Are you still keeping up with your herbal harvest, even as the garden begins to produce fruits and vegetables for your table? It can be awfully difficult to keep your eye on medicine harvest when the food starts rolling in. I find the whole garden season packed full of to-do’s. If you grow and forage for your medicine, there really is not a time that you aren’t bringing in something to preserve.
This past week, I’ve been harvesting lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). This job is another favorite on the farm. As you pick, you bruise the leaves and find yourself surrounded by the bright and cheery lemon scent. Filling my loft with two 50-foot rows worth of lemon balm makes the barn smell lovely.
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Grow Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is so easy to grow that it is often considered a nuisance. Start one plant in your flower bed and you will soon find it transplanted all the way around your house. I am more than fine with this as it makes a nice ground cover and seems to be happy in both full sun and partial shade. To get the best benefit out of it, it’s best to harvest just as the tiny yellow flowers are developing. At this point, the leaves are lush and full. If you wait until the blooming is over, lemon balm gets spindly and you will have less leaf to harvest.
Lemon Balm as Medicine
We use the leaves of lemon balm for any kind of nervous-system distress. It is a supreme nervine. It has shown clinical abilities for focus, ADHD and emotional outbursts, acting specifically to calm the anxiety that is generated when someone feels out of control.
I really like lemon balm in a topical oil to soothe nerve endings in illnesses like chicken pox, shingles and various types of herpes. I love how gentle such a powerful herb can be. Only those who are struggling with hypothyroidism will need to exercise caution; all others may use it with abandon. I also love that it is so tasty it can be picked fresh for a delicious sun tea (see the video above to learn how) or shredded into a salad. Even the most picky palates will eat it with enthusiasm.
Lemon balm is antibacterial and antiviral, as well, making it very useful around the house as my favorite dusting blend. Find the recipe below.
Lemon Balm Dusting Spray
- 1/2 cup cooled lemon balm tea
- 16 drops lemon essential oil
- 8 drops sage essential oil
Add 1 cup boiling water to 2 to 3 teaspoons dried lemon balm or 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon balm. Cover and steep for 20 minutes or until cooled. Strain and add the essential oils and the tea to a spray bottle. This can be left on the shelf for many months and continue to be useful. Eventually it will turn and begin to smell stale. Make it in small amounts so that you use it up before then. Feel free to change out the essential oils, I like sage with the lemon but you could use any number of antibacterial options as a replacement for the sage.