Since buying that first potted plant, I've learned that lemon balm has many uses beyond its fragrant beauty in the garden or on a windowsill. It's a calming and uplifting herb with antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, sedative and mood-elevating properties. It is believed to sharpen memory. The crushed leaves of lemon balm can be rubbed on the skin to help repel insects. You can chew a leaf to freshen your breath. Lemon balm is used in homemade cosmetics such as skin cleansers and hair rinses, and in crafts such as potpourri.
I've used lemon balm in salve, which I make using a combination of herbs infused in oil. While she was here this summer, our granddaughter enjoyed picking leaves and crushing them so she could smell the bright lemon fragrance. I think it's a cheerful looking plant and I like having it on my windowsill where I can see it throughout the day.
One of the best-known uses of lemon balm is in lemonade. It's quite tasty and very refreshing.
Lemon Balm Lemonade
several handfuls of fresh lemon balm
4 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar or to taste (you can substitute with honey or other sweetener)
Rinse and chop the lemon balm leaves. Boil the water and add the leaves, cover and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the lemon balm leaves and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Sweeten to taste and add ice.
Always put a lid on a lemon balm infusion. The volatile oils that give it that fresh lemony scent will dissipate with the steam as the liquid steeps.
Lemon balm is definitely worth growing in your herb garden or even in a pot on the windowsill. Even Thomas Jefferson appreciated lemon balm; according to his writings, it was one of the plants grown at his garden and farm.
Want more information on growing lemon balm? Here are some tips from Bonnie Plants. You can learn more about the benefits of lemon balm here, from Herbalta.
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