Lemon balm

Lemon balm leaves (Melissa officinalis)
An aromatic plant in the mint family, Lemon Balm is a garden escapee often found near human habitation. It's a really useful medicinal herb, which is good for digestion, sleep and relax.

Table of Contents

Lemon balm: Plant profile

Common names

Lemon Balm, Common Balm, Balm Mint, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm, Melissa

Botanical name

Melissa officinalis

Plant family

Lamiaceae (Mint)


Native to southern Europe and western Asia. Naturalised elsewhere. Britain and Ireland.

Where to find Lemon Balm

Park, gardens and urban areas.

When to find Lemon Balm

Leaves in spring.

How to identify Lemon Balm

A perennial herbaceous plant. Leaves bright green, broadly oval to heart-shaped and sparsely haired with prominent veins. Flowers are small, labial and pale white. Stem square. The whole plant smells highly aromatic, lemony.

Lemon Balm lookalikes

It may look like other plants in the mint family, such as Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Watermint (Mentha aquatica) or Deadnettle (Lamium album). None of those smell lemony and flowers look much different in the first two.

Lemon balm leaves (Melissa officinalis)

All about Lemon Balm

This member of the mint family with subtle and pleasant citrus scent is an aromatic herb of great medicinal interest. The attractive foliage makes lemon balm a decorative plant to have in your garden and the inconspicuous white flowers will attract bees in numbers.

Lemon balm is not a native plant but it’s often found growing in the wild as a garden escapee because it spreads rapidly and colonises vast areas in no time. It’s an adaptable plant that easily thrives both in shade and in full sun, though only sheltered spots will guarantee green leaves all year round.

Pick the leaves in early spring until summer, preferably just before the flowers open, as they become tough and harsh as the plant mature.

Medicinal properties of Lemon Balm

A lemon balm tea helps to relieve anxiety, depression, stress, nervous exhaustion and insomnia due to its mild sedative properties. It’s pPerfect for a good night’s sleep

It’s also good after meals to aid digestion, flatulence and bloating.

In addition, this herb has the ability to repel ants, mosquitoes and flies – therefore good to rub the leaves on your skin to avoid annoying creepy crawlies.

Culinary uses and recipes with Lemon Balm

Lemon balm has a pleasant lemony flavour with a hint of mint.

Toss young leaves into salads and use as aromatic herb in tomato bruschetta or fish marinades and salsas. Additionally, the fresh flavour is good in fruit desserts, refreshing drinks, ice cream and cakes.

Lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)

Safe foraging of Lemon Balm

No hazards known.

Ecological importance of Lemon Balm

Bees are especially attracted to the nectar of Lemon Balm flowers.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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