Benefits Of Growing Lemon Balm
I’ve seen lots of articles floating around the internet touting the benefit of growing lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) on your porch as a means of repelling mosquitoes, and while that is one of lemon balm’s benefits, it also has a variety of other uses. Let’s take a look at them and how they can be a useful addition to any homesteader’s garden.
Lemon balm is used for several medical purposes and is a good tool to keep in one’s arsenal. One use is to provide aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s patients; it helps to improves ones memory by binding to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, and enhancing its performance to help people learn and retain information. It’s also known to help shorten the duration of a cold sore outbreak and can even decrease the number of blisters when applied topically. Lemon balm is a stress and anxiety reducer as well as an aid in fighting insomnia since it has sedative properties; try steeping the leaves in hot water for a calming herbal tea. In addition, it can provide some relief to bug bites when applied topically to the site. It can inhibit the harmful activity of bacteria and virus. Try taking a bath with an infusion of lemon balm, thyme, and sage for cold and flu relief. Finally, it is also known to ease migraine headache pain.
Lemon balm has a host of culinary uses. As mentioned above, lemon balm may be used as an herbal tea but is also a zesty addition to a black or green tea. It can be used as a garnish for fish or vegetables, as a zingy addition to a salad, as a lemon peel or rind substitute, and to create a flavoring extract for food. And if you’re longing for something sweet, it can even be candied. Note: when cooking with lemon balm, it is best to use fresh leaves because they lose flavor when frozen and/or dried.
In The Garden
Lemon balm attracts bees which are great pollinators for your garden. It also makes a plant-safe insecticide when leaves are steeped in water and then sprayed on the desired areas. And if you’re into beekeeping, try rubbing some lemon balm leaves inside the hive to encourage bees to stay.
Lemon balm is a wonderful aromatherapy tool. It can be used to provide a fresh fragrance to laundry (put in the rinse cycle), to scent homemade cleaners, in potpourri, and soaps. Use lemon balm to fight acne by adding some leaves to a large bowl of hot water and leaning over the water with a towel over your head for a steam bath; this also helps to soothe dry skin. It also makes a wonderful rinse for oily hair and a nice skin toner.
How to Grow Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a perennial plant that is can grow in U.S. zones 4-9 and can be grown by sown seed, root division, or rooted cuttings. It grows best in full sun but can even grow in part-sun and part-shade environments. Since it is a member of the mint family, it is best to plant it in a pot to contain it as it can spread vigorously. When harvesting lemon balm, aim to leave about four inches of plant above the soil.
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