The Lemon Balm One Sheet: All You Need To Know About Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial herb in the mint family. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia but is cultivated and grown in various parts of the world for its medicinal and culinary uses.

Throughout history, lemon balm has been treasured for its delightful fragrance, versatility, and potential health benefits. Its longstanding presence in traditional medicine, folklore, and culinary practices speaks to its enduring appeal and usefulness.

Lemon balm has a pleasant lemony scent and flavor, hence its name. The plant leaves are the most commonly used part, although the flowers can also be utilized. The leaves are typically harvested during the summer months when the plant fully blooms.

Regarding its culinary uses, lemon balm is often used as a flavoring agent in teas, beverages, salads, and desserts. It can be used fresh or dried, and the leaves can be brewed into a refreshing herbal tea.

Lemon balm is also valued for its medicinal properties. It has been traditionally used to alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders, such as indigestion, bloating, and gas. It is believed to have mild sedative properties and may help with anxiety and sleep disorders. Lemon balm is also known for its antiviral properties and has been used topically to treat cold sores.

Planting Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

To plant lemon balm, choose a suitable location in your garden that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. 

The soil should be well-draining, fertile, and slightly acidic. Clear the planting area of any weeds or grass, and loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller. If the soil is poor, add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve nutrient content and drainage. 

You can start lemon balm from seeds or obtain transplants from a trusted source, like Gardenuity. Sow seeds directly in the soil in early spring or start transplants indoors and transplant them when they are around 6 to 8 inches tall. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the transplant or deep enough for the seeds as per the packet instructions. Space multiple plants around 18 to 24 inches apart. 

Water the plants thoroughly after planting and keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Regularly remove weeds and prune the plant to promote bushier growth. 

Best outdoor temperature for growing lemon balm? 

Lemon balm is a hardy herb that can tolerate a range of temperatures, but it thrives in moderate climates. The ideal outdoor temperature for growing lemon balm is between 60°F and 75°F. It can withstand slightly higher or lower temperatures as well.

In colder regions, lemon balm may die back during the winter but usually regrows in spring. It is considered a perennial plant in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9. If you live in a colder zone, you can protect the plant during the winter by applying a layer of mulch around the base to insulate the roots.

In hotter regions, lemon balm can tolerate higher temperatures if provided with adequate moisture and partial shade during the hottest part of the day. Hotter temperatures can sometimes cause the plant to become leggy or wilted, so ensuring it receives sufficient water and protection from intense sunlight is important.

Lemon Balm Light Requirements

Lemon balm thrives in areas that receive full sun to partial shade. Ideally, it should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth and productivity. In regions with hot summers, lemon balm can benefit from partial shade during the hottest part of the day to prevent wilting and stress.

If you are growing lemon balm indoors in a grow bag, place the plant near a south-facing window or provide artificial grow lights that mimic full sunlight. Ensure the plant receives sufficient light to promote healthy growth and prevent it from becoming leggy or weak.

While lemon balm can tolerate partial shade, it may not grow as vigorously or produce as much aromatic foliage as plants that receive more sunlight. Therefore, providing adequate light is crucial for the best growth and flavor development in lemon balm.

Should I water lemon balm every day? 

Lemon balm should be watered regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, but it is not necessary to water it every day. The frequency of watering will depend on various factors such as climate, temperature, humidity, and soil type.

It is generally recommended to water lemon balm when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Stick your finger into the soil to check the moisture level. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other problems.

The watering frequency may vary throughout the growing season. During hot and dry periods, you may need to water more frequently to prevent the soil from drying out completely. On the other hand, during cooler or rainy periods, you may need to water less often as the soil retains moisture for longer.

Remember to water the base of the plant directly rather than wetting the foliage, as wet leaves can promote the development of fungal diseases. Water deeply to ensure that the water reaches the root zone of the plant.

Observing the moisture level of the soil and adjusting the watering accordingly will help maintain the proper moisture balance for your lemon balm plants.

What Does Lemon Balm Taste Like?

Lemon balm has a delightful taste reminiscent of lemon, with a subtle hint of mint. Its flavor is fresh, citrusy, and slightly sweet. When you crush or bruise the leaves, they release a strong lemon fragrance that adds to the sensory experience.

The taste of lemon balm makes it a popular choice for culinary applications. The herb can be used to infuse teas, imparting a soothing and refreshing lemony flavor. Lemon balm leaves can also be used as a culinary herb to enhance the taste of various dishes. They can be chopped and added to salads, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades to provide a gentle citrusy flavor.

