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Lemon balm vs mint: 7 differences you should know

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Although lemon balm and mint are similar-looking and scented herbs, each has unique features. Learn seven differences between lemon balm and mint, their uses, and their benefits.

Of the two herbs, mint is more common and easier to find in the grocery store than more exotic lemon balm. 

Nevertheless, both are relatively easy to find and cultivate by yourself. 

While I love to use lemon balm in tea, mint is superb in smoothies or lemonades. Besides cooking, lemon balm is a valuable herb to add to natural beauty products such as infused oil, lip balm, or mosquito repellent

comparison lemon balm and mint

7 Differences: lemon balm vs mint

1. Appearance

Both herbs come from the same Lamiaceae family (including herbs like basil or oregano), but they come from different branches of that family. Mint has over 40 varieties that differ in appearance and flavor, meaning that mint has more to offer. Unfortunately, there is only one Lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis). 

Leaves of lemon balm are round, scalloped, and soft to the touch with a slightly fuzzy texture. On the other hand, mint has oval, serrated leaves that are crisp with a smooth surface. Compared to mint leaves. Lemon balm leaves have sharper edges. Whether fresh or dried, mint and lemon balm leaves add a distinctive touch to dishes and drinks.

leaves of lemon balm
lemon balm leave

2. Flavor

Mint and lemon balm are two herbs known for their distinct and recognizable differences between flavors. Lemon balm has a strong taste of lemon that is often used in teas and other beverages, as well as in cooking and baking. On the other hand, mint is well known for its cool and refreshing minty flavor, often used in toothpaste, mouthwashes, chewing gums, and other personal care products. In the culinary world, mint is used to flavor desserts, drinks like this Strawberry Mojito Mocktail, sauces, and savory dishes, adding freshness to any recipe. 

sorbet with mint
blueberry sorbet with mint

3. Growth

Lemon balm and mint are herbaceous plants but have different growth habits. Lemon balm is a bushy plant that grows upright and forms a compact, whole plant. It is known for its bright green leaves and delicate white to pale flowers. Lemon balm plants can grow to as much as 24 inches in height, whereas some other varieties of mint can grow from 6 inches to 3 feet in height and spread up to 3 feet. Mint is a spreading herb that grows and spreads rapidly and can become invasive if not contained. 

Both lemon balm and mint are easy to care for and grow, but they have different growth habits.

lemon balm tea
lemon balm tea

4. Uses

Both are popular herbs with various uses in the culinary and medicinal worlds. Lemon balm is most commonly used to make tea, as its lemony flavor is refreshing and soothing. However, it is also used in cooking and baking and in herbal remedies for its calming properties. Soothing lemon balm oil and balm moisturizes and promotes skin healing and may help with cold sores. Lemon balm tincture, on the other hand, helps to overcome emotional stress.

Mint is widely used in drinks, like cocktails. Also in desserts, and chewing gums due to its cool and refreshing flavor. In addition, mint is also used in a variety of savory dishes like this macho peas, moutabal and in personal care products, such as toothpaste and soaps, for its invigorating scent and taste. 

lemon balm tincture
lemon balm tincture

5. Climate.

Both lemon balm and mint enjoy being planted in a sunny area with partial shade. However, lemon balm is not as tolerant of extreme heat or cold and may struggle in hot, dry conditions. Roots of lemon balm need plenty of rainwater and well-drained soil with plenty of nutrients to allow the plants to develop rapidly.

On the other hand, mint is highly adaptable and can grow in various climates, from hot and humid to cool and dry. It is a tough plant known for thriving in challenging growing conditions. 

growing mint
Peppermint

6. Aroma.

Lemon balm and mint are two herbs known for their distinct fragrances. Lemon balm has a light, delicate aroma that is often described as subtle and fresh. In contrast, mint has a much stronger and more refreshing scent, characterized by its cool and invigorating aroma. 

With different varieties of mint, you will get a different aroma, ranging from chocolate to pineapple, but with an underlying menthol aroma. From spearmint to the stronger peppermint or light and gentle apple-mint to a heavily cocoa based after eight mint variety.

Both scents are popular in various personal care and home products, from candles and soaps to perfumes and essential oils. In addition, both two plants can have a relaxing and calming effect, making them popular choices for use in aromatherapy. Whether enjoyed in a candle, diffuser, or massage oil, these herbs will surely add a fresh and invigorating scent to any space.

mint pot
growing herbs in a pot.

7. Medicinal Properties

Lemon balm and mint are both herbs with a long history of medicinal use. Lemon balm has been traditionally used for its calming and relaxing effects, making it a popular choice for reducing anxiety, promoting restful sleep, and easing symptoms of stress. In addition, lemon balm is a natural remedy for cold sores, indigestion, nausea, and menstrual cramps.

Just like lemon balm, mint has a surprising number of nutritional benefits to take advantage of. In addition, mint is known for its digestive benefits, commonly used to soothe upset stomachs, relieve indigestion, and ease nausea. Mint can also help to treat IBS and enhance brain function. 

Both herbs of the mint family have anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in antioxidants, making them valuable additions to any natural health routine. Whether used in teas, tinctures, or topical products, lemon balm and mint are versatile and effective remedies for many common health concerns.

lemon balm oil
lemon balm oil

When Can I substitute lemon balm for Mint And Vice Versa?

The differences between lemon balm and mint flavors and their medicinal properties are significant enough that they cannot be used interchangeably.

In cooking

Use it only when the distinct flavor of mint is not the primary concern.In cooking: lemon balm may not provide the desired flavor or aroma if used as a substitute for mint. Cocktails typically made with lemon balm will likely not be ruined if you use mint as a substitute. Equally, meat flavored with mint should still be palatable if you switch it to lemon balm. When it comes to teas, lemon balm can be used as a mild substitute for mint, providing a fresh lemon flavor that is less overpowering than mint. However, it will have different medicinal properties. While lemon balm tea is calming and soothing, mint tea helps digestion. 

growing lemon balm
lemon balm

In potpourri and sachets

Lemon balm can be used in place of mint as a milder alternative in homemade potpourri and sachets for a fresh and relaxing fragrance.

In cosmetics

Lemon balm can be used as a substitute for mint in natural cosmetic products, such as facial masks and scrubs, for its milder aroma and calming properties.

Mint can be made into a better substitute for a lemon balm with the addition of lemon zest. Hence lemon zest works as a replacement for lemon balm in recipes. Similarly, you can make lemon balm mintier by adding a small amount of mint extract.

lemon balm lip balm
Lemon balm lip balm

Frequently Asked Questions

When should you use mint and when to use lemon balm?

Use lemon balm in dishes that call for mild citrus notes, such as fish and poultry preparations or salad dressings.

On the other hand, mint suits dishes with the mint’s strong herbal character and cooling effect, such as lamb or mutton. Fresh menthol notes help to brighten salads like this refreshing salad Sumac Cucumbers, lemonades, or ice creams.

Lemon balm works as a sleep aid and relieves stress. It can be used to make tea or crushed up into a paste and applied to the skin. Mint is great for aiding digestion and soothing upset stomachs. It can be added to salads, sauces, or brewed into tea.

Is Lemon Balm As Invasive As Mint?

Both lemon balm and mint are perennials that can spread and naturalize in gardens, but mint has a more aggressive growth habit and is known to be particularly invasive. Lemon balm, while still able to spread and colonize an area, is generally considered less invasive than mint. However, containers or plant pots are a great solution, but runners.

7 differences between lemon balm and mint
Vladka Merva on February 11th, 2023

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