Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis is totally and utterly the herb of the month for me at the moment, springing up all over the garden. It seems to really want to grow here in England, with very little attention, scattering out the most bountiful harvest at a time when other greens are just starting to unfurl their leaves.
Lemon Balm’s botanical name, Melissa, is Greek for bees, so it comes as no surprise that bees adore this perennial wonder. It is often affectionately referred to as Bee Balm. This versatile herb thrives in most places, taking care of itself rather well, spreading vigorously with its roots and seeds.
In temperate climates the leaves die down in the winter, shooting back through once the season begins to move towards spring again. Most natural gardeners find that they have ample of the stuff and would be more than happy to dig you up a clump, otherwise you should be able to buy seeds or a small plant at your local garden centre. It’s an all-around winner and an absolute must in any happy garden.
Medicinal uses for Lemon Balm
This zingy herb has an abundance of well-known, tried and tested health benefits and medicinal properties. Whilst one of it’s most famous properties is as a mild sedative, calming the nervous system, it is also commonly used to help:
- digestive problems
- upset stomachs
- menstrual cramps
- to calm nerves
- relieve anxiety
Fresh Lemon Balm Tea
It’s so easy to make a cup of fresh lemon balm tea. Simply add a few fresh leaves into your mug, pour in some boiling water and allow the leaves to infuse for at least a few minutes before drinking. No strainer is required if you use fresh leaves.
If you don’t have fresh plants you can probably buy some dried leaves from a really good healthy food store, herbal shop or traditional apothecary.
Infuse dried leaves as you would the fresh leaves and strain before drinking. I often drink lemon balm tea at night – it’s wonderfully relaxing, with a nice hint of lemony-flavour.
Culinary Uses for Lemon Balm
Lemon balm exudes a gentle lemon fragrance and flavour that blends wonderfully as an addition to many different dishes. It infuses a lively subtle zingy-ness to salads when used raw, reducing the need for lemon or vinegar in your dish. It’s also refreshing added to desserts and can be tossed into just about any dish, with different effects.
Lemon Balm, Ginger & Pumpkin Seed Pate
I use lemon balm frequently in salads when it’s in season. I’ve also created a delicious recipe for Lemon Balm, Ginger & Pumpkin Seed Pate here: Lemon Balm, Ginger & Pumpkin Seed Pate. This is another excellent way to enjoy the raw health benefits of this versatile herb.
I do hope that you are as inspired by lemon balm as I am. It feels that times are changing and we need, now, more than ever to become more self-sufficient and start growing herbs and plant-foods that are happy to thrive.
with love and happy herbs