Lemon Balm - Calming and Fragrant
Lemon balm (melissa officinalis) is a fragrant, showy herb that will grow in almost any soil to brighten up your garden.
Lemon balm - also called "melissa," "balm," or "bee balm" - smells a lot like lemon furniture polish, and in fact, can be used to polish furniture. It is also a favorite summer tea herb and can be used as a sedative. This page focuses on medicinal, traditional, and historic uses for lemon balm. It also discusses cultivation of lemon balm.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family.
Medicinal properties of lemon balm
Lemon balm is an antispasmodic, calmative, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, and stomachic.
An antispasmodic can stop spasms and cramps.
A calmative tranquillizes, acting as a sedative.
An carminative expels gas.
A diaphoretic encourages sweating.
An emmenagogue promotes menstrual flow.
A stomachic strengthens the stomach.
Lemon balm - a delight for the senses.
Warnings about lemon balm
It makes sense that if you're going to be using a new type of medicine, and lemon balm IS a herbal medicine, you should research it thoroughly and if it is within your ability, consult a herbal practitioner or naturalist.
If you're going ahead with this on your own please start slowly. You never know if you might be allergic to something. Take only a small amount at first and work up to a full dose. If you feel this herb is making you sick, discontinue the treatment immediately. Consult a medical doctor if you have any concerns at all about what you're doing.
The following list of the uses of lemon balm has been derived from a variety of herb information resources. I cannot take responsibility to assure that lemon balm will help your condition, or that you cannot be harmed by it. I do not diagnose, nor do I recommend specific treatments for you.
I will say that lemon balm grows in my garden and I have used it successfully internally and externally without ill effect for several conditions over the course of about ten years.
If you want professional advice on your medical conditions and the use of herbs, consult a naturopathic physician and/or your family doctor. I am not a doctor; I'm just a herb using woman that grows herbs in her garden for personal use, who has studied herbs over the course of about thirty-five years. I share with you what I've learned from other herbalists (or discovered from my own use of herbs) but don't do any scientific testing. This is folk medicine!
Lemon balm grows in sun or shade.
What has lemon balm been used for?
Lemon balm has been used medicinally for many centuries by people in many cultures. Here are some things it has been used for.
An infusion of lemon balm can help when you have a fever, to induce perspiration and reduce pain.
Lemon balm tea has a calming, sedative effect.
Add a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm lemon balm tea. Use this as a gargle to relieve the pain of sore throat.
Use lemon balm tea as a mouthwash.
Lemon balm tea might help.
Try lemon balm tea to relieve gas.
Try a cup of lemon balm tea.
Headaches / Migranes / Dizzyness
Try lemon balm tea to relieve headaches.
Make an infusion of lemon balm leaves, and put it in your bathwater.
A poultice of crushed lemon balm leaves can be applied to insect bites, sores, tumors, and milk-knots. (Milk knots are milk-containing dilations in the lactiferous ducts.)
Cold Sores / Herpes
Apply lemon balm salve to the affected area.
Medicinal lemon balm - have you ever used it?
Lemon Balm - "a wonderful herb"
"It seems to be a favorite of bees and should be grown in home gardens to attract bees for the healthy fertilization of your plants. In earlier times melissa tea was drunk to make the mind and heart merry, to revive the heart, to help people who sleep too much, and to drive out cares and melancholy."
-- Jeanne Rose, in Herbs and Things
Making medicines with lemon balm
Here are some simple directions for using lemon balm internally or externally.
Steep about 1 tablespoon lemon balm leaves in 2 cups of boiled water. Add honey and lemon if desired.
Steep up to 1 tablespoon lemon balm leaves in 1/2 cup boiled water. The normal dose for an infusion is five to twenty drops.
A decoction is similar to an infusion, but stems are included rather than just leaves, and the herb is boiled rather than only steeped. Boil one ounce leaves and stems in twenty ounces of water for five minutes.
Dry lemon balm leaves, then crush them using a mortar and pestle such as the one pictured below.
