Do you remember what your grandmother used to cook for you when you couldn’t sleep or had a stomach ache as a child?
Countless valuable and effective substances are hidden in the leaves of this inconspicuous plant.
But you don’t just have to “drink” lemon balm.
With a little imagination, it can be included in the menu in many diverse and original ways.
We will tell you all about it in the following lines.
What is lemon balm?
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an inconspicuous plant at first glance that most of us don’t even notice. However, its medicinal effects have made it one of the most popular herbs for centuries, which relieves us from a number of ailments. From a botanical point of view, it belongs to the diverse family of gorse-like plants. It is most often consumed in the form of lemon balm tea, which is prepared from its leaves.
By the way, the Latin name “melissa” means “bee”. Lemon balm is a very important honey plant that attracts bees with a large amount of nectar. For this reason, it is sometimes also called the honey bee, bee herb, honeydew or medlinka.
What does lemon balm smell like?
In its appearance, lemon balm resembles something between mint and spearmint. Its ovate, roughly saw-shaped leaves have a very pleasant lemon scent. This is due to the high content of aromatic essential oils such as citral, citronellal or citronellol. In addition, it has a slightly sweet taste with a hint of lemon, which you will appreciate in salads and desserts in addition to tea.
What does lemon balm hide in itself?
In addition to aromatic essential oils, lemon balm also contains tannins, flavonoids, minerals and some B vitamins.
| Lemon balm|
|Vitamin B1||0.004 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.010 mg|
|Folic acid||1 µg|
What are the effects of lemon balm?
Lemon balm is traditionally used to calm and relax the body, as it helps eliminate spasmodic contractions caused by nervous tension. But its potential benefits do not end there. Lemon balm leaves contain many terpenes of essential oils, polyphenols and tannins. Together, these compounds give the herb an antiviral, nerve-soothing effect, as well as a special lemon scent. Why is it worth having lemongrass tea every now and then?
- Helps to reduce stress and anxiety – relieves stress symptoms, helps to relax, calms and improves mood. Lemon balm can also be used to relieve anxiety symptoms such as nervousness and irritability.
- Strengthens cognitive functions – studies confirm the effects of lemon balm on improving cognitive functions, supporting memory and concentration. Participants were tasked with performing cognitive tasks related to memory, mathematics and concentration. The results of these computer tasks indicated that participants who ingested lemon balm performed better than those who did not. In addition to better performance, they were also more alert.
- Relieves insomnia and other sleep disorders – combining lemon balm with valerian can help relieve restlessness and sleep disorders such as insomnia.
- Treats cold sores – you can apply lemon balm or preparations containing it at the first symptoms of cold sores. The essential oil and liquid extracts of lemon balm have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, especially against cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. Research participants who applied lemon balm cream to the affected area four times a day for five days had fewer symptoms and healed faster than those who did not use the cream.
- Helps with coughs – in combination with motherwort, lemon balm is often used to soothe coughs and ease respiratory problems.
- Relieves indigestion – lemon balm helps calm the digestive system and helps with various nausea and other problems such as bloating, flatulence or stomach cramps. It also relieves nausea in pregnant women.
- It supports the proper functioning of the thyroid gland – the compounds contained in lemon balm extract suppress the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This makes it useful in the treatment of some hyperthyroid disorders.
- Helps with menstrual cramps – research suggests that lemon balm can be used to relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome.
- Relieves headaches – lemon balm can also be useful in treating headaches, especially if they occur due to stress. Its relaxing properties can help you release tension and relax your muscles.
- Helps with toothache – due to its properties, lemon balm can be an ideal choice for relieving toothache. In addition to its relaxing properties, this home remedy is believed to target inflammation in the body.
Adverse effects of lemon balm
Although lemon balm is generally considered a safe herb, its long-term use is not recommended. As a general rule, every three weeks of use should be followed by a one-week break.
Excessive use of lemon balm is also not suitable, as it can be associated with some unwanted side effects. You can reduce the risk of side effects by consuming less than 2 grams of lemon balm per day. Possible side effects with excessive use include stomach cramps and indigestion, headaches, nausea, skin irritation, and painful urination.
Avoiding honeydew or preparations containing it is also recommended before a planned surgical procedure, as it can worsen blood clotting in some people. Last but not least, it is not advisable to use lemon balm in combination with sedatives, it is effective on its own.
Lemon balm is most often consumed in the form of lemon balm tea. It can be prepared from fresh or dried leaves. In the case of dried lemon balm, one teaspoon of dried leaves is enough to pour 250 milliliters of hot, but not boiling, water.
Then let the tea steep for approximately 10 minutes, preferably under the lid. This will ensure that the healing essential oils do not evaporate together with the steam. For fresh lemon balm, use about two to three teaspoons of fresh leaves for the same amount of water.
