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Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)

     Most people have heard of Lemon Balm, perhaps grew a plot of the herb in their backyard. It is not a real show stopper, however upon further investigating there are many unknown qualities the “Melissa Officinalis” (a plant of the mint family) has to offer.

            First the history, amazingly this unassuming plant dates back to at least 2000 years. It is perhaps the plant that is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.  Early herbalists used the plant for insect bites, believed it was good for heart disorders, as well as for lifting the spirits. Brought over by the colonists to America, we now have several varieties to choose from.

            We have found the variety “Quedlinburger Niederliegende” has the highest essential oil content and over winters very well here in Michigan. We buy our seed from Johnny’s Select Seeds. Germination is fairly easy, seedlings usually emerge in 7-14 days. Lemon balm is a wonderful addition to the herb garden, it is hardy to zone 3.  It produces best in fertile soil with a pH of 5.0 To 7.0.  You can grow lemon balm in full sun or partial shade.

            The leaves are mild and lemony. Some of the ways we use fresh lemon balm are in teas, beverages and salads. We dry a lot of leaves for teas for use in the winter.  This past growing season we steeped the fresh lemon leaves and stems in organic virgin olive oil and let it steep in the warm summer sun for weeks. Then we turned it into a healing salve that can be used on anything from cold sores to foot care.

            We also experimented in making tinctures with the lemon balm leaves.  Studies have shown that this herb has sedative effect on the central nervous system, can aid with mild depression, and can lift spirits. Teas can also be used for fighting colds, the flu, headaches, and indigestion.

            Another attribute of lemon balm I love is how the fresh stems look in bouquets and how primitive the stems look when they are dry.  I gather bunches and hang them in the rafters in the shop, which offers a nice aroma throughout the shop as they dry.

            We have included one of our lemon balm recipes in this article. Give it a try and you will never look at the herb lemon balm the same.

 Soothing Lemon Balm Tea

3 cups dried lemon balm tea

2 cups dried chamomile

2 cups dried lemon verbena

 Mix together and store in container for future use.  Infuse 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water.

To refresh and lift spirits. Take a handful of fresh lemon balm sprigs, clean and towel dry. Boil water and pour over lemon balm leaves. Let cool and refrigerate. Drink liberally.


Tip:  How to Dry Lemon Balm Quickly

When I am drying lemon balm for teas I use a food dehydrator otherwise, it has a tendency to turn black. Harvest the herb on dry, sunny days.

 Look for more great recipes…..coming soon to our website!!


Karen at Country Cottage Primitives

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