Thinking about adding another herb to your garden? Lemon balm might be the perfect choice. Not only does it smell wonderful, attract beneficial bees, and repel mosquitos, but it has been used medicinally since antiquity to treat a variety of ailments. Lemon balm contains the powerful antioxidants ferulic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, and quercetin. And, its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties have been found to effectively treat inflammation. And it has the important distinction of being named Herb of the Year back in 2007!
Lemon balm is a member of the mint (Melissa officinalis) family, and like mint, it’s easy to grow. This prolific herb is known to spread and take over a garden bed, so it’s best suited for growing in a container, or in its own raised bed.
See how this perennial herb superstar can come to your rescue.
10 Healthy Reasons To Grow Lemon Balm
- Heals minor wounds and skin disorders. To stop bacterial infections, heal minor cuts, acne, and eczema, make a strong topical lemon balm tea. Directions: Place about 1/2 cup of freshly chopped lemon balm leaves into a glass jar. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and allow steeping. Once the mixture has cooled, strain out the leaves. Saturate a cotton pad with the tea and dab onto the skin to promote healing. If you don’t have a plant on hand, apply a drop of lemon balm essential oil or extract mixed with almond oil directly on the affected area of the skin.
- Relieves pain and swelling of insect bites. When you get an insect bite or bee sting, reach for a lemon balm plant. To release the plant’s beneficial oil, crush or chew a leaf or two, and apply directly to the affected area to relieve pain and reduce swelling. No plant on hand? Apply a drop of lemon balm extract or essential oil mixed with almond oil directly on the bee sting.
- Treats cold sores. Lemon balm helps reduce swelling, relieve discomfort and heal a cold sore. Dilute a drop or two of lemon balm essential oil (or extract) in ¼ teaspoon of jojoba or almond oil, and apply directly on affected area. Or make a strong topical tea, following the instructions in #2. Once cooled, strain out the leaves. Apply a cotton pad soaked with the tea to the affected area.
- Soothes sore muscles. Soothe tired muscles, calm nerves, and nourish the skin with the fragrant aroma of lemon balm in an Epsom salt bath. Directions: To a sachet bag or muslin cloth add 1 cup of Epsom salt, ½ cup baking soda, and ½ cup lemon balm leaves. Gather the cloth and secure with a long string. Hang from the tub faucet, allowing the hot water to run through the bag while filling the tub. Then untie the bag and let it drop into the water. Enjoy soaking in the calming, mood-lifting bath for up to 30 minutes.
- Mosquitoes be gone! Keep mosquitoes from biting while working in the yard or spending time outdoors. Crush several lemon balm leaves and rub onto exposed skin.
- Improves alertness, eases anxiety, and elevates mood. Elevate the mood and mental focus by crushing lemon balm leaves and rubbing them topically behind the ears, and on your wrists. No plant on hand? Apply a drop of lemon balm essential oil or extract mixed with almond oil on the skin. Drinking a cup of lemon balm tea also helps relieve tension, improve mood, aid sleep, and improve the ability to concentrate.
- Regulates blood sugar. The antioxidants in lemon balm help balance and normalize blood sugar levels, thus helping to fight against diabetes.
- Protects the brain. The antioxidants in lemon balm support healthy brain cells, protecting against free-radical damage.
- Supports the liver. Lemon balm protects the liver against damage while enhancing liver metabolism and function.
- Lowers blood pressure. Several compounds in lemon balm have been found to assist in reducing high blood pressure.
How to Make Lemon Balm Herbal Tea
A soothing tea is a great way to access the benefits of lemon balm. It can be enjoyed by the cupful in the evening when you want to relax and unwind. A pitcher of iced lemon balm tea on a hot summer day is a refreshing drink. Studies found that teas with the highest amounts of antioxidants are brewed at home.
Hot Tea By The Cup
To make a relaxing cup of hot lemon balm tea, harvest and rinse about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the leaves and stems with cold water. Bruise the leaves gently with your hand. Add the leaves to a teacup and fill with boiling water. Allow it to steep for 3 to 4 minutes, then strain. Sweeten to taste with stevia, raw honey, or desired sweetener.
Iced Tea By The Pitcher
Harvest and rinse fresh leaves and stems with cold water. Add a generous handful of leaves to a 3-quart pot of pure water, and bring it just to a boil on the stovetop. Remove from heat and strain into a pitcher. Sweeten with stevia, honey, or desired sweetener, and stir. Chill, and serve over ice.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.