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Lemon Balm Herb Uses
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?
Have you ever used lemon balm medicinally?
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?
Have you ever made any type of medicine using lemon balm?
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.
I bought Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs in the 1980's and found it invaluable. Beautiful illustrations, and lots of helpful information. It has been difficult to find in recent years. If you can get a copy, you'll have a treasure. Of course, there are lots of great herbals around these days.
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.