Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an ingredient in many herbal teas, and it has been known and used as a home remedy for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks knew this herb, and it has been used as a herbal remedy throughout the centuries in many southern European countries. Lemon balm was believed to prevent low moods and to lift the spirit, and it has been said that a cup of lemon balm tea every morning keeps “the blues” away.
Lemon Balm Tea
This citrus-scented herb makes a nice herbal tea, its refreshing flavor being much more enjoyable than that that of many other healing herbs. Usually, just the leaves are picked for tea, but whole sprigs can be used to decorate drinks. For a cup of lemon balm tea, use one tablespoon of fresh leaves or one teaspoon of dried leaves, add boiling water and let infuse for at least five minutes. Add honey for sweetness if you wish. Drink the infusion during headaches, nervous tension, stress or feverish colds, or whenever you are feeling a bit down. Lemon balm tea tastes good cold, too, especially in the summer heat.
The fresh leaves can be added to salads and salad dressings, and they can be used to decorate fruit salads and other desserts. Lemon balm adds a nice flavor to fish, to poultry and to many vegetable dishes. Whole sprigs may be added to drinks for garnish and for flavor. Lemon balm belongs to the same plant family as mints, and it goes together well with mint in herbal teas and cold drinks. Or use the lemon balm infusion (tea) to make ice cubes and add these to cold drinks.
More Lemon Balm Uses:
- Put fresh leaves on insect bites or infected wounds.
- Make a facial sauna (or a steam inhalation) with fresh lemon balm leaves for a homemade beauty treatment to cleanse the skin.
- Make an infusion (following the instructions for lemon balm tea, as above) and use it to rinse oily hair.
- Add fresh leaves or sprigs into a bath (in a small muslin bag, if you don’t want to make a mess in the bath).
- Add a few sprigs of lemon balm into a flower bouquet.
- Lemon balm attracts bees and is often planted in gardens especially for this reason.
Lemon balm grows in the garden or on the windowsill, but it likes moist soil and sunny places with some shade in the middle of the day. Pick the leaves just before the herb starts to flower: the scent and the flavor are at their best just before flowering.
Sources: Lesley Bremness: The Complete Book of Herbs (Studio, 1994)
Photo: Datkins (Wikimedia Commons)