Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is one of my favorite garden herbs because of its amazing lemon fragrance. It's a member of the mint family and is supposed to be easy to grow (although you couldn't tell by my garden). It's also a very beneficial herb, having antibacterial, antiviral, and soothing properties.
In an earlier post I talked about the reasons to grow lemon balm; in this one we'll focus on how to use it.
How to dry lemon balm:
Give your plant a haircut. Doing this not only gives you plant material to dry and use, it also benefits the plant, encouraging it to grow compactly yet abundantly. The leaves can be dried in several different ways:
- If you live in a dry climate, you can tie the herb sprigs together at the bottom, and hang upside down to dry. In humid climates they tend to mold.
- Use your dehydrator on a very low setting.
- If you live in the South, you can put herbs in a paper bag and dry them inside a sunny vehicle. This makes your car smell really good too.
- Spread on a cookie sheet and pop it into the oven after you cook dinner. Turn off the heat first! Leave it in the oven overnight and your herbs will be dry by morning.
Make infused oil:
To make an infused oil, add enough olive oil to cover your herb in a saucepan or slowcooker and warm gently for several hours, then strain out the plant material OR set a jar of oil and herb in a sunny, warm place for several weeks, shaking gently each day, then strain.
Make a salve:
You can make a salve using lemon balm infused oil. Warm the infused oil and add beeswax, stir to melt and combine. I use one part beeswax to two parts infused oil. Pour the oil and beeswax mixture into containers with lids and let cool. This ointment is antiviral and antibacterial; use on insect bites, rashes, cold sores, wounds and cuts.
Make a tincture:
Making a tincture is easy, it's just time-consuming. Fill a jar about 1/3 full of your herb, then fill the jar the rest of the way with vodka or brandy, at least 80 proof. Top with a tight-fitting lid and shake gently each day for several weeks. Strain out the plant material using cheesecloth, then pour it into a dark glass bottle or keep in a dark cupboard.
For an alcohol-free tincture, use vegetable glycerin instead of vodka. Alcohol is more efficient at extracting the herb's goodness, and the tincture will also keep longer if it is alcohol-based.
Lemon balm can also be used to make lemonade, soda and tea. Lemon balm is also a very popular culinary herb with many uses. There are many recipes online using lemon balm.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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