Lemon Balm Mosquito Repellent, and Other Uses for Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a valuable, easy-to-grow ally against biting insects, as well as a gentle curative. Use it to repel mosquitoes naturally, and for much more.

| August/September 2007


Add zip to dishes, such as corn fritters, with lemon balm pesto.


Lemon balm, the International Herb Association’s 2007 Herb of the Year, is an ancient antidote to modern-day stress. This versatile herb can be used to calm nerves, promote restful sleep, and reduce digestive distress — plus it could be your new best friend in the great outdoors. Not only do its leaves have a rich, zippy, lemon smell, but they also contain compounds that can repel mosquitoes.

“Some northern European forms of lemon balm are high in citronellal, a compound which mimics the well-known herbal repellent citronella oil,” says Arthur Tucker, an ethnobotanist at Delaware State University. He notes that some forms of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) are nearly 38 percent citronellal. A variety called ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende’ with this higher content of essential oil is available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Richters.

For a quick mosquito repellent, simply crush a handful of lemon balm leaves in your hand and rub them on your exposed skin. Grow the plants near your backdoor or in your garden, where the leaves will be handy when you need them.

Lemon Balm to the Rescue

In addition to keeping biting bugs at bay, lemon balm has a long history of medicinal use. Cultivated in the Mediterranean region for the past 2,000 years, this perennial herb was prized for its catchall curative properties. During the Middle Ages, King Charles V of France was said to drink lemon balm tea daily for his health. Paracelsus, a Swiss Renaissance physician, called lemon balm the “elixir of life.” And in the 17th century, the French Carmelite nuns made their famous Carmelite Water with lemon balm and other herbs to treat nervous headaches and neuralgia. Today, lemon balm is gaining acceptance as a useful herb for modern stress-related maladies.

“Weedy lemon balm, which any old brown thumb can grow, would be one of the herbs you should try before resorting to pharmaceuticals,” says James Duke, an internationally renowned herbal expert. “It’s cheap, easy, efficacious, pleasing and safe; and it makes a good tea. Lemon balm is about as safe and pleasant an herb as there is.”

Duke thinks lemon balm could compete favorably with drugs such as Ambien for insomnia, Avirax for oral herpes, Zoloft for depression and Zantac for indigestion. The German Commission E, established by the country’s Minister of Health in the ’70s to review herbal remedies, has approved lemon balm for gastrointestinal problems, as well as nervous sleeping disorders.

7/13/2016 1:19:07 PM

My experience suggests caution in planting Lemon Balm in a Garden. Though not broad spreader as invasive as Mint, this perennial grows out from one spot year after year, with the roots and lower stems getting woody and thick as it matures. It gets to the point where you can't pull it out by hand, in my rich irrigated soil. It expands year by year to all sides. In central Pa. it grows to 2 ft+ bush-like upside down conical shape, with 3/8th inch tiny white flowers toward the end of stems. It smells more like Lemon than Citronella. If you want Citronella smell, it's intense with the Geranium called a Citronella plant, but if you research it, you find that real repelant citronella only comes from lemon grass, which isn't a perennial in the north. Just because it smells like Citronella, doesn't mean it is Citronella, or has its' capacity to repel mosquitos.

1/6/2016 5:03:46 AM

Nice Post! We should always use safe mosquito repellent for our family specially for children because chemical repellent can harm their skins and lungs and produce various types of side effects so I will also suggest you to use Lemon Balm Mosquito Repellent for you and your family because it is safe and natural.If you can not found Balm Mosquito Repellent then you can find various types of safe mosquito repellent at http://www.exportersindia.com/indian-suppliers/mosquito-repellent-manufacturers.htm

5/23/2015 10:33:03 PM

lemon balm is also a good snake repellent in watery areas.

10/22/2014 7:22:05 AM

There seems to be some confusion as to the nature of this plant. This is not a tree but a perennial herb. Might not be a good idea to make tea with the leaves of the lemon tree!! The name is 'Lemon Balm' or 'Citronella' (Melissa officinalis) not 'Lemon Tree' (Citrus Limonum Risso)

7/18/2011 10:06:16 PM

I accidentally discovered another use for lemon balm -- poulticing -- while helping a friend recuperate from messy oral surgery. After following the prescribed steps (ice, etc), the friend's jaws were still swollen and painful. I just grabbed a bunch of lemon balm leaves, crushed them slightly in my hands, and applied them as a poultice. The leaves slowly turned black, and the pressure eased slightly. We ended up denuding a good-sized patch of lemon balm, but eventually the leaves quit turning black --- after the swelling had been reduced by about half.

5/19/2009 1:34:42 AM

Great news, how can I find the tree to be grown in my garden?

11/20/2007 5:24:04 AM

good information given, Lemon have great effect there are so many study on lemon has been going on in India.

8/1/2007 2:34:15 PM

The article on lemon tree as a natural mosquito repellent was very interesting. Is the lemon tree a natural or invasive species around Northern Virginia, where I live?

7/31/2007 11:46:55 AM

I really thought this was a great article. I am sending it on to some friends who might find it helpful. I am really enjoying my subscription to the magazine, and was very happy to find this article on line so I could share it. Keep up the good work. V. Perez

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