Lemon Balm

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Lemon Balm has a soft and gentle lemon fragrance. It is a non-woody plant. It is believed to have originated in Europe and is related to the family of the mint herb. This genys or family name is called Lamiaceae.

Lemon balm produces tiny white flowers that are extremely fragrant. Since these are full of nectar they act as a magnet for bees. Lemon Balm is said to have originated in the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and northern Africa.

In the Middle Ages, its branches were used in the same manner as modern day air-fresheners and it was also used as a strewing herb.


Why should I be aware of this?

The Arabs also introduced it as medicinal herb, a tea that was taken for anxiety and depression. In France, Melissa or Lemon Balm tea is still used for fatigue and headaches. It also finds applications in modern aromatherapy.

Culinary Uses

Lemon Balm may be used in any culinary preparation where a delicate lemon flavour is required.

The leaves are used as a flavouring herb and a garnish in green salads, herb butters, fruit drinks, and sorbets.

It can also be used in egg dishes, custards, soups and casseroles. It works well in stuffing for poultry, lamb or pork.

Since lemon and fish of all sorts are an excellent combination, lemon balm has a natural affinity with fish. It may be used in sauces, especially light white sauces and marinades for fish.

Lemon balm is also an excellent flavour addition to vinegars and oils. Lemon balm is used to flavour tisanes and ice cream as well. It is also often paired with fruit dishes or candies]].

Since the scent of the herb comes from its essential oils, the herb should be added at the end of the cooking process to preserve the flavour in the final dish.

Lemon balm combines well with the following herbs; chervil, allspice, bay leaves, mint, pepper, rosemary, basil, chives, parsley, dill and thyme.

Lemon thyme and lemon verbena are acceptable through milder substitutes for lemon balm.

In spite of the multitude of uses that it may be put to in the kitchen, the most common use for lemon balm is in herbal teas. The tea may be made by infusing the leaves of adding them to already brewed regular tea. A delciously fresh iced tea may be made by combining it with spearmint.

Lemon Balm is the basis of the Melissa cordial, especially eau des Carmes, and is also found in Benedictine and Chartreuse.

Fresh and dried leaves are both available, though the flavour of fresh leaves is infinitely superior.

Medicinal uses

Stress reducing properties: Tea made from Lemon Balm leaves is said to be extremely effective as an anti-stress, anti-insomnia tonic.

Antibacterial Properties: The leaves are said to have anti-bacterial properties and their paste helps heal wounds faster. It also is said to be efficacious in the treatment of viral infections like influenza. This is because of the presence of rosmarinic acid and similiar compounds in the herb.

Digestive Tonic: Lemon Balm is said to be an anti-flatulent and helps relieve mild gastric spasms.

Mild vasodilator: It is because of this quality that Lemon Balm helps reduce blood pressure.

Treatment of skin infections: As a result of its anti-bacterial and anti-viral nature it is also combined with lotions to treat skin lesions formed as a result of infections like herpes simplex. Since it is extremely soothing, it helps ease irritations caused by insect bites and heal cold sores.

Other uses

Plant around beehives or rub on the beehive before introducing a new swarm to attract pollinating bees.

The juice may be added to furniture polish.

It may be used in invalid posies, in potpourri and pillows.

Use in cosmetics

The leaf may be infused in facial steam and as a rinse for greasy hair. It may also be added to bath water. Lemon balm is an essential ingredient in Carmelite water. (Formerly a spirit of Balm, combined with lemon-peel, nutmeg and angelica root, enjoyed a great reputation under the name of Carmelite water, being deemed highly useful against nervous headache and neuralgia.)

Lemon balm essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly co-distilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils.

The herb is available as a tincture, topical ointment, supplements in capsule form and the leaf, both fresh and dried.

The Herb of the Year

Lemon Balm has been selected as the herb of the year for 2007.

Since 1995, the International Herb Association (IHA) has recognized a specific herb for its outstanding qualities in at least two of the three following categories: medicinal, culinary and decorative.

Previous Herb of the Year include fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (1995), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) (1999), sage (Salvia officinalis) (2001) and garlic (Allium sativum) (2004).

For more information, visit the International Herb Association’s Herb of the Year webpage at


External links

For more on the medicinal uses of lemon balm and its possible interactions visit the University of Maryland webpage:


For an interesting list of lemon balm blends and their therapeutic uses visit



Larousse Gastronomique

The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993

The Complete Book of Herbs; A practical guide to growing and using herbs: Lesley Bremness: Dorling Kindersley 1988




--Radhikab70 03:08, 3 August 2007 (EDT)