There are so many wonderful uses for lemon balm! This beautiful and fragrant herb makes a soothing tea perfect for unwinding after a stressful day.
Lemon balm has been used to promote sleep, alleviate anxiety, soothe digestive issues, treat itchy insect bites, and much more. Plus it tastes delicious and its flowers are great for pollinators. Whether you grow it yourself or buy it dried, lemon balm is an herb worth getting to know!
Lemon Balm Uses to Know
If you haven’t yet discovered lemon balm, let me introduce you to your new favorite herb.
Many people with problems sleeping have found this wonderful yet gentle herb immensely helpful. But there are plenty of other uses for lemon balm and reasons to love it besides its power as a sleepytime tea. Use lemon balm in the garden, for cleaning, and as a tasty addition to numerous recipes.
I love lemon balm so much that I’m letting it take over huge portions of my not-very-big yard. Seriously, you can never have enough of this terrific plant. Even if you don’t garden, consider getting dried lemon balm to add to your arsenal of herbal soothers. I’ve found it an incredibly effective and cheap means to better sleep.
But the wonderful uses for lemon balm go way beyond sleep-promoting tea!
Medicinal Uses for Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a favorite among herbalists for its soothing properties. Here are some of the reasons to add lemon balm to your home remedy arsenal:
- Lemon balm is prized for promoting relaxation and sleep. That’s my main use for it — after having kids waking me in the night for years, my sleep was really messed up, even after they stopped most of the nighttime noise. I tried everything I could to re-program my body to sleep more soundly, and lemon balm tea made a big difference. If you’re a restless sleeper, or you wake and have trouble falling back asleep, please try some lemon balm and see if it helps! Instructions on how to make lemon balm tea below.
- Lemon balm has antiviral properties and is often recommended for treating cold sores. It may help with other viruses as well.
- Lemon balm may relieve menstual cramps and headaches.
- Lemon balm may help with indigestion and nausea.
- Some people find it helps ease stress and anxiety.
- One small study suggested lemon balm may improve cognitive function.
- Lemon balm essential oil has many medicinal uses as well, and has been studied for alleviating dementia symptoms, skin conditions, and more.
Lemon Balm Uses in the Garden
- Lemon balm attracts pollinators, which means more food for you! Its botanical name, Melissa officinalis comes from the Greek for “bee.” Pollinators need all the help they get these days, so adding lemon balm to your perennial bed is an eco-friendly move.
- Lemon balm reportedly helps ward off insects, though I haven’t found it particularly effective. Simply having plants in your landscape may help, though I wouldn’t count on it during peak mosquito time. I get bitten plenty while picking my lemon balm if the bugs have had good weather for reproduction. (Here’s a natural mosquito control solution that actually prevents them from living in your yard if you can get rid of all other water sources.)
- Add some sprigs to your floral arrangement if you’re dining al fresco and they might discourage insects from crashing your party.
- Some people report success crushing lemon balm leaves and rubbing them on the skin as a DIY bug repellant. Lemon balm is also supposed to help with the itch from bugbites, so if it fails as a repellent, use it on the bite!
Lemon Balm Uses in the Home and Kitchen
- Lemon balm adds a lovely lemony seasoning for all kinds of food and drinks. (See recipes below!)
- Lemon balm can also be used as an easy scent for your home, whether in a bouquet, dried in potpourri, or thrown in your trash can to help with odor. You can even capitalize on its scent and antiviral properties and use it to infuse vinegar for your homemade cleaners. Scratch Mommy has some great suggestions for using lemon balm around your house and in DIY body products.
Note that lemon balm is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
One recent report suggests caution about dosage and prolonged use to avoid withdrawal symptoms. If you’re a lemon balm tea lover, consider alternating with other effective sleep teas and mixing in other soothing herbs like chamomile.
Related: Benefits of Hibiscus Tea ~ A Delicious Herb to Brew!
Love learning about natural remedies? Check out this incredible deal on resources for herbal healing:
Where to Get & How to Grow Lemon Balm
Growing your own lemon balm is easy and the most cost-effective way to add this wonderful herb to your arsenal. (If you’re not a gardener yet, pick up my free quickstart guide to getting started gardening here.) I also find the flavor of fresh lemon balm preferable to dried, though they’re both very tasty.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, though not quite as aggressive as common mint. Rather than taking over your entire garden, you’ll likely find new lemon balm plants popping up here and there in your yard because it spreads using plentiful seeds rather than underground like its cousin mint.
