Last Updated on August 17, 2022
A favorite herb among herbalists, soothing and tasty lemon balm is a top choice for encouraging relaxation and better sleep. Here’s what to know about sourcing lemon balm and making lemon balm tea from either fresh or dried lemon balm leaves.
WHAT IS LEMON BALM?
Lemon balm is a fragrant perennial herb in the mint family, Latin name Melissa officinalis. Used for centuries for food and medicine, lemon balm is beloved by herbalists for its gentle but effective medicinal properties.
A popular ingredient in herbal tea blends, lemon balm also can be used as a culinary herb.
Delicious lemon balm tea may be made with either fresh lemon balm or dried herb, though they taste quite different. Herbalists note that the medicinal properties of lemon balm may be stronger in an infusion made from dried lemon balm leaf, but using more fresh lemon balm and a longer steep time can help extract more of this fragrant herb’s compounds.
BENEFITS OF LEMON BALM TEA
Lemon balm tea is a favorite among herbalists for calming the nerves, lifting one’s spirits, and promoting better sleep.
Herbalist Maria Noel Groves notes in Body into Balance that lemon balm not only calms and improves mood and cognitive function, but also helps digestion. Perfect for winding down after dinner!
A mild anti-viral, lemon balm is also used for treating cold sores. Find out more about the many benefits of and uses for lemon balm aside from lemon balm tea.
WHICH PART OF LEMON BALM DO YOU USE TO MAKE LEMON BALM TEA?
The leaf is the primary part of the lemon balm plant used in tea, but if you’re harvesting from your garden, you can use the stem and flower as well. Lemon balm blossoms are just one of many flowers you can eat to enjoy this season.
LEMON BALM TEA OR LEMON BALM INFUSION?
Most people use the word tea as a shorthand for a liquid brewed from plants, but herbalists distinguish between teas and infusions. Teas typically use less plant material and have a shorter brew time. When we’re trying to extract the maximum amounts of medicinal compounds from plants, we use more and leave them to steep longer.
I generally prefer to make strong infusions and dilute them with water if needed. In the hours before bedtime, it’s helpful to drink something more concentrated so you don’t disturb your sleep by needing to get up in the night.
IS LEMON BALM TEA SAFE IN PREGNANCY + OTHER CAUTIONS TO NOTE
Groves writes that lemon balm is “generally quite safe, but it should be used in pregnancy only with supervision and may (rarely) aggravate hypothyroid disease.”
Like most herbs, there’s been little study of their safety for pregnant women, so most sources advise avoiding lemon balm during pregnancy.
Some people may be allergic to lemon balm. As with any herb you’re trying for the first time, start with a very small amount to check that you don’t have a reaction.
Want to learn more about using medicinal plants like lemon balm? Here are some of the best herbal medicine books for your herbal reference library. You might also consider taking one of the info-packed herbal courses offered by the Herbal Academy.
WHERE TO GET LEMON BALM
Option 1: Grow Your Own
I highly recommend growing your own lemon balm, either in a medicinal herb garden or a perennial bed. Its bright green leaves make it a beautiful accent plant, and as with most other mints it requires very little care beyond trying to keep it under control.
Lemon balm doesn’t spread as aggressively as common mint, but those in warmer climates report that it can be a bit invasive if you aren’t vigilant about cutting it back before it flowers.
If you want to grow lemon balm in your garden, I recommend getting a plant division from a fellow gardener to get you started (one of my favorite ways to get plants free). If you don’t have any plant donors in your area, you can buy a starter plant or a seed packet, which will contain far more lemon balm seeds than you’ll ever need. Be sure to share them with other herb-loving gardeners.
The flavor of lemon balm tea made from fresh lemon balm leaves rather than dried is brighter and more lemony, but both are very tasty. I make the most of the fresh lemon balm during our not very long growing season and rely on dried lemon balm the rest of the year.
If I had surplus lemon balm, I would dry my own, but I use everything I can grow fresh. Here’s what to know about preserving herbs if you want to try.
Option 2: Buy Dried Lemon Balm Leaf
Because I drink it pretty much every night and can’t grow enough to span the entire year, I buy dried lemon balm leaf in bulk. You can also buy it in smaller amounts, or buy lemon balm tea bags, but you’ll save a lot buying lemon balm loose. A pound bag of dried lemon balm makes dozens of large pots of tea, usually lasting me through nearly two winters.
If you prefer the ease of teabags, Traditional Medicinals makes a bagged lemon balm tea.
A bagged lemon balm tea blend worth considering: On an extended trip in Europe I discovered a really yummy and very effective nighttime tea to stand in for my usual lemon balm brew, since traveling with enough loose tea to last 2 1/2 months isn’t very practical.
A cool British company called Clipper makes a blend called “Snore and Peace“ — and it’s organic and easy to get online! It has chamomile and lavender as well as lemon balm, and it’s become my new favorite for travel or for nights when I’ve forgotten to make my usual lemon balm tea.
Clipper makes some other exceptional teas as well. I’m partial to their black teas, and their decaf coffee is also excellent!
