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When Life Gives You Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb of the mint family.

Long known for it's health benefits for humans, it's just one of the many plants that also has health benefits for dogs.

It can be purchased in oil or capsule form, but these can often be expensive, so why not have a go at growing it at home?

It's super easy to grow in fact; so if your fingers aren't very green, or you only have space for a humble window box, this could be the plant for you! It does however attract a lot of bees, ('Melissa' is Greek for honey bee)... so please take care to plant it where dogs and bees won't be bothering one another!

This antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, insect repelling, calming little wonder plant can be used as a; digestive aid (neutralising gas in the digestive tract, for fresher bottoms!), breath freshener, muscle relaxant, deodorant, and disinfectant. It's calming properties are particularly good for helping to alleviate the symptoms of stress and depression; it makes a great sleep aid; and it's also a great brain booster.

Below are some ideas for using lemon balm, but please always seek the advice of a veterinarian (a holistic one would be even better) before using it for your dog. Like all medicines and remedies, conventional or otherwise, lemon balm may have side effects for your dog, or interfere with other medications he may be taking.

The freshly washed and chopped leaves of a lemon balm plant can be:

  • sprinkled directly onto your dog's food (check quantities for your dog's body weight with your vet);

  • added to boiling water to make a 'tea' (check quantities for your dog's body weight with your vet). You can leave the leaves in the water, or strain them with a tea strainer or muslin cloth. Don't forget to let the water cool down before giving it to your dog! This 'tea' is great if you need to encourage your dog to drink a little extra, or if he has a sore throat;

  • applied as a disinfectant to a wound by rinsing the wound with a water lemon balm mix (boil as if making a tea, and allow to cool), or placing the cooled leaves against the skin and holding them in place with a pet bandage (not a human bandage - there is a difference);

  • applied as a cold compress to an injury by soaking a cloth in a water lemon balm mix (boil and allow to cool), and putting the cloth on the skin (never use ice directly on skin - it burns);

  • applied as a warm (not hot) compress (boil and allow to cool) to relax muscles or soothe aching joints (arthritis, dysplasia, healing sports injuries etc.);

  • added to honey to treat/prevent a bacterial infection in a wound, or taken orally as an immune booster. Acacia honey is generally considered the best;

  • brushed through your dog's coat as a natural freshener.

Lemon balm has a wonderful scent and is well known for it's relaxing properties. It can also be grown indoors, so if your dog is feeling a little anxious, depressed, or is having difficulty sleeping, dot a few stalks around the house. The soothing smell should help your dog feel a little calmer, and his a mind a little more focused.

Lovely lemon balm.

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