Lemon balm is an easy to grow herb that not only attracts bees to the garden, but is also a great anti-viral with relaxing properties that are helpful for soothing frayed nerves and calming hyper children.
Traditionally, it’s been used to gently treat colic and upset stomach in everyone from infants to elders. A leaf can be chewed to freshen the breath or crushed and placed on a bug bite to help ease the itch.
If you’ve ever planted lemon balm, you know how one tiny plant can quickly take over a large portion of your garden! Last week, I talked about using some of its abundance to make a lip balm for cold sores. Today, I thought I’d share a dozen more things to do with this prolific little gem.
Important Note: While it’s generally considered safe for most people, lemon balm can inhibit thyroid function. If you have severe hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or are on thyroid medication check with a doctor before using large amounts internally. If you’re pregnant, nursing, on meds or have any other questions or concerns, do further research and talk with a qualified health professional before use.
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12 Things to Do With Lemon Balm:
1. Make a sleepy time herbal syrup – place about 3/4 cup lemon balm leaves into a small pot and add enough water to just cover the leaves. Simmer, covered partially, until the liquid is reduced in half. Strain out & compost the leaves. While still quite warm, measure out about 1/2 cup of the concentrated tea and stir 1/4 cup raw honey into it. Add more honey to taste, if you wish. You can make larger or smaller batches – keeping a ratio of about 2 parts lemon balm infusion to 1 part honey. Store in the refrigerator for a week or so. Dose by the spoonful at night to help calm and relax everyone from children to adults. (Keeping in mind that honey should not be given to infants under one year old.)
2. Chop fresh leaves and sprinkle on fruit salads; drizzle with honey or a dressing made of yogurt and honey.
3. Make a glycerite – Fill a jar with leaves. Cover with a mixture of 3 parts vegetable glycerine to 1 part water. Cap and let this sit in a dark place for 3 to 4 weeks. Strain. Dose is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon as needed to relax and calm. Store in your refrigerator for several months. (Adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs.)
4. Make a relaxing, tummy soothing tea – Fill a jar with fresh leaves. Pour simmering hot water into the jar then cover the top with a saucer so that none of the vapors escape. Let steep until cool enough to drink. Sweeten to taste.
5. Moisten cosmetic clay with lemon balm tea to dab on blemishes and bug bites as needed.
6. Fill a bath bag with lemon balm leaves and rose petals. Hang from the spigot and let the water run through as the tub fills. (No bath bags handy? Try a thin white sock with a knot tied at the top.)
7. Add finely chopped leaves (1 to 2 TBSP) and lemon zest (a pinch) to your favorite scone or muffin recipe.
8. Make a tincture – Add leaves to a jar until about three-quarters filled. Pour in 80 proof or higher alcohol (like vodka) until the jar is filled. Cap with a non-metallic lid and store in a cool, dark place for about 4 to 6 weeks, shaking periodically. Strain and store for at least a year. Adult dose is 1/4 teaspoon (which is also about 1 dropperful or 1 ml) at a time, as needed. I usually mix with equal parts honey for better patient compliance. This is a great stomach soothing, anti-viral concoction, perfect to take when you feel like you’re coming down with a cold or bug. Lemon Balm is also a component in my trusted Favorite Cold & Flu Tincture.
9. Make a vinegar – fill a jar about 3/4 full with fresh leaves. Cover with apple cider vinegar. Cap with a non-metallic lid and let steep in a cool dark place for a few weeks. Strain and use as a hair wash or add to your bath water. You can also use this in food dishes & salad dressings instead of plain vinegar.
10. Make candied lemon balm leaves – This is a favorite kid activity around here! Beat an egg white with a tiny bit of water. Dip lemon balm leaves in the mixture, then dip in sugar. Lay the coated leaves on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in a 200 degree F oven until the leaves look dry, but not browned. Check after 20 minutes and every 5 to 10 after that.
11. Make Lemon Balm & Honey Butter – Mix half a stick (4 tablespoons) of softened butter with a pinch of finely chopped lemon balm. Add a drizzle of honey to taste. Yummy on hot fresh bread or biscuits!
12. Make an herbal water – Fill a jar with fresh lemon balm leaves and a thinly sliced lemon. Pour in cold water until it reaches the top. Refrigerate for several hours. So refreshing on a hot day!
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