon balm pretty close, not all the way to the ground, but leaving a couple sets of leaves behind. It likes a pretty good haircut. I’ll chop it up coarsely, shove as much as I can humanly fit into a jar. If I was to measure in reverse, it would be about a one to two. We usually do measure when we’re making tinctures where we get it pretty exact, but really, you don’t have to because if you went and then reversed everything and measured it, it would come out almost exactly one to two if you shove as much of that chopped plant material as you humanly can fit in a jar, and then cover it to the tippity, tippity top with your alcohol. I like to use the highest proof available, which for me is 95% or 190 proof sugarcane ethanol, but whatever you have is fine.

Cover to the tippity top. Put your lid on it. Check in in another day or two. Top it off because there’s always a little bit that works its way through, so that it’s totally submerged in the alcohol. Let it sit for at least a month and then strain it out. That’s what we do, but if you were to do all that and then reverse it, you would almost exactly come out to 1 oz. of herb by weight, to about 2 oz. of alcohol by volume. It’s just almost exactly. If it doesn’t come out exactly that, it’s fine. The tincture still works. That’s usually how I do it.

It’s more important that it’s completely covered in the alcohol because if things are sticking up out of the alcohol, it will not keep well. So, I will have picked the jar. If I have a 16 oz. jar, we’re talking a little more than 5 oz. of herb, with a little more 10 oz. of alcohol. jim, actually, has a really nice video out there showing the process, but really, it’s just shove as much as you can get in a jar, cover it with alcohol. Bada-boom, bada bing. That’s truly all it is. It’s not that hard. It takes me longer to explain it than it does to do it. I do usually leave the stems. You don’t have to, but I feel like the stems are so tender that I just chop it all up together with the leaves.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Something I feel like we can’t not address is lemon balm and hypothyroid because that’s a question I still—I probably get that question once a week, honestly. It’s the one that comes up a lot, so let’s talk about it. 

Maria Noel Groves:

My take on hypothyroid—and certainly, if you’ll look at some of my older materials including my book, Body into Balance, I do kind of say some people worry about this, but really, I have yet to or almost yet to come across a case of it. I’ve talked with herbalists from around the world and the general consensus is, is that it’s really just not a likely concern. Where the concern that lemon balm might inhibit thyroid function is out of some—I believe they were just lab studies with combinations of herbs that happen to include lemon balm—and that in hyperthyroid tissue, it had an inhibiting effect, but there’s really no clinical relevance to that. There are no human cases that I’m aware of. If anybody knows of anybody, please let me know. I’m always willing to have my world view changed, but it really doesn’t seem to be a big concern. 

I do have a pretty high percentage of clients with Hashimoto's and hypothyroid states and folks who are on thyroid medications as well, who are in my practice and we’re keeping an eye on their thyroid for other reasons, and we, generally, do not see any problems.

There’s even a theory. This is still more of a theory because I don’t think that there’s a lot of clinical research on it, specifically, how it’s supporting thyroid. Folks who have a hyperthyroid state and possibly, also hypo, is that it’s helping from an autoimmune perspective, cooling that autoimmune response a little bit. There’s a little bit of very preliminary evidence to suggest that, which could be beneficial in both Hashimoto's and Graves, even though it’s a hyper/hypo. They’re a little different. It also is really nice for easing stress, supporting sleep, helping to calm mild heart palpitations. Those are some of the symptoms that folks with hyperthyroid might be experiencing.

I would say I’d be even more careful about the fact that I wouldn’t expect lemon balm to handle a hyperthyroid state all on its own. Hyperthyroid can be really dangerous and potentially deadly. Not having it properly treated with whatever method somebody might be choosing could be really not a great scenario. If somebody is thinking, “I will just take lemon balm and not do whatever the doctor is wanting me to do,” that could put somebody in a pretty dangerous state. I’d say that’s a bigger danger than that lemon balm is going to do something negative for the thyroid or inhibit it or something like that.

I have in clients with hyperthyroid seen it be beneficial, but it was in no way sufficient to manage their situation. Some people were able to support their situations holistically. Some people really did need to go with the conventional medicine route. I’d say that’s a bigger danger there. I did have one client, really actually, a student recently who had a scenario where it seemed like the lemon balm may have inhibited the thyroid, but I suspect it was a—there was a recent case of Lyme and a bunch of antibiotics. I suspect it was actually, either the Lyme or the antibiotics. There’s one “maybe” case that’s just recently popped up in the last year or so, but I’m really not concerned. I’ve become more relaxed about that. That’s my take.

I know we talked a similar thing with the motherwort. Motherwort and lemon balm do have a lot of commonalities and that’s another one that was wrapped up in those studies on hyper thyroid, which then might have made everybody say it’s going to inhibit a healthy thyroid or a low thyroid.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Which comes back to that binary thinking about herbs and how when we really get to know them, we see how—not always—but often times, there’s such a balancing, modulating effect rather than a this-for-that pharmaceutical reaction.

