Common name for Melissa officinalis, an aromatic, sweet herb of the Mint Family grown in the herb garden for seasoning, and also used in liqueurs and historically, as a medicine. It grows to 2 feet tall and has small 2-lipped flowers in late summer, and leaves of a decided lemon odor and flavor.
Lemon balm may be considered a noxious weed or invasive plant in some areas. Lemon balm is drought tolerant and is useful in xeriscaping. Lemon balm is known to attract bees, butterflies or birds and has fragrant blossoms. Lemon balm self-sows freely; remove flowers (deadhead) if you do not want volunteer seedlings the following season
Chew on lemon balm leaves or chop them up and throw a teaspoon of them into boiling water for 10 minutes to make a tea.
Take lemon balm as a mild sedative. Studies with lab mice have shown lemon balm sedates the central nervous system. Consuming the leaves induces the effect, but drinking the tea give you the added benefit of a calming lemon scent. Lemon balm also inhibits the production of bacteria and viruses, so it's good to take for overall wellness.
Use fresh lemon balm leaves in cooking. Drying or freezing lemon balm causes it to lose some of its flavor, so it's best to use the herb fresh. Season green salads, poultry and fish with lemon balm. The herb has a lemon taste with a hint of mint flavor.
Combine lemon balm with mint in cooking to enhance the flavors of both herbs. Add lemon balm to foods and beverages that use mint to give them a mild lemon flavor. Add lemon and mint to hot black tea. Lemon balm also combines well with black pepper.
Add a handful of lemon balm to a hot bath to help skin ailments, such as acne. Lemon balm opens the pores and aids in cleansing.
Apply directly to acne. Give yourself a lemon balm facial. Boil 1/4 cup of lemon balm in a quart of boiling water and then hold your face close to the bowl, using a towel to form a tent around the bowl and trap in steam. After 10 minutes, wash your face with warm and then cool water.
It is moderately shade-tolerant, much more so than most herbs. In dry climates, it grows best in partial shade.
Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. It can be easily grown from stem cuttings, or from seeds. Under ideal conditions, it will seed itself prolifically and can become a nuisance in gardens.
Fertile, well-drained clay or sandy loam.
Requires consistently moist soil, do not let soil dry out in between waterings. Water on a regular schedule, taking care to not overwater.
Note: The FDA and AMA has not approved the statements in this article. It is for education only. This information is not meant to prescribe or diagnose any problem. Please consult your doctor before using herbs for your health problem.
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