Lemon balm has multiple uses and it's easy to grow, too
Lemon balm grows from two to four feet high and will need a place where it won't overwhelm other plants. It will eventually spread like other mints, so find a place in well drained soil where it won't interfere with other plantings. Partial shade is best but it will tolerate full sun as well as full shade if other conditions are good. If you can place it where it will get It will grow in acidic as well as slightly alkaline soil but prefers a pH of around 6.5 and it's hardy from US growing Zones 4 through 9, but should be mulched in the winter in colder areas.
You can look forward to an excellent lemony hot or iced tea straight from the garden or from your own dried leaf or frozen stash. To dry lemon balm for tea, gather them early in the morning while the flavor is at its best and spread to dry out of the sun. A mesh tray will allow them to dry faster, but a cloth covered tray will work. It can be dried indoors, but if you use a dehydrator, make sure it doesn't overheat. The delicate flavor is best preserved without heat. You can also cut the entire plant just before it blooms and hang it upside down in an airy but dry area inside a paper bag to dry.
Lemon balm keeps best when frozen, though. Freeze them in a little water. Ice cube trays make excellent containers for freezing, then you can put the individual frozen cubes into plastic bags for storing up to two months.
The leaves can be eaten fresh from the plant and used in cooking. Add them to salads, fish, chicken or pork dishes, fruit salads and cold drinks, or anywhere lemon peel is called for.
The best known use for lemon balm tea is probably as a gentle, tranquilizing sleep aid. Lemon balm helps calm the entire system so that sleep is the end result, but it also calms the digestive system. If you have an upset stomach or general nervousness, lemon balm tea, either hot or cold, is the treat you need.
- Use the tea or leaves to help counteract depression or a case of the blues.
- Put crushed leaves in a bowl of hot water and use it for a steam facial. This is recommended for acne and oily skin.
- It will sometimes relieve a headache if taken as a strong tea.
- It's a natural topical antihistamine when the leaves are chewed or minced with a tiny bit of water then applied to insect bites and stings or rashes and mild hives due to an allergic reaction to plants.
- It has also been claimed that lemon balm is antiviral and will help you through a cold, 'flu or even measles or mumps. Whether it works against a virus or not, make it into a pleasant and soothing drink for those down times.
- As a cosmetic, it makes a good skin cleanser. Steamy facials are recommended for acne.
Make room in your garden for lemon balm and take advantage of its many benefits.