Fresh lemon balm can be hard to track down 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, just plant this bountiful herb in a pot so that it doesn’t take over your garden, as it's known to spread.
How lemon balm benefits your health
While lemon balm is most widely studied for its ability to help lower anxiety and induce a feeling of calm, according to LaVardera, there are a host of potential benefits offered by the citrusy herb:
1. Lemon balm boosts cognition and alertness
According to a 2014 study, lemon balm can help improve memory, alertness, and cognitive performance in healthy adults. “The benefits are likely thanks to several complex mechanisms involving interactions with neurotransmitters in the brain,” says LaVardera.
2. It can help you sleep
Sipping on brewed lemon balm leaves before bed could promote better sleep, although more research is needed here. “A study of 100 women ages 50–60 years who all complained of sleep disorders found participants who received lemon balm slept better than the placebo group,” says Laverdera. In the study, lemon balm was combined with valerian, another calming herb.
3. It's calming and stress-quelling
Lemon balm’s calming properties could be partly due 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 brain activity.” When you inhibit the enzyme, there is more GABA in the brain—which means more of a sense of calm.
4. Lemon balm may boost your happiness
In addition to its soothing effects, a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis found lemon balm can help lower levels of depression and anxiety, particularly in an acute setting—meaning, lemon balm may not help with chronic anxiety and depression, but could be effective in the short term.
5. It's great for heart health
A 2020 analysis of seven randomized control trials found lemon balm can help lower total cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, which promotes better heart health. “Researchers suspect these benefits are thanks to active phytochemicals in lemon balm like triterpenes, flavonols and phenolic acid,” explains LaVardera.
LaVardera reminds us that, while lemon balm is generally safe for most people, if you take any medications that may interact with herbs it’s best practice to check with your doctor before trying something new.
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 you’re using dried, just use a tablespoon per two cups of tea, and double the amount if using fresh leaves. If you have chamomile or valerian tea on hand, you can add the lemon balm for a soothing sleep elixir. Add a touch of honey and a squeeze of lemon for a slightly sweet sip.
Learn more about the benefits of sipping lemon balm tea according to an herbalist in this video:
Lemon Balm Pesto
This fresh and minty pesto recipes has endless uses. “I love a good pesto on pasta, but I’ll also toss pesto with grilled broccoli for a summery vegetable dish that goes with pretty much everything!” 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’re not in the mood for 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 summery cocktail.
Get the recipe: Honey lemon balm spritzer
Lemon Balm Butter with Garlic
If you’re looking 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 rest. Use it to top grilled meat or fish, roasted veggies, pasta, or make the most delicious garlic bread you’ll ever have. Once you prep this butter it will keep for a while in the fridge so make a big batch—trust us, you’re not going to want to run out.
Get the recipe: Lemon balm butter with garlic
Seared Lemon Balm Chicken
If you’ve got fresh lemon balm on hand, you’ve got all you need to transform any meal into a bright celebration. This main course recipe takes basic seared chicken and elevates it with a simple mix of lemon balm, green onion, salt, and pepper. The recipe calls for cooking in a cast iron pan, but feel free to use a grill over high heat for an extra summery twist.
Get the recipe: Seared lemon balm chicken
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