Fresh lemon balm can be hard to find in supermarkets, so if you have a backyard (or fire escape) you might want to consider growing your own. “Lemon balm is easy to grow and makes a unique addition to an herb garden,” says LaVarera. As with mint, simply plant this bountiful herb in a pot so it doesn’t take over your garden as it has been known to spread.
How lemon balm benefits your health
Although lemon balm is most studied for its ability to reduce anxiety and induce a sense of calm, there are numerous potential benefits of the citrus herb, according to LaVardera:
1. Lemon Balm Boosts Cognition and Alertness
According to a 2014 study, lemon balm may help improve memory, alertness and cognitive performance in healthy adults. “The benefits are likely due to several complex mechanisms involving interactions with neurotransmitters in the brain,” says LaVardera.
2. It can help you sleep
Sipping brewed lemon balm leaves before bed may promote better sleep, although more research is needed here. “A study of 100 women aged 50-60 who all complained of sleep disturbances found” participants who received lemon balm slept better than the placebo groupLaverdera says. In the study, lemon balm was combined with valerian, another sedative herb.
3. It’s soothing and stress-reducing
The calming properties of lemon balm may be due in part to a polyphenol in lemon balm called rosmarinic acid. †Rosmarinic acid inhibits an enzyme in the brain called GABA transaminase, also known as GABA-T,” says LaVardera. “GABA-T helps break down GABA, a neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity.” When you inhibit the enzyme, there is more GABA in the brain, which means more rest.
4. Lemon Balm Can Increase Your Happiness
In addition to the soothing effects, a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2021 was found Lemon Balm Can Help Reduce Depression and Anxietyespecially in an acute setting meaning lemon balm may not help with chronic anxiety and depression but can be effective in the short term.
5. It’s Great for Heart Health
Found a 2020 analysis of seven randomized control trials lemon balm may help lower total cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, which promotes better heart health. “Researchers suspect these benefits are due to active phytochemicals in lemon balm such as triterpenes, flavonols and phenolic acid,” explains LaVardera.
LaVardera reminds us that while lemon balm is generally safe for most people, it’s best to talk to your doctor before trying anything new if you’re taking any medications that can interact with herbs.
5 delicious lemon balm recipes to try
Lemon Balm Tea
You can buy lemon balm tea or make your own by steeping fresh or dried leaves in hot water. If using dried, use one tablespoon per two cups of tea and double the amount if using fresh leaves. If you have chamomile or valerian tea at home, you can add the lemon balm for a soothing sleep elixir. Add a dash of honey and a squeeze of lemon for a slightly sweet sip.
Learn about the benefits of drinking lemon balm tea according to an herbalist in this video:
Lemon Balm Pesto
These fresh and minty pesto recipes have endless uses. “I love a good pesto on pasta, but I also toss pesto with grilled broccoli for a summer vegetable dish that goes with just about anything!” says LaVardera. You can also top eggs with a dollop of pesto or add to avocado toast.
Get the recipe: lemon balm pesto
Honey Lemon Balm Spritzer
If you don’t feel like hot tea, check out this refreshing spritzer to help you cool down and relax on a hot afternoon. Add some mint for an extra bright punch, or even some vodka or gin for a summer cocktail.
Get the recipe: Honey lemon balm spritzer
Lemon Balm Butter With Garlic
If you’re looking for a way to add lemon balm to… basically anything, you need this lemon balm butter recipe. A combination of fresh lemon balm, garlic and other aromatic herbs make this butter stand out from the crowd. Use it to make grilled meat or fish, roast vegetables, pasta or the best garlic bread you’ll ever have. Once you’ve made this butter, it will keep in the fridge for a while, so make a big batch – trust us, you don’t want to run out.
Get the recipe: Lemon balm butter with garlic
Seared Lemon Balm Chicken
Having fresh lemon balm on hand has everything you need to turn any meal into a happy feast. This main course recipe takes basic seared chicken and elevates it with a simple blend of lemon balm, green onion, salt and pepper. The recipe calls for cooking in a cast iron pan, but feel free to use a high-heat grill for an extra summery twist.
Get the recipe: Seared lemon balm chicken
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