Melissa officinalis

Remnants of a lime kiln built in the late 1800’s now taken over by Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Limestone was blasted with dynamite out of the side of a mountain near here from 1876-1919 and was manufactured into lime for building mortar throughout the Bay Area. These giant kilns required continuous burning for days on end, being fed old growth redwood from the surrounding forest that is the traditional territory of the Amah Mutsun Ohlone. Reconstruction of San Francisco ​after the 1906 earthquake added to the already relentless logging of the forests of California, fueling lime kilns and factories, as well as providing lumber for building. Forests that took more than 20 million years to be established and were tended by indigenous people since time immemorial were virtually decimated within a few hundred years, with more than 90% of old growth extracted in California from 1600 to 1960. This lime kiln sits a few miles from any paved road, tucked back into the forest as a stoic relic of its era. Lemon Balm, an herb naturalized from south-central Europe and the Mediterranean covers the kilns’ rock-face with its luscious green stems and bright lemony leaves, claiming this artifact as its own. This resilient herb thrives in wastelands and disturbed soils, converting toxic landscapes into potent constituents and powerful medicine. Lemon Balm has long been used as an aromatic carminative, relaxing spasms in the digestive tract as well as releasing nervous tension. The leaves are used as a mild anti-depressant and sedative, calming stress and anxiety, and uplifting the spirits. They have a tonifying effect on the cardiovascular system, with properties that encourage vasodilation and the lowering of blood pressure. The presence of rosmarinic acid and other polyphenolics support the plants use as an effective antiviral, both internally and externally. It is best to harvest aerial parts just before flowering and for them to be used fresh. As this forest tenaciously breathes air into the world, the interlacing roots of many species work to decompose shadows of destruction, feeding the imaginations and possibilities of collective survival in the future. #SweetMelissa





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