Using lemon balm frequently for cooking and medicinal purposes makes this herb a rewarding addition to the home herb garden.
This lemon-scented herb attracts honey bees and is a useful, prolific garden plant. Lemon balm, or Melissa Officinalis, is a member of the mint family. It’s easy to grow and easy to use for cooking and for medicinal purposes. Discover the many uses of lemon balm.
Cultivating Lemon Balm
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Lemon balm can be started from seed in the spring. The plant grows easily from divisions or from spring or summer cuttings. It prefers full sun, but also does well in partial shade. It is hardy in zones 4-5 and thrives in well-drained soil.
Once established, lemon balm spreads easily. It will take over an herb or flower bed if not maintained. Regular weeding of shoots that have spread beyond the border of the lemon balm bed is necessary to keep it in its place.
Culinary Uses for Lemon Balm
According to Richard M. Bacon in The Forgotten Arts: Growing, Gardening & Cooking with Herbs (Yankee Publishing, 1972), lemon balm makes a wonderful addition to a fruit salad. It can be added to iced tea to give it a subtle, lemony flavor.
Add fresh lemon balm when making berry pies, as a garnish to any fruit dessert or side dish and as an addition to a summer green salad. The Reader’s Digest Home Handbook: Herbs (Reader’s Digest Association, 1990) further suggests that lemon balm be added to mayonnaise, white sauces for fish and sauerkraut.
Medicinal Uses for Lemon Balm
In Herbs, Health and Cookery, written by Claire Loewenfeld and Philippa Back (Gramercy Publishing 1965), it’s stated that lemon balm is an anti-spasmodic. This makes it particularly effective as a calming tea that can help when over-tired or anxious.
Lemon balm is also known to be a febrifuge, meaning that it induces perspiration in feverish patients, which makes it a useful ally during cold and flu season. It is effective against bad breath, is helpful at relieving the discomfort of an upset stomach and has even been known to ease vomiting during illness.
The Reader’s Digest book suggests that lemon balm can help relieve flatulent spasms. It is also a helpful herb to take when feeling mildly depressed as it eases nervous tension. In The Forgotten Arts, Bacon recommends that lemon balm be used topically to relieve a bee sting.
Since it is easy to cultivate, lemon balm is a perfect addition to a home herb garden. The many uses of Melissa Officinali, both culinary and medicinal, make it a good introductory herb for a budding herbalist.