There are a number of scents that instantly calm us down and soothe our nerves. One of those precious herbs is Lemon Balm or Melissa officinalis. A member of the Lamiaceae family, one of the most fragrant families which includes all mints and balms, are characterized by their square stalks, simple leaves, and tubular flowers.
Originating from the Mediterranean, this perennial herb is easy to propagate from seed. Seeds need light to germinate, so be careful not to cover with soil when planting. Press 3-4 seeds into individual starter pots and gently water them regularly so as to not dislodge the seeds before they germinate. Using a spray bottle is a very effective way to accomplish this delicate yet thorough watering.
Once the young seedlings have reached 2 inches, they can be transferred to larger 4-inch pots, where they can develop larger and stronger roots. By late May and early June, we transplant our seedlings into composted garden beds that have been mulched with straw. Keep a close eye on these young plants and make sure that they are well watered while they continue to establish themselves in this new space. Living in Zone 5, we will rarely cover the plants with straw or pine boughs in the winter but recommend anyone living in colder climates cover their plants.
Lemon balm flourishes in partial sun to full sun, as long as the plant receives a fresh layer of compost every spring. The plants will proliferate extensively if allowed to go to seed or not contained. Similarly to mint, lemon balm can soon find its way throughout your entire garden. Growing it in a space where it is allowed to be free will keep both you and your lemon balm happy!
With its lovely lemony scent, we could say it would be more difficult to find ways not to use lemon balm than to use it! We love using it in everything from tinctures, glycerites, jars of honey, lip balms, fresh and dried as teas and, in our water bottles on a hot day. This sweet, lemony tasting herb is cooling and refreshing. It wonderfully calms and balances the nervous system, quiets an overwhelmed mind, supports sleep, enhances mental clarity, promotes a healthy immune response, and soothes the digestive system.
There is nothing more soothing at the end of a long day than a cup of lemon balm and chamomile tea. This also makes the most delicious iced tea, when sweetened with local honey for a refreshing summer sipper. Creating oxymels, shrubs, smoothies, and syrups from an abundance of fresh lemon balm in your garden is a wonderful way to enjoy its bright lemony flavor in baking, smoothies, or drizzled over fresh summer berries. Taken as a tincture or glycerite, lemon balms calming nature helps quiet a restless mind, helping to relieve tension and irritability related to premenstrual and menopausal stress. When taken in the winter as a tea or tincture in combination with lavender, St. John's wort, rose, and calendula petals, it can help uplift a person's spirit throughout the cold and dark months. Even adding a dropper full of lemon balm glycerite to warm water creates a delicious evening drink that has a lemony sweet taste that both children and adults find satisfying and enchanting. Some say it tastes like sunshine!
We hope you find more delicious ways to incorporate this calming herb into your daily life!