How To Use Lemon Balm For Your Health And Wellbeing

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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a versatile plant that helps support not only your nervous system but also your ability to sleep, your immune system, and your digestive system. If that isn’t enough, it’s also a powerful antiviral! Lemon balm is high in volatile oils, polyphenols, vitamin C and carotenoids - just an all-round great plant to incorporate into your every day.

Lemon balm was native to Southern Europe, the Mediterranean basin and also central Asia but has been introduced in multiple countries, including New Zealand. Given that it is so good for you and so easy to grow here, we wanted to share some tips on how you can use lemon balm at home.

How to identify lemon balm

Lemon balm is a perennial that can grow to about 90cm tall. It has heart-shaped or oval leaves that are slightly hairy and have small tooth-shaped margins. It has a distinct lemon scent and can have white or slightly pink flowers. It has many lateral roots that anchor it into the soil.


How to harvest lemon balm

If you're wondering how to use lemon balm, there are a few things to remember when harvesting the plant. Lemon balm can be harvested with a knife about 20 centimetres above the ground, which helps with the regrowth of the plant. A well-established plant can be cut two or three times a season, and it's best to harvest the leaves before the flowers open - when the volatile oils are at their strongest.

Lemon balm's active constituents are very volatile, and if the plant is not handled well, the fresh leaves bruise easily and turn brown. You can use lemon balm fresh and dried - however, traditionally, the preference for tinctures and teas was the fresh plant.

How to grow lemon balm

If you want to learn how to use lemon balm, why not grow and use your own. Lemon balm is a fast-growing plant that you can grow from seed or cuttings. Just place your lemon balm seedlings in an area where you’re happy for it to spread out because, like mint - it will take over! Some people grow their lemon balm in potato bags to contain its spread.

How to dry lemon balm

Once your lemon balm is established, remove the leaves to dry them for future use. If you are airdrying them, make sure they are in a single layer on a mesh or drying screen so that air can move around the leaves. It is best to have them dry in a dark place as sunlight can affect the final product. A dehydrator on a low setting is perfect for this plant. You can pick older dehydrators from op-shops pretty reasonably these days.

If you are using fresh lemon balm, wash the leaves gently and leave them to air dry on a clean tea towel overnight and then use them - this reduces the plant’s water content slightly, which will help your final glyceract or tincture.


Why we use lemon balm in our Mood Boost

One way you can use lemon balm in your everyday is by taking our Mood Boost. We chose lemon balm for our Mood Boost because it works very quickly and on multiple systems within your body. We love it for its ability to soothe and support the nervous system. Lemon balm use even predates the middle ages as a plant that can help to soothe anxiety, nervous feelings and also low mood (Ehrlich, 2011, Groves, 2019). 

🌿 RelatedThe 5 Most Powerful Mood Boosting Herbs


How lemon balm supports your nervous system

Several clinical trials using lemon balm support a positive effect on mood. One study gave 20 healthy individuals a single dose of a standardised lemon balm extract and found that their sense of calm was higher (Kennedy teal., 2003).

Another study, study gave a dried lemon balm preparation to those suffering with mild to moderate depression. They found that lemon balm had a comparable effect to fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed antidepressant (Araj-khodaei et al., 2020).

How to use lemon balm topically

Lemon balm is often favoured by herbalists due to its antiviral action. It is utilised for cold sores, shingles, and chicken pox (Chevallier, 2000). Topical use of lemon balm on herpes simplex sores has an improved healing time (Koytchev et al., 1999), and Pizzorno et al. (2016) state it can also reduce the recurrence of cold sores.

There is also emerging use of lemon balm to support those with long covid due to its ability to work as an antiviral and its antioxidant capacity. 

How to use lemon balm 4 ways

Notes of caution: Avoid using in large doses with hypothyroid conditions or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis due to lemon balm’s mild thyroxine-inhibiting effect; large doses may also have a negative effect on thyroid hormone medications (Winston & Maimes, 2019).

