Lemon balm

Lemon balm

About Lemon balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), not to be confused with bee balm (which is genus Monarda), is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It grows to 70150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. These attract bees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for 'honey bee'). Its flavour comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene (12%). In North America, Melissa officinalis has escaped cultivation and spread into the wild. Lemon balm requires light and at least 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) to germinate. Lemon balm grows in clumps and spreads vegetatively as well as by seed. In mild temperate zones, the stems of the plant die off at the start of the winter, but shoot up again in spring. Melissa officinalis may be the 'honey-leaf' mentioned by Theophrastus.

Contributions by JoJan, Michael Bailes, and Deli nk.