Lemon balm, which is not to be confused with lemon trees or lemon fruit, has been used as far back as the Middle Ages, and perhaps earlier.1 Lemon balm has been shown to be helpful in combating stress and anxiety,2 boosting appetite and alleviating the pain and discomfort caused by indigestion.3 This herb was also steeped in wine to lift spirits and it was employed in treating wounds and venomous insect bites and stings.
Lemon balm is a common sight in many herb gardens because it attracts bees. Beyond its medicinal uses, lemon balm can also be used for cosmetics and furniture polish manufacturing. Beyond that, fresh lemon balm leaves can be steeped and dried to make lemon balm tea, an herbal beverage that can soothe your senses. Here’s all you need to know about lemon balm tea.
What Is Lemon Balm Tea?
Leaves of the lemon balm plant (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, make a delicious herbal tea. Although lemon balm is native to Europe, it’s now widely available and can be grown in home gardens, too. The plant can grow up to 2 feet high, or even higher if it’s not well-maintained. During spring and summer, small, light-yellow flower clusters appear on lemon balm plants.4
If you’re wondering why it’s called lemon balm, it’s because your fingers may smell like tart lemons when you rub the leaves together. Lemon balm leaves are shaped similarly to mint leaves. Deeply wrinkled, the leaves range in color from dark green to yellowish green, depending on the plant’s soil and climate.5
Lemon Balm Tea’s Uses and Health Benefits
According to The Heart Institute, the University of Michigan and journal articles, below are some of the most well-known benefits of lemon balm tea:6,7
• Alleviates digestive issues — Lemon balm tea supports healthy digestion and ensures proper absorption, making it potentially beneficial if you suffer from acid reflux, bloating, constipation, flatulence or indigestion.9
• Strengthens your immune system — The antibacterial and antiseptic properties10 in kombucha, a fermented lemon balm tea, play a role in helping your body fight infections, cold and flu.11
Furthermore, lemon balm tea may assist in stimulating white blood cell production,12 while reducing your body’s production of mucus and phlegm.13
• Helps relieve menstrual cramps — As one of the oldest herbal remedies for menstrual cramps, lemon balm tea’s analgesic, antispasmodic and sedative capabilities may aid in soothing painful periods,14 while toning down mood swings.
• Enhances cognitive function — Lemon balm tea can be helpful for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease because it may help enhance cognitive function and improve memory. It can be particularly beneficial as an aromatherapy tool.15
The tea also is believed to deliver antioxidants that can inhibit plaque deposits along your body’s neutral pathways.16
• Combats the herpes virus — Research indicates lemon balm, in the form of a cream, essential oil or tea, has powerful effects on herpes cold sores and genital lesions due to the inhibiting activity of its polyphenol compounds against herpes virus activity.17,18
• Promotes heart health — Lemon balm tea can be ideal for people suffering from hypertension because it’s a natural sedative that assists in reducing blood pressure levels. In the long run, it may help decrease your risk for atherosclerosis, heart attacks and stroke.
If you are taking blood pressure medication, talk to your doctor before drinking lemon balm tea to avoid any potential negative interactions.
Lemon Balm Tea Nutrition Facts: What’s in It?
Some of the active compounds in lemon balm, which may be transferred onto the tea beverage, include tannins, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, citronellal, eugenol and other polyphenolic compounds, as well as copper, manganese, zinc and various essential vitamins.”19 As an herbal tea, lemon balm tea does not contain caffeine. This explains why it may be beneficial for calming frazzled nerves and soothing anxiety.
How to Make Fresh Lemon Balm Tea
Typically, lemon balm tea is made by steeping fresh plant cuttings in boiling water until the desired strength is attained — shorter steeping results in weaker tea, while longer steeping yields a stronger beverage. The tea can be consumed hot or cold. You can also make this beverage using dried lemon balm leaves, although the drying process may cause the leaves to lose some of their flavor. Below is a simple lemon balm tea recipe:20
Lemon Balm Tea Recipe
- 2 cups of boiling water
- 2 teaspoons of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm leaves
- Honey or stevia to sweeten (optional)
- Pour the boiling water over the dried lemon balm leaves.
- Infuse the mixture for up to 10 minutes and chill and drink afterward.
How to Store and Dry Lemon Balm for Making Tea
Fresh lemon balm leaves can be stored in plastic bags inside the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze them. Dried lemon balm leaves stored in an airtight, glass container, in a dark and dry place, will have a shelf life of at least one year. The Herb Society of America21 notes that dry leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days too, or inside the freezer for a short time in a double layer of food storage plastic bags.
If you want to learn how to dry lemon balm for tea, there are multiple ways to do it. Overall, make sure the leaves aren’t exposed to light or heat. Mother Earth Living22 suggests cutting around two-thirds of the way down the plant’s stem. Then, hang lemon balm upside down in a small bunch, leaving a 1-inch diameter at the base. Place the herbs in a dark, dry place with good air circulation, and dry for two days, after which time they will turn black.23
Another way to dry lemon balm leaves, according to the Michigan State University Extension, is to take a small amount and hang them in paper bags with holes punched on the sides. Don’t place a large amount of lemon balm in a bag, as a lack of air circulation may cause the leaves to become moldy. Use a rubber band to close the top of the bag and hang it in an area where there’s enough air circulation. Once the leaves are dry, they’ll fall to the bottom of the bag.24
Side Effects of Lemon Balm Tea
Side effects25 from drinking lemon balm tea are said to be rare, and there’s limited research regarding lemon balm’s side effects when used for an extended period of time. The best approach is to drink lemon balm tea occasionally until you are certain your body can tolerate it. Some adverse effects that may develop, include:
- Stomach upset, nausea and vomiting — The potent active compounds in the tea may be responsible for these effects and they are only beneficial when the tea is consumed in moderation
- Dizziness and drowsiness — These effects were seen in people who drank very strong lemon balm tea; should these side effects occur, stop drinking it
According to WebMD,26 oral intake of lemon balm leaves may also lead to side effects like increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness and wheezing. Avoid drinking lemon balm tea if you’re allergic to other plants of the mint family because it may increase your risk for an allergic reaction.
If you’re undergoing a surgical procedure, do not drink lemon balm tea two weeks before it, because the tea’s sedative nature may negatively interact with the anesthesia. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor about the safety of lemon balm tea. This tea can be safely consumed by children in small amounts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Lemon Balm Tea
Q: Where can you buy lemon balm tea?
A: You can buy organic lemon balm tea from well-known online retailers or from a local health food store. To ensure you’ll get a product that will provide genuine health benefits, only buy organic brands from reputable companies. Better yet, you can grow lemon balm at home and craft your own tea. The Spruce provides instructions on how to propagate this herb indoors.27
Q: What are the health benefits of lemon balm tea?
A: Some of the health benefits of lemon balm tea include:
• Soothing anxiety and depression
• Reducing inflammatory conditions, such as infections, colds and flu
• Relieving menstrual cramps
• Alleviating stomach problems like acid reflux, bloating, constipation and indigestion
• Combating herpes cold sores and genital lesions
Q: Can pregnant and breastfeeding women drink lemon balm tea?
A: While pregnant and breastfeeding women may be able to drink lemon balm tea in moderation, it’s best to first talk to your doctor about your need for lemon balm tea and the amount of tea you plan to drink to ensure the safety of you and your baby.