Maria Noel Groves:

For sure. The herbs are so much more nuanced than we want to give them credit for, I think, and our knee jerk, quick response kind of herbalism. Really, I’m trying to think if there are any concerns I have around lemon balm. It’s really more about just sometimes it may not be enough for somebody or sometimes it might not be very potent. I don’t think I typically come across a problem where there’s a negative effect. Have you come across any negative effects from lemon balm?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Not that I know of. You had mentioned earlier that you’re allergic to chamomile, so that’s not your plant ally. I teach a lot with chamomile, but I always say if you can’t do chamomile, lemon balm is the safety zone. That’s the one there’s not the allergic reactions. I think the biggest concern with lemon balm is growing it in ideal conditions in your garden without any kind of container because then it will overrun your container. That’s my only warning when it comes to lemon balm.

Maria Noel Groves:

That is a good point. I never used to have a problem. My lemon balm always stayed where it was. I think maybe because I had dry, sandy—lemon balm really prefers richer soil. Good drainage, but richer soil for some moisture and dappled sun. It doesn’t really like to be too, too hot and dry. My garden was pretty sandy, so I think that curbed it. It will still grow in a lot of other situations, but it just isn’t quite as happy. When lemon balm is very happy, it can start to take over. I will say that I hope whoever bought my gardens really likes lemon balm because there’s a lot of it in there. I had one plant that I planted after, but there was a die off and then it self-seeded, and so a good one third of a pretty large garden is lemon balm. I love lemon balm and I love to share lemon balm. It will definitely be one of the first plants. It’s planted in the spring this year in the new home, along with other herbs like holy basil and some great culinary herbs are herbs that I just rely upon daily.

I will say too that besides tinctures, I do also love to dry it for tea. Even though I don’t feel like it has quite the same punch as a tincture does because once you dry it, it does lose quite a bit of potency. I still think it’s lovely as a tea, especially when you’re combining it with other herbs. Again, your own homegrown, home-dried lemon balm vastly better than anything you can buy. There are some really great farms that are handling things really, really, really gently like Oshala Farm. It’s a really lovely farm, but I still think that your own homegrown, home-very-carefully-dried lemon balm is something very, very special to do and enjoy. If you’re growing lemon balm, you probably have a lot of it and so it’s not too hard.

I will say this is another herb that can blacken a little bit when you’re drying it. Basil might do that too. My favorite way to dry it these days is to dry it on a screen with a little fan underneath it, get it most of the way dry through air drying. We’re too humid here. You’re in a more arid spot, I think. We’re too humid here. It’s not going to dry 100% via air, so then once it’s pretty much there then I might put it in a dehydrator or finish dehydrating it in a paper bag or a basket in my car, but just being really gentle, not to overheat it because we’ll lose some of those aromatics. Garble it, pulling the leaves off the stems and drying it.

I love lemon balm whether it’s a tincture or a tea. It’s lovely on its own, but it’s also a really wonderful combination. You can really shift it whether you combine it with holy basil or for stress and calming. These are digestive herbs as well. These are immunoherbs as well. These are blood sugar herbs as well. There are so many different ways to work with these plants. They’re not just about stress and sleep. You can combine it with schisandra. You can combine it with hibiscus and elderberries. You can combine it with milky oat seed. One of the things that I’ve been doing lately, which is one of the recipes in the book, is just taking the tincture, lemon and seltzer, and making a beverage with it that way.

You can work with lemon balm as a single ingredient. I had many clients have really phenomenal results with just simple lemon balm or simple lemon balm tincture. It also plays so well with so many other herbs. It just really brings formulas together. Even as a dry herb, even though you lose a lot of that lemoniness once it’s dry, it really does a nice job bringing tea blends together. We know that drinking tea is relaxing.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It may be one of my most favorite herbs to formulate with. I often make this always slightly changing combination. I love it with the oat straw or oat tops. It’s so wonderful. I love it with roses. That three combination is so nice. I’ll throw in chamomile too. So many lovely combinations. Sometimes I even like putting it with lemon verbena. The two different lemonies really go together well. Another thing-

Maria Noel Groves:


Rosalee de la Forêt:

Lemongrass, yes. Another thing I love with lemon balm is playing with the amounts used because there’s just a whole range of a little bit of lemon balm for a delightful tea vs. increasing that amount of lemon balm and even the steeping time for a little bit more of a punch. It’s so versatile. You could just spend an entire year getting to know lemon balm, all of the different ways of working with it and all the different nuances. The list just goes on and on.

