Edible uses


Leaves - raw or cooked. A pleasant lemon-like aroma and flavour, they are used mainly as a flavouring in salads and cooked foods[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]. A lemon-flavoured tea can be made from the fresh or dried leaves[8][7]. A bunch of the leaves can be added to china tea, much improving the flavour, the leaves are also added to fruit cups etc[9]. They are used as a flavouring in various alcoholic beverages including Chartreuse and Benedictine[10].

Unknown part


Material uses

The growing plant is said to repel flies and ants[5]. It is also rubbed on the skin as a repellent[10], though the essential oil would be more effective here[K]. An essential oil is obtained from the plant[11] (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[9].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Lemon balm is a commonly grown household remedy with a long tradition as a tonic remedy that raises the spirits and lifts the heart[12]. Modern research has shown that it can help significantly in the treatment of cold sores[12].

The leaves and young flowering shoots are antibacterial, antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sedative, and tonic[9][2][4][8][13][10]. It also acts to inhibit thyroid activity[10]. 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[9][4][10]. Externally, it is used to treat herpes, sores, gout, insect bites and as an insect repellent[10]. The plant can be used fresh or dried, for drying it is harvested just before or just after flowering[4]. The essential oil contains citral and citronella, which act to calm the central nervous system and are strongly antispasmodic[12]. The plant also contains polyphenols, in particular these combat the herpes simplex virus which produces cold sores[12].

The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Female aspects'[14]. It is used to relax and rejuvenate, especially in cases of depression and nervous tension[10].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. Germination can be slow[15]. 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[16]. 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.


Rooted cuttings


A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered position[15]. It prefers a light rich moist soil[17][18],a warm position[6][17] and partial shade[9]. Once established, this is a drought tolerant species[19][15], it is a useful plant to try in difficult dry places[20], usually succeeding in the dustiest of soils once it is established[19].

Lemon balm is often grown in the herb garden, and sometimes also commercially[21], there are some named varieties[7]. Plants can often self-sow so freely as to become a menace[20]. If the plants are cut back hard after flowering, they will produce a fresh flush of leaves[10]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[22].

A good bee plant[9][3][23]. A good companion plant, especially for brassicas[5].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Melissa officinalis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Melissa officinalis.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Melissa officinalis
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
0.7 x 0.4
Flower Colour
Flower Type


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  2. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (32202/01/01)
  3. ? Ceres. Free for All. Thorsons Publishers ISBN 0-7225-0445-4 (32202/01/01)
  4. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (32202/01/01)
  5. ? Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-262-7 (32202/01/01)
  6. ? Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press ISBN 0-89815-041-8 ()
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  8. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (32202/01/01)
  9. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (32202/01/01)
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  11. ? 11.011.1 Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (32202/01/01)
  12. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (32202/01/01)
  13. ? 13.013.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
  14. ? 14.014.1 Westwood. C. Aromatherapy - A guide for home use. Amberwood Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-9517723-0-9 (32202/01/01)
  15. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (32202/01/01)
  16. ? Sanders. T. W. Popular Hardy Perennials. Collingridge (32202/01/01)
  17. ? 17.017.1 Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant. Blackie and Son. (32202/01/01)
  18. ? Larkcom. J. Salads all the Year Round. Hamlyn (32202/01/01)
  19. ? 19.019.1 Chatto. B. The Dry Garden. Dent ISBN 0460045512 (32202/01/01)
  20. ? 20.020.1 Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (32202/01/01)
  21. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (32202/01/01)
  22. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (32202/01/01)
  23. ? Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
  24. ? Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PFAFimport-50