If you don’t want the extra plants, you can dig them up (and give them to another gardener!). Cutting back the plant after it flowers can also help keep lemon balm under control. I’m happy to have them multiply and generally leave them be. More tea!
Lemon balm seeds are cheap, but they may take a little knack to get going if you’re newer to gardening. A $2 packet comes with far more than you’ll ever use, so plan to share the rest with other gardeners.
You can get your first lemon balm plant as a division from a fellow gardener or buy one at a nursery, and eventually you’ll have as much as you need. They’re pretty tough perennials, so once they’re established you’ll enjoy them for years.
(More growing information here. Note that though some sources say lemon balm is hardy to zone 5, it thrives here in chilly zone 4. If you live in a cool climate, it’s certainly worth a try. Those in climates zone 9 and warmer may have trouble growing lemon balm in the heat — consult your local nursery for suggestions.)
Lemon balm is a lovely addition to any garden, with vibrant green leaves, a delicious smell, and a pleasant clumping habit. And if you’re trying to get rid of grass, its ability to spread makes lemon balm a good base for a no-mow perennial yard. (More on why to consider grass alternatives here.)
Lemon balm is also one of the herbs and vegetables that grow in shade, good news if your garden is on the shady side like mine.
How to Make Lemon Balm Tea
To make lemon balm tea with fresh lemon balm:
During the warmer months, every other day or so I gather a big bunch of lemon balm together with a little catnip and yarrow, sometimes with a little borage plant or wild violet. I fill a cereal bowl with the leaves, and when I squeeze it together and have a full handful I consider it done, but the amounts you use do not need to be precise.
I rinse the lot and brew my lemon balm and other herbs in boiled filtered water for several hours, and sometimes overnight. (Read why it’s wise to filter your water here if you don’t want a host of chemicals in your soothing tea.)
I use a large teapot I brought back from England 20 years ago. It brews enough for several big mugs of tea, so I don’t have to make it every day. You could also use a large pitcher and keep it in your fridge.
If you want to try preserving and have enough surplus, you could dry some lemon balm for use in the cooler months. You can also make a tincture, which will extract more of lemon balm’s active compounds.
To make tea from dried lemon balm:
If you lack growing space, time, or interest in growing your own lemon balm, buying dried lemon balm leaf in bulk is the cheapest way to get your lemon balm fix. A 1-pound bag of lemon balm will make dozens of large pots of tea, plus you get to skip all the packaging waste that comes with tea bags. A pound of dried lemon balm usually lasts me through two winters, or about a whole calendar year, as the growing season here is so short.
If you prefer bags, Traditional Medicinals makes a lemon balm tea. You’ll just pay a lot more for that good night’s sleep!
Another bagged alternative worth considering: On an extended trip in Europe recently I discovered a delicious and effective sleep tea to stand in for my nightly lemon balm, since traveling with loose tea for 2 months is a little cumbersome.
It’s called “Snore and Peace” by Clipper — 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. Check it out here. (The 8-pack is the most economical option, just under $4 a box, but if you’re traveling in England you should stock up — just 2 pounds each.)
Drink a cup or two of lemon balm tea a few hours before bed to promote relaxation and a better night’s sleep. You can also enjoy a more diluted lemon balm tea iced as an alternative to lemonade. Just don’t overdo it. I save mine for nighttime, but a little during the day shouldn’t make you feel drowsy or anything. It’s not as powerful as valerian in my experience, and some people report finding it useful for soothing stress during the day.
Other Cool Uses for Lemon Balm
♦ Shalom Mama uses lemon balm in a DIY sleep balm.
♦ Culinary uses include fruit salads, smoothies, seasoning for poultry and fish dishes, and added to baked goods. Anywhere you want a light lemony flavor, try adding a handful of chopped lemon balm.
♦ Lemon balm can be made into pesto. Check out this recipe from Vegalicious.
♦ Kathie at Homespun Seasonal Living puts lemon balm in her serviceberry jam. Yum!
♦ The Hungry Scribbler uses lemon balm in a roasted blueberry and lemon balm ice cream.
Related: There are probably some other useful plants growing in your yard right now! Find out about 7 natural remedies you can forage in your garden.
What are your favorite lemon balm uses? Do you use or grow it? If not, check out the links below to find sources to buy your own lemon balm and start enjoying these terrific lemon balm uses.
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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.
Updated September 2018
Photo credits: Andrea_44, Quinn Dombrowski, Monikapp, City Foodsters