Maria Noel Groves:

Some people might be surprised if they make a really strong lemon balm tea that it’s also an astringent plant, which you don’t necessarily notice with a quick steep or a formula, but if you’re really working with a lot of dried lemon balm, it is a little bit more astringent. You’ll notice maybe a little bit of the bitterness as well, whereas, I don’t tend to get that in a broader formula. I’m still playing with it. I really want to be able to make a lovely glycerite with lemon balm. It’s so tricky because it’s such a juicy plant that the lemon balm can make glycerin extracts go moldy, especially in our very humid, mold-prone environment that we have out here.

You might not have as much of an issue of that where you are. If you dry it, even if it’s freshly dried, it has lost quite a bit of oomph. I’ve done a bunch of different one way and another way, fresh, dried, freshly dried, different mechanisms. The fresh one came out the best, but it molded pretty quickly. My latest one that I wish I could find by test batch because it’s somewhere that has yet to be unpacked and I don’t know where it is, but it came out really great in the moment. I harvested it fresh, threw in the dehydrator at a low, low setting for a couple of hours. I wilted it pretty significantly, but not entirely, and then did that as a glycerin extract. That came out amazing, but I can’t promise you that it’s shelf-stable so I need to find my test batch.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It was my first thought to try it like that. It’s cool to hear that you have tried it. We have to just wait and see as the unpacking goes on. 

Maria Noel Groves:


Rosalee de la Forêt:

Do you have anything else, Maria, to share with us about lemon balm? You’ve shared a lot already, but something tells me that lemon balm just keeps on giving.

Maria Noel Groves:

I do. The main way that I tend to work with lemon balm are all the ways that we’ve just discussed. I’ve hinted at a few other things like that lemon balm does have some glucose-regulating and blood sugar-lowering aspects, especially when you combine it with other herbs. It is also very antioxidant. You can also work with it as an aromatherapy remedy.

Another quickie that I briefly touched on is that it does have immune-supportive, as well as antiviral benefits. There’s quite a bit of research on it for cold sores and herpes infections, specifically, topically at that very first little onset. Like elderberry, what it seems to do is go in and block the virus out of the cells so that it can’t break into the cells and replicate as easily. The earlier stage tends to be the best, except it’s a little bit more specific for herpes and shingles. It’s a commonly prescribed topical remedy for shingles and cold sores in places like Germany.

I have had a lot of clients who’ve done well also with the tincture for that where that first little tingle, I usually have to take some internally. Dilute it in a little bit of water so the alcohol doesn’t burn and then dab a little bit of the tincture, which will work much better for a cold sore than if you have a herpes outbreak in a more sensitive or bigger area, then I might take a bath in it or something like that instead. A lot of folks do really, really well. Again, that’s one of those ones that the potency matters. A homegrown tincture is going to be much more effective. I’ve had people say that they’ve had better results with that than some of their other care things that have been given to them.

There may even be some benefits for respiratory infections. I know Andrew Bentley has talked quite a bit in some of his work during the pandemic and feeling like—again, it’s not a cure or anything like that, but that it did seem that when folks were drinking lemon balm tea or taking tincture, that it had some supportive benefits both in prevention and also, during infections. It helps people feel a little bit better, be a little bit more resilient. It’s not an end-all be-all herb, for sure for that, but something to keep in the repertoire.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It just makes me feel so excited for spring and my lemon balm to come back. So many gifts.

Maria Noel Groves:

I know! This is the first time in my life I haven’t had a lemon balm plant in my backyard. At least, none that I know of. Maybe the previous owner had one, but soon it will be back.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Welcome, spring. I’m super excited for your next book on sleep and herbs. I know you said writing has been a big part of your life lately. You’ve been working on your fourth book. We’ll have you back on the podcast for that too. I know you also teach a lot and I’m wondering if you have any courses or anything you’d like to share with us along that realm.

Maria Noel Groves:

I do. Every year, I do a summer Home Herbalist Series and that’s my core foundational program. We go through a lot of the core body systems and remedy-making techniques. That will be happening on Tuesday nights. We are going to be live streaming it. Everything is also recorded so folks can do that program at anytime on demand, but if you want to catch a live stream that will be happening on Tuesdays. I will be doing that one also in person at the same time. That’s the only series I’m going to be doing in person because I’m still getting used to the new layout. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew and then new home just yet.

In the fall, I have my Beyond the Home Herbalist Series, which continues that with new body systems, health topics and remedies. The thing that I’m really excited series-wise this year is that I will be doing a Seasonal Energetics, which is a module of what I normally do, a bigger, full advanced program, but this year we’re going to try breaking it up into more approachable modules. We’re going to focus on energetics, seasons, plant families, taste. We’ll be doing focuses on different materia medica, like a plant. They all tie together. We pick a phytochemical constituent in a plant family, a taste and a plant that all tie into the energetics. I’m super excited that Jiling Lin will be teaching about the five elements aspects of energetics. Tesia Love will be in it doing the Ayurveda aspects, while I’ll be teaching about the Western herbal aspects.

