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Melissa officinalis - L.

Common Name Lemon Balm, Common balm, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm, Lemon Balm
Family Lamiaceae or Labiatae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards Can cause irritation in high concentrates. Avoid during pregnancy. Care if sensitive skin [301].
Habitats Waste places and derelict land near human habitations[9].
Range C. and S. Europe, W. Asia and N. Africa. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Melissa officinalis Lemon Balm, Common balm, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm,  Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis Lemon Balm, Common balm, Bee Balm, Sweet Balm,  Lemon Balm


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Early fall, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Melissa officinalis is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.7 m (2ft 4in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from June to October, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Faucibarba officinalis. Mutelia officinalis. Thymus melissa.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

Leaves - raw or cooked. A pleasant lemon-like aroma and flavour, they are used mainly as a flavouring in salads and cooked foods[5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 27, 183]. A lemon-flavoured tea can be made from the fresh or dried leaves[21, 183]. A bunch of the leaves can be added to china tea, much improving the flavour, the leaves are also added to fruit cups etc[4]. They are used as a flavouring in various alcoholic beverages including Chartreuse and Benedictine[238].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antianxiety  Antibacterial  Antidepressant  Antiemetic  Antispasmodic  Antiviral  Aromatherapy  Carminative  
Diaphoretic  Digestive  Emmenagogue  Febrifuge  Sedative  Tonic

Lemon balm is a commonly grown household remedy with a long tradition as a tonic remedy that raises the spirits and lifts the heart[254]. Modern research has shown that it can help significantly in the treatment of cold sores[254]. The leaves and young flowering shoots are antibacterial, antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sedative, and tonic[4, 7, 9, 21, 165, 238]. It also acts to inhibit thyroid activity[238]. An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers and colds, indigestion associated with nervous tension, excitability and digestive upsets in children, hyperthyroidism, depression, mild insomnia, headaches etc[4, 9, 238]. Externally, it is used to treat herpes, sores, gout, insect bites and as an insect repellent[238]. The plant can be used fresh or dried, for drying it is harvested just before or just after flowering[9]. The essential oil contains citral and citronella, which act to calm the central nervous system and are strongly antispasmodic[254]. The plant also contains polyphenols, in particular these combat the herpes simplex virus which produces cold sores[254]. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Female aspects'[210]. It is used to relax and rejuvenate, especially in cases of depression and nervous tension[238]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Melissa officinalis for nervousness and insomnia (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Essential  Pot-pourri  Repellent

Landscape Uses: Border, Container, Rock garden. The growing plant is said to repel flies and ants[14]. It is also rubbed on the skin as a repellent[238], though the essential oil would be more effective here[K]. An essential oil is obtained from the plant[100] (the exact part is not specified, it is probably the entire plant and especially the flowering stems). It is used medicinally. The whole plant is very pleasantly aromatic, the aroma lasting for a long time after the plant has been harvested. It is therefore a very useful ingredient in pot-pourri[4]. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form - used as fertilizer or to improve mulch.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Dynamic accumulator  Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered position[200]. It prefers a light rich moist soil[37, 52],a warm position[27, 37] and partial shade[4]. Once established, this is a drought tolerant species[190, 200], it is a useful plant to try in difficult dry places[187], usually succeeding in the dustiest of soils once it is established[190]. Lemon balm is often grown in the herb garden, and sometimes also commercially[46], there are some named varieties[183]. Plants can often self-sow so freely as to become a menace[187]. If the plants are cut back hard after flowering, they will produce a fresh flush of leaves[238]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[233]. A good bee plant[4, 8, 24]. A good companion plant, especially for brassicas[14]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Edible, Fragrant foliage, Not North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 12 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a clumper with limited spread [1-2]. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [1-2]. The root pattern is stoloniferous rooting from creeping stems above the ground [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. Germination can be slow[200]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are at least 15cm tall[K]. If there is plenty of seed it can be sown in an outdoor seed bed in April. Plant out into their permanent positions the following spring. Division in spring or autumn[111]. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. Cuttings in July/August.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Range

