Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean, but now grows rapidly throughout the world. It’s a member of the mint family and because all mints have square stems, identifying this herb is as easy as crushing a leaf between your fingers. If the aroma released is sweet, lemony, and slightly minty, you can bet it’s lemon balm. Why should you grow lemon balm in your garden? Here are 10 reasons!
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them (including lemon balm), check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
Lemon Balm is an Excellent Permaculture Plant
Keep in mind that like mint, lemon balm grows incredibly fast in rich, well drained, moist soil that receives lots of sun. In the right conditions, it can even become massive. Once you discover all of the useful benefits of having this plant around, I’m sure you’ll be more than fine with that!
Lemon Balm is Loved by Bees
Bees are enamored with the irresistible nectar that’s filled in lemon balm flowers. Because this herb contains some of the same chemicals that are in bee pheromones, modern beekeepers use an ancient technique of crushing the leaves to draw worker bees to their newly built hives.
In fact, the genus name, Melissa, is derived from the Greek and means honey bee! In mythology, Melissa was a nymph that was said to have discovered and taught about the many uses of honey and eventually honey bees acquired her name. Pretty cool!
Here are more flowers that bees love!
Lemon Balm Repels Annoying Bugs
This herb has the ability to repel ants, mosquitoes, and flies with its high amount of compounds that resemble the scent of citronella.
Try making my easy herbal no bug balm to keep those pesky mosquitoes at range. Out on a hike and forgot to bring your bug balm? Find some lemon balm, crush the leaves, and rub them directly onto your skin!
Lemon Balm has Medicinal Benefits
Not only is this plant great in the garden, but it’s also an excellent gem to keep in your herbal remedy cabinet.
Ancient Greeks used lemon balm steeped in wine to relieve the symptoms of fevers. Put together your own ginger and lemon balm cold/flu syrup to relieve those same symptoms today.
Lemon balm may also reduce menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome when taken daily for a prolonged period of time.
As aromatherapy, this medicinal plant is inhaled to improve the quality of life of patients with Alzheimer’s disease by improving their memory, mood, and agitation.
Lemon Balm is a Calming Plant
Lemon balm leaves are sedative and taking a tincture or capsule of this highly medicinal plant can improve mood by alleviating stress, anxiety, and tension headaches. It is believed that rosmarinic acid found in lemon balm is responsible for activating the GABA receptors in the brain that promote relaxation.
Lemon balm can also boost brain power to help you stay focused. Even taking a sniff of these aromatic leaves can reduce agitation and promote relaxation.
This herbal powerhouse can also aid in easing the sleep disorder insomnia by reducing restlessness, and supporting a good night’s sleep.
Lemon Balm is a Digestive Aid
Lemon balm is calming to the digestive system. A tea made with lemon balm can help soothe upset stomachs, relieve gas, and even bloating.
Chop up a tablespoon of fresh or dried leaves, infuse them in 8 ounces of boiling water for a few minutes, and enjoy a cup after a meal. This is by far my favorite way to use it!
Lemon Balm is a Children’s Herb
Lemon balm is an excellent herb for children, one of the best! It is totally safe and highly regarded for children, and is often used to calm a sleepless or hyperactive child. We parents could all use a bit of that action!
I have a recipe in my book Healing Herbal Infusions for a Children’s Calming Tea that contains lemon balm.
Small amounts of lemon balm tea can also be given to teething or colicky babies to help reduce discomfort.
Lemon Balm is Good in Bath & Body Products
The leaves of this beneficial herb are loaded with potent antioxidants that you can take advantage of in this lemon balm soap.
Fill a jar ¾ of the way full with lemon balm leaves and cover them with apple cider vinegar. After infusing for a few days, you’re left with the perfect hair rinse!
Or perhaps a soothing bath soak will be more your speed (just use lemon balm instead of mint).
Lemon Balm Makes Delicious Food
If tea is not your thing, you can still reap the benefits of lemon balm!
You can pretty much use it in place of lemon peel in any dish that needs a touch of lemon flavor, like in jams for brightness or try it in a compound butter.
But the most important question of them all is, will it pesto? Yes, it will!
Lemon Balm Tastes Great in Drinks
Carmelite nuns developed an aromatic cordial in the 14th century made from infusing lemon balm leaves, lemon peel, nutmeg, and angelica root in alcohol. This concoction was very popular with reducing headaches and was also used as a perfume.
Chartreuse and Benedictine liqueurs are still around today and are said to have healing properties. Can you guess what one of the main ingredients is?
Another way to use lemon balm leaves is to infuse them in honey and add a dollop to your healing teas as a nice way to unwind at the end of the day.
Hopefully these 10 reasons will inspire you to start growing lemon balm! If growing your own isn’t possible at this time, you can order dried lemon balm from my favorite herb shop, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Why do you love growing lemon balm?