Lemon balm is the herb for little red spots. It makes a fresh and delicious tea and grows like crazy in the garden but in herb circles it’s known for so much more. Lemon balm’s antiviral properties make it a popular herb for the treatment for cold sores, chicken pox, bug bites, and other little red spots. This recipe for lemon balm lip balm not only has a bright and cheery lemon fragrance but it also is a great way to prevent and treat cold sores.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
When I first started gardening I used to pull out lemon balm by the handfuls and throw it into the compost bin. While I love the fresh bright lemony smell and the pretty mint-like leaves, it grows like crazy and seemed to be in every spot of the garden. Now, that I’ve mostly cleared it out of all the spaces where it was growing naturalized I can’t help but wonder
“What the heck was I doing!”
That wonderful lemon balm has so many uses! And so now I start lemon balm from seed, place it in the garden, and happily harvest any extras that might pop up.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) essential oil is one of the most expensive essential oils you can buy. Because of its price point it’s not very commonly used in aromatherapy. But it’s also reserved because it is incredibly powerful in strong concentrations (like you’ll find an essential oil). It is more common to see herbal preparations as tea, honey, and infused oil for the home herb lover. I love it as a herbal infusion in skin care products and skip the essential oil all together.
Lemon balm is used as a calming herb, that soothes anxiety and helps to tone the nervous system. Not to be confused with herbs like chamomile and hops that help to promote sleep and rest, lemon balm is calming but also uplifting. It helps to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and lifting spirits. Perhaps this is also how it helps it’s cold sores which are caused by stress. It’s antiviral properties mean it also helps to prevent more cold sores from popping up.
Cold Sores (Ugh.)
Cold sores on the face are caused by the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (HSV-1). I got this delightful gift from my mom and I try pretty darn hard not to pass it on to my kiddo. Cold sores are a real bummer, they hurt and itch and feel like you have a painful watermelon growing on your face for everyone in the whole world to see. And they have the delightful habit of popping up when you are sick, on vacation, getting photos taken, or hosting an event. Which makes sense, because the virus lies dormant in our body until it is triggered by stress or a reduced immune system.
They are called cold sores because they usually accompany a lower immune system caused by the common cold, but for me they’re actually more frequent in times of stress, both emotional or physical. When I’m feeling stressed and run down I’ll inevitably pop up a cold sore on my lip. Or if I go out into the sun without wearing sunscreen lip balm. Usually it’s after a period of no sun exposure, and then a sudden change to direct sun on my face like a sunny skiing day, a tropical winter vacation, or the beginning of the summer at home. This is why I now always have a supply of lemon balm lip balm for cold sores when they show their ugly faces.
Harvesting Lemon Balm for Infused Oil
The best time to harvest lemon balm is before flowering. This is when most of the volatile oils are available in the leaves and stems. Pinching back the plant by a third will also increase the robustness and fullness of the plant. You can happily harvest a bunch of fresh green lemon balm leaves from the top third of the plant and the rest of the plant will be quite happy and grow back denser and sturdier.
Be sure to only harvest and use healthy looking green leaves. Any decay, brown spots or powdery mildew is not something that you want to add in to infused oils. Add the cuttings into a salad spinner and rinse well with water. Then spin to remove all topical water. Lay the lemon balm out on herb drying screen and allow it to wilt for 24 hours. Lemon balm doesn’t usually have any pests but if there are any, this will give them a chance to go find a new home. More importantly, it allows a lot of the water to release.
In most cases I strongly recommend that herbs are dried prior to infusing them into oil because when water is introduced to an oil infusion it can also introduce bacteria and mold growth. In this case, lemon balm infusions are much more effective using the fresh leaves. Lemon balm studies have shown some antibacterial properties, and some sources report antifungal properties as well, both of which will help to keep the oil from growing bacteria and fungus. Even so, if I’m using the fresh herbs I’m sure to make it in small batches and use it up quickly, within 4 to 6 weeks. Additionally if you notice any discoloration, sediment, or indication of mold or fungus, discontinue use immediately.
Lemon Balm Lip Balm for Cold Sores
Because we are using the fresh herb I recommend using a heat infusion method, rather than cold infusion which will take 4 to 6 weeks and itself. See how to do the heat infusion in this post: Three Ways to Make Herbal Oils for Natural Beauty Recipes.
Makes 6 tubes
Makes 6 tubes
- 8 g extra virgin coconut oil
- 12 g lemon balm infused organic grapeseed oil
- 6 g beeswax
- 4 g raw cocoa butter
- Melt the wax, over medium-low heat in a Turkish coffee pot, double boiler, or a small pot with a pour spout. Add the oils and butter when the wax is liquefied and melt all of the ingredients together.
- Stir constantly and keep a watchful eye on the oils. You want them to just reach the melting point and not overheat.
- Fill each tube halfway full and let cool slightly. This will set the bottom of the tube so that a hole doesn’t form in the top of the lip balm when cooled.
- Before the tubes are starting to set, fill the rest of the way, so there is a convex curve on the top (be careful not to spill over the edges). When the lip balm cools, it will shrink so it should end up having a flat top. If you need to even out the top, a heat gun works really well.
More Herb Infused Recipes for Healing Skin Care
- Dandelion Flower Herbal Oil Using the Cold-Infusion Method
- Common Garden Herbs for a Skin Care Apothecary
- Activated Charcoal Drawing Salve Recipe for Bug Bites, Blisters, Splinters
- All-Purpose Herbal Healing Salve
- Homemade After-Sun Salve Recipe
- Warming Turmeric and Cayenne Pain-Relief Balm
- Calendula Summer Lotion Bars Recipe
- Homemade Peppermint Healing Foot Balm that Cools + Soothes Sore Feet