Make an infusion of lemon balm (see instructions above.) Strain the leaves out of the infusion. Combine the infusion with 1/2 cup of olive or almond oil and simmer slowly until the water evaporates. Add beeswax if needed for better consistency.
Are you a herbalist?
Non-medicinal uses of lemon balm
Lemon balm is best known as a wonderful, refreshing summertime tea. It can also be added to fruit salads, green salads, and other vegetable dishes. But there are other things you can do with lemon balm. Here are some of them.
Rub fresh lemon balm leaves on your wood furniture for a lovely lemony shine. Try first on a small section to see if you like the result.
Lemon balm has been added to herbal sleep pillows because of the fragrant lemony scent.
Flies and other insects may go away if you've got lemon balm nearby. You could try putting lemon balm tea in a spray bottle and using it to spray the air, the picnic table, etc.. Alternatively, try a few drops lemon balm extract and water in a spray bottle. Or take some lemon balm with you on your picnic and leave branches of it on the table. Try putting lemon balm in the campfire... this too could convince pests to stay far, far away.
How to grow lemon balm
Lemon balm can easily be started from seed, or you can start lemon balm from cuttings.
Cuttings: Take a cutting in the fall and let it sit on your sunny windowsill in a cup of water until springtime, then plant it.
Seeds: These plants are amazingly easy to grow. Sow in late spring. When seedlings are three inches high, transplant 18 inches apart. Lemon balm creates a nice bush about 12-24 inches around. It doesn't spread rapidly like peppermint does.
Division: Dig up part of your lemon balm plant and transplant to another part of your garden. It should take off nicely so long as there are plenty of roots.
How to grow and propagate lemon balm
How to harvest lemon balm
Harvest lemon balm when you first notice it is getting ready to flower. You can cut it down all the way to the ground and it will grow back. You may be able to get two or three harvests per summer.
If you have a need for lemon balm for cooking or medicine, you can clip a bit of new growth from the end of a branch and use it fresh anytime, though during winter you can expect it to wither and go dormant.
To dry, clip the branches and bundle about ten of them together. You can tie a bit of twine or string around the ends and hang them upside down in a room in your house, in a tent or shed, or inside paper bags. The paper bags keep insects off the drying plants. The paper bags can be hung on your clothes line outside or in a shed.
Harvesting and drying lemon balm
I used these books to research the information on this page.
I've owned these books for years.
The Jeanne Rose book, Herbs and Things, was my first herbal ever, purchased in 1972. Long time ago. I bought it a few months before I was able to take a class on herbs from the author in her home on Carl St. in San Francisco.
The Joy of Phytotherapy
"Herbal medicine, either using whole plants or isolated plant principles, is called phytotherapy. It presents itself as a gift of nature, with a cosmic naturalness that makes it the obvious choice for a first-treatment approach. Generations have made use of it, gained experience, and cherished it, like a historical treasure, as a source for therapy."
-- Professor H.E. Bock, quoted in Herbal Medicine
If you have any questions about this herb I will be happy to try to provide an answer. I created this page about lemon balm because it is a herb I grow in my garden - one that I have direct knowledge of. So feel free to ask me anything about it and if I don't know the answer I'll try to find out.
Any questions about lemon balm?
Masumi on January 13, 2015:
Hi Amanda,You can grow herbs very easily in conntiaers, and if you have a balcony that really gives you loads more room for a lot more herbs than you'd think! You can grow herbs in pots, and there are also railing planters that hook onto the balcony (sort of like window boxes, but they attach to railings),Anyway, I'm not sure how much sun you actually have. Constant direct sun all day can actually not be best. Full sun is a little different than searing heat all day long. (I've given you a website below that will help with all this stuff there's a site search button, so you can learn about sunlight requirements, as well as how to grow over 20 herbs.).As for herbs that do well in partial shade, you might try chamomile, chives, cilantro, lemon balm, and mint. Most other herbs like more sun, but again, not morning, noon, and afternoons full of strong sun. You'll be watering a lot, too, if this were the case.Anyway, check out the source below for lots more info. about growing herbs and lots more about container gardening in general.Have fun!Virginia
MsBertie on February 27, 2014:
I'm enjoying your herb lens very much. I'm just getting into herb gardening, though I've always grown rosemary and thyme
Laura Hofman from Naperville, IL on July 10, 2013:
Very interesting and informative lens. I'm growing lemon balm in a container and will try making tea with it. Thank you for the great suggestions.
