Celebrating Lemon Balm


The Mint family provides us with many wonderful opportunities to enjoy fresh or dried herbs regularly in daily life. We can make teas, use fresh mint in recipes like tabouli, combine it with other flowers and make scented potpourris, or we can use the essential oils for everything from perfume to spider repellant. The truly wonderful “Mint” group of plants, includes members like Catnip, Lemon balm, Spearmint and, of course, the most prominent – Peppermint. Yes, Laminate as a family, provides the home gardener with a great group of leaves.

I am celebrating Lemon Balm today as I have cut several arm-fulls and I’m preparing to dry them. One important note for any gardener who is unfamiliar with the Mint family of plants: they SPREAD and SPREAD, so make sure you are a fan before you plant and consider devoting a section for them only. We have quite a group of herbs in the family: There is Summer savory, a Mediterranean native that is much loved by bees; and Sweet Marjoram, which grows wild on the hillsides of Asia. Marjoram was a favorite of the Ancient Greeks, who called it a name meaning “joy of the mountains” – being found in abundance within mountain meadows, all over the country, including the islands.

I digress, so I will amble back to Lemon Balm:

Lemon Balm {Melissa officinalis} is considered to be a calming herb, with great antiviral properties. “It has mention in herbal literature as far back as the Middle Ages. It was used to reduce stress and anxiety, improve appetite, ease pain and discomfort from indigestion, including gas and bloating as well as colic.” {Maryland University} Adding the dried leaves to a tea which could include valerian, chamomile or hops is a good way to enjoy the calming effects of this easy-to-grow herb. In Europe, you can find it in creams – which are used to treat cold-sores.

tea-side-1-1In the garden, Lemon Balm can be an easy-to-grow perennial. You can get a start from a friend that can be a root cutting and it will thrive and spread rapidly as it propagates from seed as well as root. It will form a stalk in late summer that has lovely, whitish, tiny flowers that bees love. After they fade, each stalk is filled with many seeds, and since you will have many, many, many, stalks, you’ll get some idea of how quickly it will spread after the first year.

Chew some leaves for a breath freshener, or make some refreshing tea. The wonderful, fresh, lemony scent will inspire you to find new recipes for eating and cooking. It is also a great, useful plant for soap makers who might use the tea instead of water in cold process recipes and other DIY beauty products


Star Anise

If the picture of a warm cup of tea is appealing to you then I invite you to try adding Lemon Balm Tea to your herbal tea choices. Dry your lemon balm leaves and find a favorite jar to store the tea in. Mine is an old canning Jar I have had with me for a while. I mix about a quart of leaves with 1/3 cup of Star Anise and some dried Orange Peel. To make a cup I take a handful and put it into my tea pot and pour 4 cups of boiling water over and let it steep about five minutes. Strain it into a cup an add a touch of honey and enjoy !