Stop wondering what to do with lemon balm and start using it up with these simple, delicious, and healing ideas for food and home remedies!
Lemon balm is one of the most amazing double duty herbs. It adds a delightful, light lemon flavor to sweet and savory dishes while also being a time tested herbal remedy.
What is Lemon Balm?
The lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) plant is a thick and bushy perennial herb in the mint family. It does indeed smell and taste like lemon without the sourness.
Because it is in the mint family it can be almost invasive in many home gardens. Do plan to give it room and be prepared to thin the plant and root systems often.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of lemon balm uses.
When planning a medicinal herb garden, lemon balm should be considered in the plant list for its ability to soothe anxious nerves and heal cold sores.
Equally important, it should be considered for the edible, kitchen herb garden simply for its distinctive lemon flavor for both savory and sweet dishes.
Cooking with Lemon Balm
Take advantage of that bright lemon flavor by making lemon balm recipes in many of the same ways one would use lemon in the kitchen.
Because lemon balm is missing all the sour and tart notes of actual lemons it makes a great addition to smoothies.
Toss a handful of the leaves in the blender with your favorite smoothie ingredients and blend until smooth. While it is likely to go well with any combination, lemon and berries are quite delicious together.
This couldn’t be simpler to make and yet the possibilities for the final product are endless.
Simply combine equal parts (1 cup of each for example) lemon balm leaves, water, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. Strain the leaves from the syrup. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.
Use syrup to sweeten lemonade and iced tea. Pour into club soda for Italian sodas or mix with club soda and vodka or whiskey for a summery cocktail.
The combination of lemon and chicken is always amazing and flavorful. Simply toss a handful of leaves into the chicken cavity before cooking for a light lemon infused flavor. Put some leaves under the skin before roasting, too.
Toss stems of lemon balm in the cooking liquid for fish to add a light lemon flavor. Add stems of lemon balm to packets before baking fish in the oven or on the grill.
Mix ¼ Cup of finely chopped leaves with 1/2 cup of softened, salted butter and that’s all it takes to make an herbal compound butter.
Use this compound butter on chicken by rubbing it underneath the skin prior to roasting.
Spread the herbed butter on toast and top with sliced tomatoes or cucumbers for a simple, flavorful sandwich.
Make big batches of the compound butter and freeze it for use in the winter months.
Fill a jar half full with fresh leaves, top with white wine vinegar (champagne vinegar is nice too) and seal. Place in a cupboard for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain and bottle the vinegar.
Use in salad dressings, chutney, even fresh salsa for a delightful hint of lemon.
Basil is the most traditional and common pesto herb, however; it isn’t the only choice. Use lemon balm in homemade pesto either by itself or in combination with other herbs oregano.
Pesto freezes incredibly well meaning it’s a great way to save up large herb harvests in the summer for winter eating.
Fresh in Jams
When making jams, berry jams especially, toss in a couple of Tablespoons of chopped lemon balm leaves just before putting the jam in jars and processing. It helps impart a lovely light herby flavor and often adds a wonderful texture to the final product.
Baked Goods & Dessert
That lemon flavor is ideal in many baked goods and desserts. It’s crazy easy to add lemon balm to a wide variety of things. Use these recipes as a starting point.
Lemon balm drop biscuits turn green and are full of lemon flavor for breakfast or brunch.
Lemon and poppyseed combine well together making lemon balm poppyseed cookies a true delight.
Add a few Tablespoons of chopped lemon balm leaves to fruit salads to impart some lemony flavor without making it sour or too tart.
Also, try mixing some chopped leaves with yogurt to use as topping for fruit salads.
Just like making mint infused honey – pack a jar half full of lemon balm leaves, fill it with honey. Let sit for a month before straining and use the honey to flavor tea, desserts, and more.
How to Dry Lemon Balm
Save your fresh lemon balm for later by dehydrating it. Simply cut stems from the plant before they flower. Try bunches together and hang until crispy and dry.
Remove the dried leaves from the stems and store in airtight containers to use for tea and more later in the year when fresh isn’t available.
How to Use Lemon Balm for Home Remedies
Lemon balm has a reputation for being a wonderful nervine. It’s a gentle but effective way to calm anxiety and encourage sleep.
It’s also been widely studied as an effective remedy for cold sores when applied topically.
Want to learn how to make better use of your garden herbs? Take my Year of Seasonal Herbs E-Course for a fun and educational experience sure to grow your herbal confidence.
Lemon Balm Tea
The easiest way to take advantage of the anxiety reducing and insomnia busting power of lemon balm is by drinking a simple cup of tea.
A simple lemon balm tea recipe can use fresh or dried leaves. Simply pour 8 ounces of boiling water over 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh leaves (or 1 Tablespoon of dried leaves). Steep for about 10 minutes (more or less to taste), strain and enjoy.
If you like your herbal tea sweetened, add some of the infused honey.
Don’t forget to add it to your own homemade tea blends with things like ginger and green tea.
Lemon Balm Tincture
Make a more concentrated lemon balm extract by soaking the leaves in vodka for a lemon balm tincture. This can be taken in smaller doses than the tea and might be easier for some folks.
Lip Balm for Cold Sores
Lemon balm has been studied as an effective treatment for cold sores. Just like making a healing salve, make lemon balm lip balm by infusing the lemon balm in almond oil and adding some beeswax to make a lip balm.
Add a little lemon balm essential oil to increase the concentration of cold sore zapping power.
Apply liberally when the cold sore tingle begins to be felt.
Who Should Avoid Lemon
Lemon balm is mostly safe but there as with all things it isn’t safe for everyone, everywhere.
Folks on thyroid medications or who have thyroid problems in general should avoid lemon balm.
If you’re taking any kind of sedative medication don’t use lemon balm.
And as is often the case with many herbs, lemon balm hasn’t been widely studied for use in pregnant women. So to be on the safe side, expectant mothers should avoid it.
As with all herbal preparations, talk with your doctor, pharmacist, herbalist, or other healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal remedies.