TEMPERATE ASIA: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ciscaucasia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Russian Federation-Ciscaucasia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan,Cyprus. TROPICAL ASIA: Pakistan (north), EUROPE: Russian Federation-European part, European part (south), Belarus, Ukraine (incl. Krym), Former Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece (incl. Crete), Italy (incl. Sardinia, Sicily), Romania, Spain (incl. Baleares), France, Corse, Portugal, AFRICA: Spain, Canarias, Portugal, Madeira Islands, Morocco, Tunisia.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Known to be an invasive perennial is warmer areas (e.g. US South West). Grow in a tub.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment

Melissa officinalis

Administrator .

Jul 17 2010 12:00AM

Great plant for pesto: 2 cups of Lemon balm leaves 1/2 cup of grated parmiggiano some walnuts 1/2 cup of olive oil salt & pepper mix everything with your blender. good for pasta and as bread spread



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

[email protected]   Fri Mar 10 2006

A very useful article but I was also wondering where one can purchase such a plant. I used to have one years ago but cannot trace any right now. Can you help at all? I live in London. My e-mail is [email protected] Many thanks Kevin

andre char   Tue Jun 6 2006

If you want to buy the seeds you may try this website in the USA: johnnyseeds.com

Anna - Cambridgeshire   Mon Jul 3 2006

I had this plant growing in my back and front garden but didn't know what to do with it. Now I will use it in cooking, salads and try it as tea. I have saved this page, so that I can look back on it if need be - it has been ver useful to me.

Heidi in Missouri   Sun Jul 16 2006

I love this plant! I bought mine at Lowes and it grows like crazy. I am planning on making some bath salts with it.

elle   Mon Nov 27 2006

Mint lookalike with a strong lemony scent, though not as fabulous-smelling as lemon verbena. Seeds are easy enough to come by via various seed companies on the internet. Self-seeds itself around freely! Seedlings in unwanted places are easily pulled up when young, however and I've appreciated the way it turns up in some of the difficult to populate drier spots in the garden. Best to cut off the insignificant flowers if you are concerned about self-seeding. Reputed to be a bee plant but I haven't noticed them making a 'beeline' for it. However I grow lots of bee plants so they may have found others more appealing. I make tea from fresh leaves and it's a pleasant and calming drink, though not as flavoursome as it is scented.

elle   Mon Nov 27 2006

For those who can't find the plant, just do a websearch on 'melissa officinalis seeds' and you should find some mail order companies to send you some. Grows easily from seed as you will find when you have it in your garden and it self-seeds itself around freely! Seedlings in unwanted places are easily pulled up when young, however and I've appreciated the way it turns up in some of the difficult to populate dry spots in the garden. Best to cut off the insignificant flowers if you are concerned about self-seeding. I make tea from fresh leaves and it's a pleasant and calming drink, though not as flavoursome as it is scented.

damon rigg   Wed Sep 5 2007

I have found Lemon Balm to be an excellent aid in a good nights sleep.

   Thu Aug 28 2008

Lemon balm is available during planting season at all of the local Lowes, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart locations around here. It grows in a beach-ball sized patch in our garden. We use it for cooking (goes very well on fish and chicken when mixed with other herbs), fantastic calming herbal teas, mixed drinks, ice cream, and even mixed with tobacco for lemon-flavored cigarettes. Good stuff.

Lil Blon   Thu Sep 25 2008

All praises for this site, loads of info! But I've been looking for more specific details too, for instance the yield of melissa per hectare (I know, sounds OTT but I would like to grow more then few plants :) I would be really greatfull if anyone has some good links or book suggestions :)

Louise   Tue Apr 21 2009

I never used to see the point of lemon balm beyond the smell but now I've started making a tea out of it - I poor boiling water over the leaves, 5 or 6 suit me but I think it's up to taste, and then let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes and then drink. It smells lovely and is very soothing and relaxing. It has only a mild flavor though and I have noticed that differnt plants are somewhat different in flavour so worht experimenting.

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