TIPS FOR MAKING LEMON BALM TEA
Lemon balm tea tastes wonderful on its own, but I like to combine it with other herbs for sleep like chamomile, catnip, and scullcap. (Vitacost has the best deal on scullcap; but if you prefer, here’s some for sale at Amazon as well.)
During the growing season, I’ll collect fresh lemon balm leaves and add in some wild violets, catnip, and yarrow from the garden. Here’s what to know about the often confused catnip vs catmint if you’re not sure what you’ve got growing in your garden.
In winter, I keep a jar of roughly half chamomile and half lemon balm, and add a few spoonsful of nettle leaf, oatstraw, or scullcap for additional herbal benefits. You can find recipes for several different ways to make lemon balm tea below.
You can save yourself some time and fuss by making enough lemon balm tea to last a few nights. I use a teapot that holds about a quart of tea, and drink about a third of it every night, keeping the extra in the refrigerator after I’ve strained it. It’s helpful to have one less thing to do those other evenings!
However, some herbalists recommend consuming teas and infusions within 24 hours, so you can choose to make less at a time if you prefer. Here’s more on the shelf life of herbal preparations from Herbal Academy.
You can make your lemon tea a whole lot better for you by making sure the water you brew it with isn’t full of industrial chemicals. Here’s what to know about choosing an effective water filter.
Lemon balm tea is delicious anytime, but for promoting relaxation and sleep, drink a cup or two of lemon balm tea a few hours before bed.
LEMON BALM TEA RECIPES
- 3/4 cups fresh or 3 tablespoons dried lemon balm
- 3 cups freshly boiled filtered water
To make lemon balm tea from fresh herb:
- Harvest lemon balm and any additional herbs you wish to use. Herbs are generally at their peak for harvesting in the late morning after the dew has dried.
- You'll need about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon balm leaves per cup of water. To make 3 cups of tea, use 3/4 cups of fresh lemon balm leaves.
- Rinse herbs and place in a large teapot or mason jar.
- Cover with boiled filtered water and allow to steep at least 10 minutes and up to 4 hours.
- Strain and refrigerate what you won't drink immediately.
Variation 1: You can also use lemon balm in a tasty sun tea. The lower water temperature doesn't extract flavor as readily, so we use about 1 1/2 cups of lemon balm leaves in 3 cups of water. Here are more details on how to make sun tea.
Variation 2: Cold infusion. You can make a lighter flavor tea, a flavored water really, by steeping a few sprigs of fresh lemon balm in cool water. Cold infusions extract medicinal and flavor compounds differently. Here's more on cold infusions from Herbal Academy.
To make tea from dried lemon balm:
- To brew lemon balm tea from dried lemon balm, the recommendation is typically to use 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per cup of water. To make 3 cups, use 3 tablespoons dried lemon balm and 3 cups freshly boiled water.
- Place dried lemon balm in a large teapot or mason jar. Cover with boiled filtered water and allow to steep at least 10 minutes and up to 4 hours.
- Strain and drink immediately, refrigerating any leftover tea.
You can also use the sun tea or cold infusion method for making tea from dried lemon balm.
Some herbalists make much stronger infusions, using 1/4 cup or more dried herbs per cup of water. You'll get a much heftier dose of whatever you brew this way, but the flavor might be overpowering. Try different ratios to find what suits you best.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 5Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information was auto-generated based on serving size, number of servings, and typical information for the ingredients listed. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, please calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients and amounts used, using your preferred nutrition calculator. Under no circumstances shall this website or author be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the given nutritional information. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate and complete.
Lemon Balm Tea Blends
Lemon balm is also delicious blended with other relaxing herbs like chamomile, oatstraw, catnip, and lavender. Experiment with different herbs to find your favorite.
Chamomile Lemon Balm Tea Blend
Use equal parts lemon balm and chamomile, either fresh or dried, using the ratios and instructions above.
Sweet Dreams Herbal Blend
Use 1-2 tablespoons per cup of freshly boiled filtered water.
USEFUL TOOLS FOR MAKING LEMON BALM TEA
All you need to make lemon balm tea is lemon balm and hot water, but some helpful tools can take your tea up a notch.
Most important: A quality water filter. Municipal water supplies contain hundreds of unregulated chemicals that you don’t want in your tea! Here’s what to know about choosing an effective water filter. Most popular filters leave chemicals in your water that you’re best off avoiding.
Some other tools to help with your lemon balm tea making:
You can find many more suggestions for awesome green living gear on my recommended products page.
OTHER DELICIOUS HERBAL TEAS TO TRY
There are so many more delicious options for herbal teas made from plants in your garden or foraged in the wild. Here are some of my favorites, which I drink mainly for their taste, but also to enjoy all the herbal benefits:
If you want more inspiration for creating useful and tasty medicinal herbal teas, I highly recommend Colleen Codekas’s book, Healing Herbal Infusions. Packed with recipes for treating colds, stress, pain, and more, it’s available at Bookshop.org, Amazon, and other booksellers. I think you’ll love it!
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Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Lemon balm tea recipe photo credits: Olga Yastremska
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.