In desserts, lemon balm can infuse syrups, sauces, and baked goods. It pairs well with other herbs like mint, basil, and thyme and can be incorporated into herb blends and seasoning mixes.

Lemon Balm Companion Plants

Lemon balm is known to have positive effects on nearby plants when used as a companion plant. Here are some companion plants that work well with lemon balm:

Tomatoes: Lemon balm is believed to repel pests that commonly affect tomatoes, such as aphids and tomato hornworms. Planting lemon balm near tomato plants can help deter these pests and promote healthier tomato growth.

Cabbage Family Plants: Lemon balm is known to repel cabbage moths, which are common pests for plants in the cabbage family, including cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. Interplanting lemon balm with these vegetables can help protect them from these pests.

Bees and Pollinator Plants: Lemon balm produces small flowers that attract bees and other beneficial pollinators. Planting it near vegetable or fruit plants that require pollination, such as cucumbers, squash, strawberries, and raspberries, can help attract pollinators and improve yields.

Herbs: Lemon balm can be planted alongside other herbs in the garden. It is particularly compatible with other mint family herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, and sage. These herbs can coexist well together, creating an aromatic and diverse herb garden.

Roses: Lemon balm is known to repel aphids, a common pest for roses. Planting lemon balm near rose bushes can help deter aphids and promote healthier rose plants. Additionally, the lemony fragrance of lemon balm can complement the scent of roses.

Lettuce: Lemon balm can provide some shade and protection for lettuce plants during hot summer months. The tall, bushy lemon balm plants can help shield the lettuce from excessive sun exposure and prevent it from bolting.

What is the best way to harvest lemon balm? 

You can harvest lemon balm leaves throughout the growing season. It is important to note that the lemon balm essential oil in the leaves is at its strongest at mid-afternoon. When harvesting lemon balm, it’s important to follow these steps for optimal results.

The ideal time to harvest lemon balm is when the plant has reached a height of approximately 12 inches and is well-established. This ensures that the herb has developed a strong flavor and aroma. 

To harvest, simply cut the stems just above a leaf node or set of leaves using clean and sharp garden shears or scissors. By cutting above a leaf node, you encourage the plant to branch out and promote bushier growth. Avoid harvesting more than one-third of the plant at a time to allow it to continue growing and remain healthy. After harvesting, rinse the lemon balm leaves gently under cool water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a clean towel or allow them to air dry before using or storing. Freshly harvested lemon balm can be used immediately in recipes or dried for future use.

Our Favorite Recipes With Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm Uses

If you are looking for other uses for your lemon balm harvest look no further than our guide on what to do with lemon balm! A few of our favorites:

Lemon balm has a wide range of uses due to its pleasant aroma, refreshing flavor, and potential health benefits. Here are some common uses for lemon balm:

Culinary Applications: Lemon balm is frequently used as a culinary herb to add a subtle lemony flavor to various dishes and beverages. It can be used fresh or dried in salads, soups, sauces, marinades, herbal butters, and infused oils. It also pairs well with fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit salads, and desserts.

Herbal Tea: Lemon balm leaves make a delicious and soothing herbal tea. The tea is known for its calming and relaxing properties and is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, and promote restful sleep. Simply steep fresh or dried lemon balm leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes, strain, and enjoy.

Aromatherapy: Lemon balm essential oil, derived from the leaves through steam distillation, is used in aromatherapy for its calming and uplifting effects. It can be diffused in a room to create a soothing atmosphere, added to bathwater for relaxation, or used in massage oils for its aromatic benefits.

Herbal Remedies: Lemon balm has been used in traditional medicine for various ailments. It is believed to have calming properties and is often used to alleviate anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. Lemon balm preparations, such as tinctures and capsules, are available as natural remedies in health stores.

Skincare Products: Due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, lemon balm is sometimes used in skincare products. It can be found in creams, lotions, balms, and soaps, aiming to soothe and nourish the skin.

Insect Repellent: The scent of lemon balm is known to repel certain insects, including mosquitoes and gnats. Crushing a few lemon balm leaves and rubbing them on the skin may provide some natural protection against these pests. However, it may not be as effective as dedicated insect repellents.

Flavoring and Infusions: Lemon balm can be used to infuse flavor into various ingredients. For example, you can infuse sugar or honey with lemon balm leaves to add a subtle lemony taste to sweet recipes. Lemon balm can also be used to flavor vinegars, syrups, and liqueurs.