So, pretty excited about that series and it’s all up on the website. That one starts in April, so I think by the time this airs, it will have already begun, but folks can jump in later and you’ll still have access to all the recorded materials. The Home Herbalist Series begins in summer, so that one will not have begun just yet.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

You’ve got a lot on your plate. Thanks for sharing that all with us. Before you go, I’d love to ask you a final question. The final question I have for you is, how do herbs instill hope in you?

Maria Noel Groves:

I think there are a lot of different ways in which herbs instill hope, but I think it all centers around this basic idea—I know I have heard you speak on this too—that once you start to learn about plants, initially, it might start off very extractive of like, “What can the plants do for me?” Pretty quickly, we start to recognize that we have this bi-directional relationship with the plants and that there are these amazing beings whether they’re cultivated or wild surrounding us, that there are so many plants that have healing properties. That alone can just be really eye-opening and bring a sense of comfort and connection to people to recognize that they’re surrounded by so many plant allies, and to also, become more engaged with the plants and the environment, and just all of that deeper meaning.

I wouldn’t consider myself an overtly spiritual person, but I feel like the more you get to know plant medicine, the more likely that whatever kind of spirituality sense you have is going to deepen because discovering that all these allies are around us is just sort of a magical experience. However your viewpoint is on that, I think it’s really quite beautiful.

All of those things bring great hope, not to mention the empowerment of being able to open up your cupboard or go out into your garden or your backwoods, and when you’re not feeling well, find a plant that might help you feel better or just to feel more vital and enjoy life a bit more. That’s many ways--many ways in which herbs help bring hope, I think, to all of our daily lives.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s beautifully said. Thank you so much for sharing your immense amount of wisdom about lemon balm. I’m really excited for your future endeavors. Always great to be in touch and hear your updates. I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us.

Maria Noel Groves:

Awesome! Thanks so much for having me and for all that you do.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for being here. Don’t forget to download your beautifully illustrated recipe card above the transcript of this show. Also be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, which is the best way to stay in touch with me, below. The best way to check out Maria’s offerings is at wintergreenbotanicals.com. If you’d like more herbal episodes to come your way, then one of the best ways to support this podcast is by subscribing on YouTube or your favorite podcast app.

I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks and I’m so glad that you’re here as part of this herbal community.

Also, a big round of thanks to the people all over the world who make this podcast happen week to week. Nicole Paull is the Project Manager who oversees the whole operation from guest outreach, to writing show notes, to actually uploading each episode and so many other things I don’t even know. She really holds this whole thing together.

Francesca is our fabulous video and audio editor. She not only makes listening more pleasant. She also adds beauty to the YouTube videos with plant images and video overlays. Tatiana Rusakova is the botanical illustrator who creates gorgeous plant and recipe illustrations for us. I love them. I know that you do too. Kristy edits the recipe cards and then Jenny creates them as well as the thumbnail images for YouTube. Michele is the tech wizard behind the scenes and Karin is our Student Services Coordinator and Customer Support. For those of you who like to read along, Jennifer is who creates the transcripts each week. Xavier, my handsome French husband, is the cameraman and website IT guy. It takes an herbal village to make it all happen including you. 

One of the best ways to retain and fully understand something you’ve just learned is to share it in your own words. With that in mind, I invite you to share your takeaways with me and the entire Herbs with Rosalee Community. You can leave comments on my YouTube Channel, at the bottom of this page, or just simply hit “Reply” to my Wednesday email. I read every single comment that comes in and I’m excited to hear your herbal thoughts on lemon balm.

Okay, you’ve lasted to the very end of the show which means you get your very own gold star and this herbal tidbit:

I love that Maria discussed “organoleptics” in this conversation, which is a fancy word for how we use our senses to evaluate herbs. We can use this to assess the strength of our herbal preparations, but also to figure out really practical things like when to harvest the plants. Lemon balm is a fantastic herb to really hone in your herbal senses and here’s my story about that:

One year, I let my lemon balm go too long in the garden, and so, by the time I got around to harvesting it, the plant had long been past flowering. But I thought, why not? I didn’t want it to go to waste. The leaves still look pretty good, so I harvested them and I dried them. I made a cup of tea out of them and was amazed at how different this cup of tea tasted. Instead of that fresh lemon mint that’s unique to lemon balm that I was familiar with, it was much more pungent and I want to say “turpentiny,” not entirely pleasant. So, now, I have a lot more motivation to stay on top of the lemon balm harvest. I like it just before it goes to flower for the best taste. 

If you’re in the mood for even more lemon balm, then check out my solo episode, which is, by far, my most popular video on YouTube.

Enjoy your lemon balm. 

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  

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