What is lemon balm tea used for?
In the past, tea was mainly used to treat digestive problems and relieve pain, including menstrual cramps and headaches. Widely used today for its slightly calming effects, it is a suitable choice for people who suffer from sleep disorders or are looking for a tea to drink before bed.
This tea boasts a mild taste with hints of lemon and mint, often flavored with honey and lemon. It can be drunk hot or cold. In general, it is not recommended to exceed the amount of 3 cups of lemon balm tea per day.
Lemon balm in the kitchen
In addition to tea, you can use lemon balm to flavor a whole range of dishes or use it to make other delicious drinks.
- Lemon balm, like mint, has a very diverse use in the preparation of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails . However, together with fruit, milk cocktails can also be decorated with its leaves.
- Add a few lemon balm leaves to soups and sauces or salads to give them a fresh citrus touch.
- Its fresh taste and aroma make lemon balm a very popular ingredient in the preparation of healthy fruit salads , for example from strawberries, bananas, grapes or tangerines.
- In the summer, you will certainly use it in recipes for various unbaked cakes made of yogurt, cream or mascarpone, or to decorate fruit and ice cream cups.
- By boiling and infusing lemongrass with water, lemon and honey, you get a very delicious lemonade, which will pleasantly refresh you on hot summer days.
- Lemon balm leaves can also be combined with other herbs, fruits and vegetables and processed into a green smoothie .
- Herb butter is delicious and easy to prepare. Just mix chopped lemon balm leaves with a piece of butter in a pan. Then blend the mixture and add salt and pepper. Herb butter goes well with vegetables, fish and poultry.
- You can also use lemon balm originally in the production of homemade jams . Best suited to apricots or strawberries.
- Last but not least, lemon balm leaves can also be used in recipes for meat marinades , in which you marinate various types of meat before grilling.
Uses of lemon balm
In addition to adding it to various dishes or preparing lemon balm tea, you can also make or buy other products from lemon balm. In addition to the products listed below, lemon balm or its extract is also part of many tea blends, food supplements and cosmetic products.
- Lemon balm syrup – used to flavor various cold drinks and tea. Its production is very simple, you just have to macerate lemon balm leaves for a day in boiled water together with lemon slices. Sugar is then added to the mixture, usually one part sugar to one part water, and the mixture is heated to dissolve the sugar.
- Lemon balm honey – simply cover fresh lemon balm leaves with honey and leave for about two weeks. You will appreciate lemon balm honey when preparing desserts, for flavoring tea or just for bread and butter.
- Lemon balm vinegar – produced by infusing lemon balm in wine or apple cider vinegar for two weeks. Subsequently, it is suitable not only for flavoring various salads, but also as a regenerating rinse for hair.
- Essential oil of lemon balm – has a variety of uses in aromatherapy
- Lemon balm wine – if you let lemon balm leaves steep in white wine for a week, you will get a very tasty lemon balm wine.
- Carmelite drops – lemon balm is one of the ingredients of the well-known Carmelite drops, a natural remedy that Carmelite monks in France began to make in the 17th century from various herbs, spices and alcohol. The drops are used for general relaxation, stress or insomnia.
Cultivation of lemon balm
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is a perennial plant that belongs to the family of honeysuckle plants. It originally comes from the Mediterranean region, where it has been used for various medicinal purposes since ancient times. It grows up to 150 cm tall, but less in our conditions.
Its aromatic leaves and stems are mainly used in cooking and medicine, preferably before flowering. Flowering causes a reduction in the content of valuable essential oils. From July to August, white flowers appear in the axils of the leaves, especially in the upper part of the plant. But there are also varieties with purple or pink flowers.
In addition to the classic lemon balm, it is also possible to grow its cultivated cultivars, for example lemon balm (Melissa officinalis citronella), which has a more pronounced lemon flavor, or golden leaf lemon balm (Melissa officinalis aurea), whose leaves have a bright yellow-green color.
How to grow your own lemon balm?
Due to its unpretentiousness, lemon balm is one of the plants that should not be missing in any herb garden, whether in the garden, balcony or windowsill. It will do best in loamy-sandy soil in a place with enough light and heat. If you want to grow it on a herb rockery, plant it as low as possible.
The seeds are planted in the spring in boxes or small flower pots, after approximately two months the small seedlings are planted in the flower bed. The plant benefits from regular watering and pruning, which makes it richer and bushier.
Storage of lemon balm
Lemon balm is always harvested before flowering. We can let the plant with the leaves dry in the sun, but not in strong sunlight, otherwise it will burn and turn brown, or it can be dried using a dryer. Another way to preserve lemon balm is to freeze it.