Potpourri and Sachets: The fragrant leaves of lemon balm can be dried and used in potpourri blends or placed in sachets to scent drawers, closets, or rooms. The aromatic properties of lemon balm can create a fresh and uplifting ambiance.

Lemon Balm and its nutritional information:

Lemon balm is a low-calorie herb that contains various nutrients and compounds. While the nutritional composition can vary slightly depending on factors such as soil conditions and growing methods, here is a general overview of the nutritional makeup of lemon balm per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of fresh leaves:

Calories: Approximately 44 calories

Carbohydrates: Around 8 grams

Protein: Roughly 3 grams

Fat: Less than 1 gram

Fiber: Approximately 2 grams

Vitamins: Lemon balm is a good source of vitamin C and contains smaller amounts of vitamins A, E, and K.

Minerals: Lemon balm provides several minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Phytochemicals: Lemon balm contains various phytochemicals, including volatile oils such as citronellal, citral, and geraniol, which contribute to its characteristic aroma and potential health benefits.

It’s worth noting that the nutritional content of dried lemon balm may differ slightly from fresh leaves, as some nutrients may become more concentrated during the drying process. However, lemon balm is typically consumed in small quantities, so its nutritional contribution to the overall diet is modest. Its value lies more in its potential health-promoting properties and culinary uses rather than its high nutritional content.

Is lemon balm good for you?

Lemon balm is considered beneficial for human health. It has a long history of traditional use and offers various potential health benefits. One of its notable qualities is its calming and relaxing effects, as it possesses mild sedative properties that can help reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality.

Many people enjoy using lemon balm in herbal teas or aromatherapy to achieve a sense of calm. Additionally, lemon balm has been traditionally used to support digestive health. It may alleviate symptoms of indigestion, bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort, while also stimulating the appetite and aiding in digestion. 

Another noteworthy aspect of lemon balm is its potential antiviral properties. It contains certain compounds that have shown activity against viruses, particularly the herpes simplex virus responsible for cold sores. While more research is needed to fully understand its antiviral effects, lemon balm holds promise in this area.


Where Does Lemon Balm Get Its Name?

The name “lemon balm” originates from the herb’s distinctive lemon-like aroma and flavor. The term “lemon” refers to the citrusy scent and taste characteristic of the plant, while “balm” is derived from the Latin word “balsamum,” meaning aromatic resin or soothing ointment. 

Lemon balm is known for its calming and soothing properties, which have contributed to its association with the concept of balm.

What is one thing you might not know about lemon balm?

One interesting fact about lemon balm is its long history of use in traditional medicine and folklore. It has been valued for its various properties and was believed to have a wide range of medicinal benefits. 

In ancient times, lemon balm was associated with qualities such as promoting longevity, enhancing memory and cognitive function, and even attracting love. It was also used as an ingredient in love potions and charms. 

While modern scientific research has confirmed some potential health benefits, such as its calming effects and digestive support, the historical significance and cultural beliefs surrounding lemon balm provide an intriguing aspect to its overall story.

Some More Fun Facts About Lemon Balm

  • Historical Use: Lemon balm has a long history of use that dates back over 2,000 years. It was highly regarded by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed it had many therapeutic properties.
  • Bee-Friendly Plant: Lemon balm is highly attractive to bees and other pollinators due to its fragrant flowers. It can be a beneficial addition to your garden to support pollinator populations.
  • Culinary Herb: Lemon balm is used as a culinary herb in various cuisines. Its leaves have a lemony flavor that can be used to add a refreshing twist to salads, teas, desserts, and cocktails.
  • Aromatic Herb: When you crush or rub the leaves of lemon balm, they release a strong lemon fragrance. The aromatic oils in the leaves contain compounds such as citronellal, which contribute to its distinctive scent.
  • Insect Repellent: Lemon balm has a natural ability to repel certain insects. It is particularly effective against mosquitoes. Rubbing crushed leaves on the skin or placing fresh leaves in outdoor areas can help keep mosquitoes at bay.
  • Ornamental Plant: Lemon balm is not just useful in the kitchen or for its medicinal properties; it can also be grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. Its bright green foliage and delicate flowers can add beauty to your landscape.
  • Companion Planting: Lemon balm is often used as a companion plant in gardens. It is believed to repel certain pests and attract beneficial insects, making it a helpful companion for other plants.