margotccox on February 02, 2013:
Id like to get the list of all those herbal books. I have one; however, no one can have enough. giggling
CanHealthInsure on January 31, 2013:
Great lens. Great idea.
PieterW on July 23, 2012:
Great lens thank you! Very well done. Can't read this without going away wanting one of these in your herb garden!
GreenfireWiseWo on July 23, 2012:
Great lens - love lemon balm.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on April 04, 2012:
We used to grow lemon verbena but never have tried lemon balm.
Rose Jones on March 21, 2012:
Lovely lens - angel blessed! I liked your thorough approach, and beautiful presentation. I may try to grow some of this. My herbs are one of the things that I can grow easily.
ShellyTurner on August 14, 2011:
fabulous lens - lots of information and attractively laid out too
annamari on June 10, 2011:
I want to try planting some different herbs this year.
I love your lens and it is very informatiive.
I will look for lemon balm. Thanks!
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 01, 2010:
@djjenkins4: You can plant lemon balm in containers, or just plant lemon balm in a corner of your yard. It will stay there and won't spread as much as peppermint does. Depending on what you plan to use it for, one or two plants would do. Within a few years it will be abundant.
djjenkins4 on September 01, 2010:
I'm just now starting to learn about gardening & since I don't have a garden yet would it be ok just to plant lemon balm by itself? If so, how many plants should I plant?
justholidays on June 20, 2010:
Seems lemon balm grows very well and in huge quantity; which makes it an attractive plant to plant in a garden, and when such plant is in addition useful and beneficial for us, it makes it more appealing!
Thanks for this page, I'm going to look for such plant and plant it in my garden.
Indigo Janson from UK on May 28, 2010:
This lemon balm article is both beautiful and informative -- I only wish we could smell it too as the scent sounds delicious! I'll be looking out for some lemon balm now. It sounds so versatile.
Debbie Hawkins from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2010:
I have more lemon balm plants then I know what to do with - I've been looking for new ideas to use some as I've just grown it to look at, and I love the idea of using on your furniture!
kmils on April 27, 2010:
I've never heard of this plant before, but it looks so healthy and beautiful I would love to have a garden and grow one or two. It's a wonder how we can get so much from just one plant isn't it? You've done great research on it also, thankyou for the read!
Clairwil LM on July 18, 2009:
I've just started growing my own lemon balm- it's a such beautiful scented herb. Fantastic lens *****
RaintreeAnnie from UK on July 18, 2009:
I only recently started growing lemon balm in my garden as part of a new herb bed and so this is a very valuable source of information to me on all its potential uses. Thank you for sharing and for a very beautifully set out page.
Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on July 07, 2009:
I've been growing this for years, but I've never known quite what to do with it. I just like having it around the garden.
monarch13 on June 27, 2009:
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Rolled to "10 Herbal Teas".
JanaMurray on May 19, 2009:
I absolutely love lemon balm, great video! I highly recommend using it for medicinal purposes :) The smell is awesome...
clouda9 lm on May 13, 2009:
Beautiful lens design and thank you for all the great information about this plant. Plan to sprinkle some seeds in our garden this year.
ssuthep on May 13, 2009:
Another fantastic lens Linda. I learn something new and interesting all the time from your lenses. Never knew lemon balm was so good for us. Faved, rated and Blessed!
WhiteOak50 on May 13, 2009:
Lemon Balm is one of my favorite herbs *smiles* however I love most of them. Great lens!!
Debbie from England on May 09, 2009:
I had no idea that Lemon Balm was so useful I think I might get some for my herb garden now. :) 5*****