When it comes to the idea of lemon balm vs mint we need to look at the closeness in terms of family tree, but then at the different uses and applications.
Both mint and lemon balm will grow easily in most gardens and tend towards invasive as they are perennials that will set out runners. From the Lamiaceae they vary in that mint has over 40 different varieties while there is only one Lemon Balm, easy to use in cooking as replacements for each other.
Both lemon balm and mint have a lot to offer the kitchen gardener and with a long history of use well worth exploring in more detail.
Mint vs Lemon Balm In The Garden
Both lemon balm and mint enjoy being planted in a sunny to partially shaded spot with plenty of rain as long as they have their roots in well drained soil. You will find that bees and pollinators love them both if you allow them to flower and produce spikes of white to pale pink and purple clusters of tiny blossoms.
Mint is much more common in the UK and mainland Europe, mainly due to the number of varieties as lemon balm has only one, albeit one that you can find in variegated form as well.
Types Of Mint Vs Types Of Lemon Balm
There are over 40 varieties of mint and only one Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm). In many ways this means that mint has more to offer, but still people do tend towards he more popular spearmint. I am therefore basing this from that popular variety.
Within mint there is so much variation from spearmint to the stronger peppermint or light and gentle apple-mint to a heavily cocoa based after eight mint variety.
Perennial Vs Annual
Lemon balm is a bushy perennial with oval leaves that have a strong central spine and veins coming outwards, mint is similar in appearance and it too is a perennial. Lemon balm can grow to anything up to 24 inches in height, some varieties of mint can grow to be 8 feet in height.
Both mint and lemon balm are invasive and grow by runners or division. This makes siting these herbs difficult. Pots or containers are a great solution but runners can still be found trying to escape the bottoms of plant pots!
You can harvest mint and lemon balm leaves once the plants are established. During Winter the foliage is likely to die back unless you have very mild weather. In this case both mint and lemon balm can be dried and do very well with regards to retaining their flavor. Click here for a free guide on drying times etc.
When you rub the leaves of lemon balm you are greeted with a citrus, zesty warmth to your mint aroma. With spearmint leaves it is just that lovely fresh mint scent. With different varieties of mint you will get a different aroma, from chocolate to pineapple, but with a menthol underlying aroma.
Mint Vs Lemon Balm Nutrition & Health Benefits
You can eat both mint and lemon balm leaves fresh from the plant, but what are the nutritional benefits of these fresh herbs?
Healthline lists the potential benefits of taking lemon balm as; reducing stress and anxiety, help boost cognitive function, helps tackle insomnia, as treatment for cold sores, to relieve indigestion, treat nausea and combat menstrual cramps. IN order to appreciate these potential health benefits it would require much more than just including it in your diet. Instead taking lemon balm supplements is recommended, check prices and availability on Amazon here.
Mint or mentha is thought to aid digestion, help with symptoms of IBS, aid brain function and some studies have show that it may even reduce the pain associated with breast feeding. In order to receive these health benefits you would need to consume an unrealistically high volume of fresh leaves per day. It is often preferred to use peppermint oil capsules, check the price and availability on Amazon here.
Mint and lemon balm are both thought to help aid digestion and have a calming effect on our bodies. I have been prescribed peppermint oil capsules in the passed for my own IBS symptoms, so it is advised to seek medical advice from a qualified professional if you are suffering as well. Lemon balm will also help to aid with sleep and help to regulate your circadian rhythm again.
Mint Vs Lemon Balm In The Kitchen
There is very little in terms of appearance when we look at mint vs lemon balm. Aroma and flavor are the only subtle differences.
I would say that mint makes a great substitute for lemon balm, especially if you add a twist of lemon juice as you serve. Lemon balm is also a good replacement for mint as you can get that refreshing menthol flavor coming through. Lemon balm simply has an extra note of citrus.
Use them interchangeably to really mix up your dishes. A mint mojito will work very well in Summer with a lemon balm twist, as will your mint sauce with a Spring leg of lamb. For ideas of how to use fresh or dried mint have a look at a previous article I wrote available here.
Lemon balm can be harder to get your hands on in a supermarket than mint. You can easily grow your own and using mint in place of lemon balm does work. A squeeze of lemon juice or a small amount of grated zest can lift mint to become a much more convincing replacement for lemon balm.
For more ideas on replacements for lemon balm I have written a full article here, as it is not always easy to match a recipe like for like.
What Next & Further Reading
I hope we have convinced you that there is a place for both lemon balm and mint in your garden and diet. Both have their benefits and both are a great addition to your skincare regime as well!
- Lavender Vs Rosemary Essential Differences In The Garden & Kitchen for more essential differences and uses in your garden and home.
- Lemon Balm – Sow, Grow, Harvest And Eat for anyone now tempted to give growing this gorgeous herb a go.
- Elderflowers Vs Elderberries – When To Harvest & How To Eat tips for using these two wonderful seasonal ingredients in your home.
- Grow Mint From Cuttings Or Roots All Year if you would like to try growing mint from runners it can be an easy way to grow your garden with little expense.