Want to grow an easy and resilient herb that nourishes your body and adds zest to your culinary adventures? Try Lemon Balm! It’s an easy herb to grow and is often overshadowed by parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (and basil, too). Bonus: its medicinal properties make it a must-have in the garden. Lemon Balm is an easy addition to your salads, and it brews up as a healing tea. It is a great alternative for lemon flavor when you have none on hand.
Lemon balm is a nervine, a category of herbs known for their calming effect on the nervous system. Nervines support the nervous system to positively impact mood, memory, cognition, and sleep. Here’s the nerdy scoop: Lemon balm’s calming properties are due to its chemical composition. It has been observed to inhibit the release of stress hormones like cortisol as well as enhance the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and anxiety. High levels of cortisol can contribute to feelings of anxiety and tension. By reducing cortisol leaves, lemon balm may help alleviate stress and promote a sense of calm.
Part of Lemon Balm’s medicinal qualities are due to the scent. The volatile oils citral, citronellal, and geraniol give the plant its pleasant aroma and its healing benefits. These chemical compounds help calm down muscle tension and heightened senses due to our nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. A powerful herb!
Lemon Balm is in the mint family, recognizable by its square stalk and heart-shaped leaves. Plants in the mint family spread vigorously, so it’s best grown in containers, or they will take over your garden. The Vego Garden Raised Bed is the perfect size for growing your supply of lemon balm. Lemon balm likes full sun to partial shade and thrives in well-drained soil. It’s easy to take care of and likes the soil moist but not drenched, so water frequently and don’t let it dry out. It’s a perennial plant that will be green year-round in warmer climates such as zones 9 and 10. It grows back robustly each year in colder areas.
Now the fun part! What to do with your lemon balm harvest?
I like to drink lemon balm as a tea. Fresh lemon balm from the garden brews a delicate and subtle tea. Simply take a handful of fresh leaves and pour hot water over the leaves and let them steep. (Please note that boiling water will scald fresh leaves, so make sure it rests for a moment if you brought it to a boil.) Dried lemon balm yields a more robust-bodied tea, and the dried herb provides nervous system support in the winter. I harvest my lemon balm all summer long, clipping the plant above the nodes and then tying the stems together as a bundle. Hang the bundle upside down in a cool spot away from sunlight and in a couple of weeks you’ll have dried herbs for tea. It’s so simple! I take no more than a third of the plant each time I harvest, and it grows back robustly.
Lemon balm tea has a clean and citrus taste—lemony, of course. I like to brew a big batch of tea and keep it steeping as I let it cool on the counter for the day. It makes a great iced tea as well. Sometimes, I’ll pick a handful of lemon balm and put it in a glass pitcher full of water and place it in the sun for the day for a refreshing infused water. My nervous system thanks me!
Lemon balm picked fresh is a great addition to salads and can be made into a pesto. You can substitute it for lemon zest in your favorite recipes. I like to chop it up and add it to a vinaigrette. It’s a wonderful herb to play with in the kitchen.
Lemon balm equals calm. Its culinary versatility and myriad of stress-busting benefits make it a soothing choice for your garden. With Vego’s containers, you can grow this wonderful, medicinal herb without fear of it taking over your garden. What do you think? Is this an herb you would like to grow? Let us know in the comments!