Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant
Lemon balm plant uses are many. Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb in the mint family that is hardy down to zone 4 or 5 and can be used as a forest garden plant. It is a native to Europe, central Asia and Iran, but is now naturalized around the world. Lemon Balm has a mild lemon sent that is enhanced if the leaves are bruised or torn. The leaves have a lemon flavor and can be used for culinary uses in sweets and teas. During the summer the plant has small flowers that are great for attracting bees and other beneficial insects.
Propagation can be done through seeds that require sunlight to germinate, so press the seeds into the soil surface, but do not cover with soil. The seeds require a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Propagation can also be done with softwood cuttings and by digging up “clumps” of the plant while dormant.
I bought my seeds from www.rareseeds.com. You get about 300 seeds for $2.50 (in the 2015 catalog.) I planted Lemon Balm for the first time in 2013. I planted the seeds in my basement under grow lights in March and then moved them out to the garden after the danger of frost had past. I put two plants in a 1×1 square (doing square foot gardening). By the end of 2013 they took up a 2×2 area and that was after being trimmed several times that year. Now in September 2015 I still have those plants growing, coming back every year, and needing to be trimmed back on a regular basis (they are in the mint family, so they spread readily and grow rapidly).
I like the leaves mixed into a tossed salad as that gives it a little extra flavor and zip. I have also added some of the leaves to a smoothie for a little extra zest. I have not tried it yet, but I’ve heard that Lemon Balm is a great addition to herbal teas. It can also be used as garnish for deserts.
Lemon Balm contains 24% Cintronellal with which is one of the main compounds in citronella. It is said that crushed Lemon Balm rubbed on your skin is a repellent to mosquitos.
Lemon Balm is high in flavonoids and can have an antioxidant effect. It also contains Vitamin C and Thiamin (a B Vitamin).
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Lemon Balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic).
The University of Maryland Medical Center also posts the following warning regarding all herbs: “The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.” And “Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take lemon balm.”
Disclaimer: This document is for informational and educational purposes only. Great Escape Farms is not recommending, prescribing, or advising the use of any herb for medicinal purposes. Please consult a qualified medical professional for herbal treatments.
The Herb Society of America
Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a great herb and I will continue to grow this at Great Escape Farms. I plan on using it as a food forest garden plant on the farm.
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