Last Updated on January 1, 2021
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 uses include promoting sleep, alleviating anxiety, soothing digestive issues, treating 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.
Fantastic Uses for Lemon Balm
If you haven’t yet discovered lemon balm, let me introduce you to your new favorite herb. It’s a perfect gateway into the exciting world of herbal remedies, and one of the first I tried for treating common health issues naturally.
Now my garden is full of homegrown natural remedies that we use for pain relief, digestive issues, and so much more.
Like many people, having kids made falling back and staying asleep really challenging. In my quest to reset my messed-up sleep, lemon balm tea was one of the most effective things I found to help me get better quality zzzzzs. I drink a cup pretty much every night now and have slept so much better since incorporating lemon balm into my evening routine.
If sleep is an issue you struggle with, too, give lemon balm tea a try. To be sure your body has what it needs for good sleep, get plenty of these nutrients that can affect sleep as well. Here are additional sleep-promoting herbs you can try.
But the wonderful uses for lemon balm go way beyond sleep-promoting tea!
Check out these uses for lemon balm in the garden, for cleaning, and as a tasty addition to numerous recipes.
Medicinal Benefits of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a favorite among herbalists for its soothing properties.
Lemon balm is prized for promoting relaxation and sleep. That’s my primary use for it — after having kids waking me in the night for years, my sleep was a mess, 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!
You’ll find instructions on how to make lemon balm tea below.
Additional benefits of lemon balm:
- 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 menstrual cramps and headaches.
- Lemon balm may help with indigestion and nausea.
- Some people find lemon balm helps ease stress and anxiety.
- Lemon balm is being studied as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
- Lemon balm might also have benefits for heart health.
- One small study suggested a benefit of lemon balm is improved cognitive function.
- Lemon balm essential oil has many medicinal uses as well, and has been studied for alleviating dementia symptoms, skin conditions, and more.
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 calming herbs for relaxation like chamomile.
Benefits of Lemon Balm 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 repellent. 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.
Related: Benefits of Hibiscus Tea ~ A Delicious Herb to Brew!
Want to learn more about using medicinal plants? Check out the stunning array of herbal courses offered by The Herbal Academy. Here’s a list of the courses they’re currently enrolling.
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 hardy perennial, one of many perennial plants to consider adding to a permaculture garden. 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 lemon balm 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.
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.)
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 many 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.
>>> Lemon balm is one of the many herbs from your garden that can be brewed into delicious and refreshing sun tea. Click the link for instructions and find out about other wonderful herbs you might be enjoying!
Lemon balm flowers are among the more than 150 edible flowers you might consider adding to your next meal.
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.
One of the top sources for high-quality herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs, where you’ll find a stunning array of organic loose herbs and spices at very reasonable prices.
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.
To brew lemon tea from dried herb, use 1 tablespoon per cup of water. I sometimes add a spoonful of nettle, oatstraw, or scullcap, for their additional soothing properties. Here are additional herbal tea recipes to try to help you add more health-supporting herbs to your daily routine.
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 packs the benefits of lemon balm into 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.
What are your favorite uses for lemon balm? 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 benefits!
Pin to save these uses for lemon balm for later!
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.
Photo credits: Andrea_44, Quinn Dombrowski, Monikapp, City Foodsters, conger design
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.