1. Make a tea or a tincture

Lemon balm is super versatile. But it's commonly made into a tea or tincture. You can have a cup of lemon balm tea with 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb in 250ml of water, 2-4 times a day. Alternatively, you can take lemon balm tincture in doses of 3-5 mL, 3-4 times a day. The American herbalist, Thomas Easley, also recommends making a cold infusion of lemon balm too! Just add one tablespoon of the herb to one liter of water and you're good to go.

2. Make a lemon balm glycetract

If you're wondering how to use lemon balm to make a syrup - try infusing fresh or dried lemon balm into a simple sugar syrup or glycerine. If you are making a glycetract, you can lightly heat the glycerine and lemon balm and decant it into a sealed, labelled jar. Let this sit for at least two weeks before you strain and use it. Add this lemon balm glycertract to sparkling water, tonic water or hot water for a lovely refeshing and calming drink.

3. Lemon balm facial toner

This is just on of the ways you can use lemon balm topically. Use some of the infused glycerine from the previous recipe and add it to distilled water to make your own calming and relaxing face mister. Add about 2 teaspoons of your lemon balm glycetract to 90ml distilled water. Place into a bottle with a mist setting and use when you need to calm your skin and nervous system. You can add relaxing oils like lavender to this spray as well.

4. Make it into a balm

How can you use lemon balm topically to help with skin repair? Lemon balm is incredibly antiviral, so is great for cold sores. You can make your own infused oil and turn it into a lip balm to both heal and ward off cold sores. The first part of Thi process involves infusing dry lemon balm into a carrier oil of your choice ( a simple almond or sunflower oil will do.

Pro tip:  If you want to level up your balm, use our Golden Skin Oil. This contains St. John’s wort, which is also great for cold sores, and would make for a powerful healing combination with lemon balm.

3/4 cup oil 
1 tablespoon dried lemon balm leaf
1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf
1 tablespoon beeswax
  1. In a double boiler add the oil and dried herbs and leave on a very low heat for one hour - watching closely. 
  2. Alternatively you could place in a slow cooker on low over night.
  3. Strain the oil and compost the herbs.
  4. Add the infused oil and the beeswax to the double boiler. Stir until the beeswax is melted.
  5. Pour into glass or aluminium tins.
  6. You can also add a few drops of lemon balm or lavender essential oil as it is cooling if you wish.
  7. Label and use.
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Lemon balm is well worth the effort to grow - you can sneak it into your daily life quite easily and the best thing is - it's so delicious! Let us know how you use lemon balm in the comments below.



American Botanical Council. (n.d.). Terminology.

Araj-Khodaei M, Noorbala AA, Yarani R, Emadi F, Emaratkar E, Faghihzadeh S, Parsian Z, Alijaniha F, Kamalinejad M, Naseri M. A double-blind, randomized pilot study for comparison of Melissa officinalis L. and Lavandula angustifolia Mill. with Fluoxetine for the treatment of depression. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020 Jul 3;20(1):207. doi: 10.1186/s12906-020-03003-5. PMID: 32620104; PMCID: PMC7333290.

Chevallier, A. (2000). The encyclopedia of herbal medicine. DK Publishing.

Ehrlich, S.D. (2011, March 5). Lemon balm. University of Maryland Medical Center.

Groves, M.N. (2019). Grow your own herbal remedies: How to create a customized herb garden to support your health and well-being. Storey Publishing.
Hăncianu, M., Aprotosoaie, A.C., Gille, E., Poiată, A., Tuchiluş, C., Spac, A., &

Stănescu, U.
(2008). Chemical composition and in vitro antimicrobial activity of essential oil of Melissa officinalis L. from Romania. Revista Medico-Chirurgicala a Societatii de Medici si Naturalisti din Iași, 112(3), 843-847.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press.

Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Jul;72(4):953-64. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(02)00777-3. PMID: 12062586.

Pizzorno, J.E., Murray, M.T., Joiner-Bay, H. (2016). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine (3rd ed.). Elsevier.

Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2019). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Healing Arts Press.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Diana Musgrave
    I love fresh lemon balm from the garden to make tea.

    Going out into the garden and inhaling the aroma is part of the healing effect.

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