I feel totally ridiculous telling you this. Please don’t hold it against me.
I’ve had a beautiful plethora of Lemon Balm growing in my herb garden for YEARS – and every year I stand around starring at it, wondering what the HECK to do with it… The leaves smell fabulous and it’s a beautiful landscape plant if nothing else.. but I’m embarrassed that I’ve been letting it all go to waste, year after year.
Last Friday, my friend Lurea gave me the most amazing goodie bag (for no reason, which is the best kinds of gifts to get!) it had a yummy tea bag, essential oil sample, travel Frothy Coffee whipper, Jeralseum Artichoke Plant, big bag of stinging nettles and a bag of her homegrown lemon balm.
Silly as I am – because it was a gift, I HAD to really use the lemon balm. So I put my thinking cap on, searched the internet and scoured my foraging books for an easy way that I (and YOU) can use up that abundance of lemon balm you have growing in a super yummy (and healthy) way!
What is Lemon Balm?
The green leaves of lemon balm have the scent of lemon with a hint of mint, with leaves that look like oversized mint—no surprise, since lemon balm is part of the mint family. Lemon balm can grow 24 to 36 inches tall and makes a nice green clump of medium-textured leaves among the other herbs and flowers in your garden. The plant looks best when it is cut back periodically, so plan to use lots of fresh, flavorful leaves to brew tea, flavor fruit or green salad, and season fish. Be sure to include stems in bouquets of summer flowers.
Needless to say, it’s a very easy plant to grow and is extremely resilient to cutting to be used. You can buy started plants at a local nursery or you can buy Lemon Balm Seeds online HERE. Most of us who grow lemon balm in our gardens & landscapes have more than enough to share too!
Medicinal Uses of Lemon Balm:
- Lemon Balm is anti-viral, so the tea is great to drink if you’re feeling under the weather. The hot tea brings on a sweat that is good for relieving colds, flus and fevers and an anti-viral agent has been found that combats mumps, cold sores and other viruses. James Duke mentions that Lemon Balm can help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Shingles, due to the anti-viral action.
- One of Lemon Balm’s key medicinal qualities is as a tranquilizer. It calms a nervous stomach, colic, or heart spasms. The leaves are reputed to also lower blood pressure. It is very gentle, although effective, so is often suggested for children and babies.
- Lemon Balm tea has been shown to inhibit the division of tumor cells. It may also be beneficial to those with Grave’s disease-studies indicate that the herb slightly inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone and restricts Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid condition.
- Lemon Balm’s anti-histamine action is useful to treat eczema and headaches and accounts for the centuries old tradition of placing the fresh leaf on insect bites and wounds. A fomentation of Lemon Balm may also help reduce the swelling associated with gout.
- Through research, Lemon Balm has clearly demonstrated the ability to impact the limbic system of the brain and “protect” the brain from the powerful stimuli of the body and should be part of any ADHD formula. It smells a lot better than Ritalin, too.
Aromatherapy Uses of Lemon Balm (aka Melissa Essential Oil)
- The essential oil (also know as Melissa) has been used as an insect repellent, to treat insect bites and treat allergies. Respiratory uses of Lemon Balm include: asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, colds and influenza. Digestive uses are: colic, indigestion, nausea; good for vomiting and indigestion of a nervous origin, relieving spasms and flatulence. People may be surprised that Lemon Balm oil is good for the circulatory system; it’s a heart tonic, relieves palpitations and lowers blood pressure. And like centuries of herbalists before us, we can use Lemon Balm oil for anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia, migraine, nervous tension, shock and vertigo.
- Lemon Balm blends well with lavender, geranium, floral and citrus oils.
Culinary Uses of Lemon Balm
- Fresh Lemon Balm imparts a subtle lemon flavor and fresh lemon fragrance, making it especially nice for fruit dishes, custards, and tea. Early fresh leaves can be chopped and added to salads; just cut down somewhat on the vinegar or lemon juice. Lemon Balm can easily take the place of Lemon Thyme in any recipe you’ve got. I’ve even seen a recipe for Lemon Balm Cheesecake. Talk about versatility! It has also been said that you can lay fish or chicken over a bed of Lemon Balm leaves before baking and you won’t need any other seasonings. Dried Lemon Balm is used mainly for Lemon Balm Tea – if you are going to use the leaves for culinary purposes, it is best to freeze them. They should keep for about two months.
The Easiest way to use Fresh Lemon Balm, Make Iced tea!
It was completely love at first sip! I promise if you make up a batch of Lemon Balm Iced Tea, it won’t be your last! It’s smooth and mild with a soft lemon flavor.
Fill your jar/pitcher about half full with fresh picked (and washed) lemon balm – leaves & stems are ok… I add in a scoop of honey
Fill your jar/pitcher with boiling water, preferable filtered 🙂
Let your tea steep — the longer it steeps the more intense the flavor becomes. As a minimum I recommend steeping for 20 minutes, but have let mine go for an entire day and both tasted yummy!
Serve your Lemon Balm Tea over iced (you can also drink it hot/warm) .. I like mine with a squeeze of lime and a garnish of additional lemon balm from the garden. Enjoy an iced cold glass of Lemon Balm Iced Tea on a hot day for a refreshing & HEALTHY Treat!
What’s your favorite way to use up the Lemon Balm growing in your garden??