Lemon balm is a sweet, lemony scented herb in the mint family that's native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. Its subtle lemon flavor with mint and herb undertones makes it a popular relaxing tea. It's a perennial plant, very easy to grow, and it makes a sweet-smelling addition to the herb garden that attracts bees.
Directions: To make lemon balm tea, pour one cup of hot water over two teaspoons of lemon balm herb, cover and let stand three to five minutes. Boiling water drives off much of the leaves' essential oil, so using cooler water temperatures when brewing and covering while steeping helps protect the delicate flavor. Lemon balm sun tea is tasty and refreshing and is a good alternative to hot water brewing for protecting the tea flavor.
Suggested Uses: Lemon balm makes a lovely, soft, lemony tea that is enjoyed just for it flavor. It also has other benefits. It's relaxing and uplifting to the mind. It makes a soothing before or after meals tea and a calming, before bedtime tea. It's considered a remedy for the heart charka —helping open one up to love and acceptance. Lemon balm is a nice additional to herbal tea blends, adding a nice touch of flavor as well as its relaxing benefits to the blends.
Lemon balm is also used as a seasoning in sprinkle-on spice mixtures and herb vinegars, or combined with other herbs, fruits, or spices in making punch or flavored wine. Cooking destroys the flavor, so it's not usually used in cooked dishes or in baking.
In personal care products, lemon balm is used an ingredient in skin toners, lip balms and lotions. It makes a cleansing facial steam and the leaves can be tied in a cloth and added to the bath.
Lemon balm also makes a good addition to sleep pillows in combination with other sleep pillow herbs such as hops, mugwort and lavender flowers.
Constituents of Note: The plant contains 0.02% 0.3 of a powerful essential oil that is used in aromatherapy and fine perfumery, but because of the small amount of oil present in lemon balm, the pure essential oil — also known as melissa oil — is very expensive. (Because of this, melissa oil is one of the most adulterated essential oils in the world, being cut with or even replaced with other lemony essential oils — such as lemongrass, lemon catnip, lemon eucalyptus — and natural or synthetic citronellal and citral.) The pure essential oil of the lemon balm plant contains over 70 constituents with two components citral (mix of geraniol and nerol) and citronellal comprising up to 97% of oil.
Did you know? The genus name Melissa is derived from a Greek word for bees. Lemon balm has long been associated with bees that are said to be attracted to the scent. At one time, beekeepers even rubbed fresh lemon balm leaves inside of a new hive to encourage the bees to stay. Not all insects like lemon balm as much as bees — some are repelled by the lemony scent.