There are plenty of reasons to put lemon balm in your garden–not only is it easy to grow, but it also is a universal companion plant that will make your other saplings grow, harvest, and taste better. But what are you supposed to do with it?
Although it may not be as ubiquitous as, say, basil, lemon balm has some amazing culinary and medicinal purposes. In fact, it has been used to decrease stress, promote sleep, ease anxiety, and treat bloating for centuries. Once you start experimenting with it, there’s nothing you’ll want to leave it out of. If you find some extra lemon balm on your hands, here are some of our favorite ways to use it.
Brew it into tea.
Crush lemon balm leaves into the bottom of a mug and pour hot water over them for a tea that’s just as delicious as your favorite chamomile or lavender blend. Its delightful, citrus-forward flavor adds a little zip in the mornings that can just as easily help you end your day before bed.
Throw some in your water bottle.
One of our favorite hacks to drinking more water is to add fresh herbs to our water bottle. Lemon balm is a must for those of us who love lemon water but hate how the pith can make our beverage bitter over time. A few whole leaves of lemon balm in the bottom of your bottle adds a balanced citrus pop to your sipping all day long.
Chew on some for a stomach ache.
Lemon balm has been shown to reduce bloating and relieve indigestion. If you find yourself experiencing discomfort, try subbing out your ginger chew for a few leaves of lemon balm. It can also help improve appetite if you find yourself struggling to feel hungry.
Make a balm for cold sores.
Since the Middle Ages, lemon balm has been hailed for its medicinal properties. One of the most common uses for it today is in the treatment of cold sores. Next time you have one pop-up, brew about 2-4 tsps of crushed lemon balm leaves in some hot water. Allow it to cool completely, then apply it to the affected area with a cotton ball. It can be used throughout the day to relieve discomfort.
Candy the leaves for a beautiful garnish.
Like mint and basil, lemon balm makes a beautiful garnish on pies and tarts. Candy the leaves by brushing them thinly with egg whites then gently coating them with sugar on both sides. Your finished product will be light, crispy, and the most delicious addition to a lemon tart or a key lime pie.
Bake it into cookies or chop it into salads.
The culinary uses of lemon balm don’t stop with just candying the leaves. It can be used pretty interchangeably with lemon verbena, a common herb found in a variety of desserts (these cocktail cookies immediately come to mind). If you are less of a baker, try adding some chopped lemon balm leaves to your next mixed green salad. The subtle pop of citrus brings any summer salad to a whole new level.