Scientific name: Melissa officinalis

“[Lemon] Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy” – herbalist John Evelyn, 1600’s

Lemon balm is another one of those plants with a ton of uses and benefits, so it’s a wonder that it isn’t more well known in the mainstream world. The name derives from a Greek word meaning “bee leaf” because bees are extremely attracted to it. Part of the mint family with sweet lemon scented leaves, it’s helpful with depression, anxiety, heart disease, and many bacterial and viral infections.

Health Benefits

Named the “elixir of life” by Paracelsus, it’s obvious this herb has been important to us for many generations.

  • Antispasmodic
  • Calming to the nervous and digestive systems: volatile oils citral and citronellal are mainly responsible
  • Can improve ADD & ADHD
  • Antiviral properties

Nutrients

  • Citral
  • Citronellal
  • Tannins
  • Bitters
  • Polyphenols
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Catechin
  • Resins
  • Flavonoids

Cooking Tips

Because lemon balm has such a flavorful leaf, you can use it in tea, salads, soups, smoothies, with chicken and fish, and anything else that the flavor would blend well with!

Quick Remedies

(consult a doctor if experiencing any serious conditions)

CAUTION: Lemon balm is considered a thyroid inhibitor so if you have a history of low thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) definitely ask your doctor about it before regular use.

  • Stress causing upset stomach: make a tea mixing lemon balm and chamomile
  • Stress induced insomnia: make a  tea mixing lemon balm with passion flower and a couple lavender buds, drink before bed
  • ADD & ADHD; restless child; child with nightmares: especially for young children, lemon balm tea can be very effective

How to Grow

Planting

Where do you live? Hardiness Zones 5 – 9

Lemon balm is best grown in Zones 4-9 as a perennial, and as an annual in colder areas. A benefit to having this plant in your garden is that it will attract beneficial bees.

Put em in the ground

  • Germination: 10-14 days. Start indoors about 2 months before the last frost. Barely cover seeds with soil. Take outside by late March to mid April
  • Spacing: Once sprouted, space plants 18″ apart
  • Light Preferences: Partial shade to full sun
  • Soil Preferences: Rich, slightly moist, well-drained soil, but can grow in almost anything. pH 6.7 – 7.3
  • Height: 1-3 ft

Care

Once lemon balm is growing, it will replant its own seeds readily. If you let it flower, it can spread quickly and become invasive.

  • Fertilizer: Some people recommend light fertilizer once in awhile if you’ll be taking leaves from it all season, but this can decrease the scent of the leaves, so a little compost is better.
  • Diseases: As a sturdy, disease-resistant plant, you shouldn’t have many problems. If your plants are crowded, powdery mildew can appear. If the soil is too moist, root rot can also happen.
  • Pests: Lemon balm can be affected by a number of pests, but doesn’t usually have serious issues. Pest-free organic garden tips.
    • Aphids
    • Spider mites
    • White fly
    • and more…

Harvest

The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season, but are best right before flowering. If you want another crop, keep the flowers cut back.

Companion Plants

The Cruciferae family eg. broccoli, cauliflower

Storing/Preserving

Dry the leaves and store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.