Aaahh yes, the springtime has arrived. La primavera. At last. The weather’s warmer, the days are longer, people seem happier and we’re all getting ready to enjoy the summer. Then, all of a sudden, just as you’re enjoying nice long walks (between 6 am and 10 am or 8pm till 11pm of course!!!) and afternoons outside in the garden, it starts to hit you. Your head begins to feel as if it’s full of cotton wool, there are insects running around your nose and beneath the skin on your face, you’re cold, then hot, then cold again and it feels like someone’s squeezing your windpipe until you can barely breathe. You don’t know whether it’s better to close all the doors and windows and shut yourself in or go outside to see if the fresh air will help. From looking forward to the spring you now can’t wait for it to end to be able to carry on with your life as normal!!
I started to suffer from hay fever (Fiebre del heno or alergia al polen in Spanish) when I was about 22. I used to wonder what people were moaning about before then, until it started to affect me and I realised that they’d definitely had something to moan about! Each year for about 6 weeks in the spring I wouldn’t want to do anything, the only time I’d feel a bit more like myself was from 12pm till 4 pm while pollen counts were lower but then it would start all over again. Anti-histamines were a no-no, they’d make me drowsy and make my IBS really flare up, plus you can’t drive when you take them or operate dangerous machinery but I try not to do that too often anyway.
A couple of years later, for digestive reasons, I completely cut out anything with gluten in it. Towards the end of May I realised that I’d not had any hay fever symptoms, maybe an odd sneeze now and again but that was about it. I couldn’t believe it! I thought that that was it, I’d never suffer from hay fever again. But, alas, a few years (about 17!) down the line, my hay fever returned. Not quite as bad as it was before I quit the gluten but still not too nice. I’d started to occasionally eat gluten, mainly in the form of wholemeal spelt, but I didn’t think it could just be down to this. The following year I made sure I didn’t eat any gluten for at least a month before the hay fever season started and it still seemed to come back with a vengeance.
A friend recommended a natural tincture that he’d bought from one of the local health shops so I decided to give it a go. The first few days of taking it were great, my symptoms almost disappeared, apart from the fuzzy headedness but that could just be me! I thought I’d found a miracle cure until, after about a week of taking it my IBS really started to flare up. I’d get terrible stomach cramps that would wipe me out for the day. I stopped taking the tincture and the IBS got better but the hay fever gradually returned. I’ve never really been able to take medications, even natural ones, because of my IBS so I thought I’d just have to put up with hay fever for one month every year, it could be a lot worse that’s for sure.
Last year I found the tincture in my kitchen drawer and I noticed that the first ingredient was Melissa Officinalis, that’s Lemon Balm to you and me, Hierba Melisa in Spanish. I have a plant in my garden so thought I might as well give it a go and make an infusion to see what happened.
I picked 4 or 5 stems from it and decided it might be nice if i mixed it with some mint (the one you use for Mojitos, hierba buena in Spanish) and some lemon verbena (hierba luisa in Spanish). I picked roughly the same amount of both of these and proceded to make the infusion
I separated the leaves from the stalks, washed them and covered them in boiling water for 10 minutes with a plate over the bowl so you don’t lose the volatile oils. After, I strained the infusion and waited for it to cool before I put it in the fridge.
I started sipping on it as soon as it had cooled enough to drink and the effects were almost immediate. The scratchiness in my mouth eased, along with the snuffles, the cough and the insects running around my face. The amount I made, about 1 and 3/4 litres, lasted for about 2 days, I just made sure I kept sipping on it to keep the symptoms at bay.
I also notice that while I take it I feel calmer. Lemon balm is an adaptogen, which basically means it reduces the stress levels in the body. I sleep better and, sorry guys but this also needs mentioning for the ladies, my PMS is better and my period cramps are nowhere near as bad. I actually manage to get through the first day without taking any pill, something virtually unheard of. I loathe taking medication so if it can be avoided by taking this infusion, I’m all for it.
Lemon balm is supposedly good for all sorts of things, headaches, insomnia, cold sores, etc, so it’s definitely worth growing some in your garden. I also take it for IBS cramps and it definitely helps calm them. The only trouble is they say it’s not a good herb to dry as it loses a lot of it’s properties, although my mother-in-law dries it along with various other herbs for infusions throughout the year so maybe I’ll give it a go. It’s part of the mint family so I can’t see why you shouldn’t dry it
Well, I hope this can help some of you out there who are suffering at this time of year. Please let me know if you give it a go. Thanks. Love Georgie xx
Lemon Balm Tea
PREP TIME 5 mins
RESTING TIME 10 mins
- 3 stems Lemon balm
- 3 stems Mint
- 2 stems Lemon verbena
- 1,5 litres boiling water
- 1-2 tbsp Optional: sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, etc)
- Remove leaves from stems and wash them well
- Place in a large enough glass, ceramic or metal bowl (not plastic)
- Pour on boiling water and leave to infuse for 10 minutes with a plate on top of the bowl
- Strain and add sweetener if using
- Allow to cool before storing in the fridge
- Sip throughout the day to keep hay fever at bay! Keeps for 2 days in the fridge