Lemon Balm: An Underrated Herb

Season's first lemon balm harvest!

Season’s first lemon balm harvest!

This week I did my first major lemon balm harvest and I’ll be harvesting mint in the next few days as well. I posted information about harvesting and drying these herbs for storage a couple of weeks ago, but after receiving requests for more information about uses for lemon balm, I decided to give some more in-depth information on this lesser-known herb.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is an introduced species in North America and is native to Europe. Traditional uses of this species are various, including attracting honey bees and a number of medicinal uses. Medicinal uses have varied over time and between cultures, but include uplifting mood, treating various wounds, improving digestion, and contributing to health and longevity. Modern medicinal uses include treatment of headaches/migraines, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.

This relative of mint is extremely easy to propagate and grow – it roots easily from cuttings and spreads easily throughout an area. It can actually overrun other species, so it’s definitely important to keep it under control. In my experience it does well in partial shade (which makes it perfect for my back yard!). I ended up with a decent first harvest from my three lemon balm plants, and I freed up space for some other plants to get more light.

I mainly use lemon balm as a calming tea. It has a similar effect to chamomile, but I prefer the lemony taste of this plant! You can make tea from the fresh leaves or you can dry the leaves and store them in an airtight container for a year-round supply. Lemon balm is also delicious in salads and other dishes. Here are some great recipes:

Beverages:

Soups, Salads, and Other Sides:

Main Courses:

Desserts:

What else do you use lemon balm for?

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5 thoughts on “Lemon Balm: An Underrated Herb

  1. Great post, thankyou so much. I have always loved lemon balm, but have forgotten all about it since moving to my new place where I have none. As a child I remember drinking lemon balm tea with honey in it with my mother, but have never thought much about how else to use it. I will have to go out and find some lemon balm and experiment.

    • In my area (central New York) I haven’t seen lemon balm around for foraging – it’s generally a garden plant despite the fact that it spreads fairly well. You could probably get a plant from your local farmer’s market or garden center and grow it pretty easily. It’s a great container herb if you don’t have enough garden space!

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