Lemon balm originates from southern Europe, Asia and some parts of North America. It has been extensively used in the Mediterranean regions of Turkey and Morocco as a popular digestive tea. Historically, lemon balm held multiple uses, including being a natural flavoring additive for foods, a cosmetic, an herbal tea and a highly-revered essential oil. In fact, historical records show its use goes back to the Middle Ages, where it was employed as a stress-reducer, sleep-aid and digestive promoter.

Lemon balm also attracts bees to your garden which is excellent for pollination and also helps the declining bee population. It makes an excellent mosquito repellent and smells much better than citronella, and can help treat insect bites. It aids with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, can treat cold sores, acne, dry skin and anxiety. Also, when candied, lemon balm leaves make attractive cake decorations and the extract and oil of lemon balm adds plenty of flavor to a number of recipes, such as in salads or as a veggie garnish.


Lemon balm is easy to grow from seed, rooted cuttings or by root division. The herb thrives in full sun, but can be grown in partial shade. It can grow well in most climates but it does prefer drier climates.

You should grow lemon balm in a pot as it will spread and take over your whole garden. Lemon balm can grow in most types of soil, but well-drained clay or sandy loam is best. Lemon balm can also handle acidic and very alkaline soil, but prefers a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.

When planting, space seedlings around 12 to 15 inches (30 and 38 cm) apart, as it can grow between 12 to 18 inches (30 – 45 cm). Plant seedlings indoors in early spring, (6 – 8 weeks before last frost), or sow seeds on the surface of soil after the last frost of spring.

Leaves can be harvested in late spring, summer and even autumn. It takes about 10 weeks to go from seeds to full-leafed plants. Pick individual leaves, or in bunches. If you have picked branches/bunches of them, tie them together and hang them in a cool, dry location. Dried leaves may be stored in an airtight glass container for up to one year.

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Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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