Lemon balm and mint are perennial herbaceous plants in the family Lamiaceae. Although these scented herbs belong to the same family and look similar, they differ in several ways.
So, what is the difference between lemon balm vs mint? The major differences between lemon balm and mint are in terms of appearance, taste, aroma, uses, and medicinal properties. Lemon balm is a species in the Lamiaceae (mint family). Mint belongs to the same family but is a genus rather than a species. There are around 40 different mint varieties.
This article tells you what mint and lemon balm are and explores the biggest differences between these two scented herbs.
What Is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb in the Lamiaceae family. This fragrant herb is native to the Mediterranean basin, Iran, Central Asia, and south-central Europe, but is now also grown elsewhere.
Lemon balm plants form a bush and grow to a maxim height of 3 feet 3 inches. The plant’s leaves are soft and hairy with scalloped edges and have a mild lemon scent.
This lemon-scented herb develops small white flowers full of nectar that attract bees during the summer. Lemon balm is sometimes confused with bee balm even though their flowers differ in color.
Lemon balm has several uses. Its leaves are used as a herb in teas and as a flavoring. The lemon balm plant is used to attract bees for honey production, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant, or grown for its oil.
What Is Mint?
Mint, also known as mentha, is a genus in the family Lamiaceae (mint family). There are over 40 species of mint, that vary in appearance and aroma.
This aromatic perennial herb grows across Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa, North America, and South America. Mint species can be found in different environments, but most thrive in moist soils and wet environments.
Mints grow from 4 to 48 inches tall and can spread over a large area. These herbs have wide-spreading overground and underground runners, and upright, square, branched stems. Mint tends to spread unchecked and some species are considered invasive.
Mint leaves are positioned in opposite pairs and range in color from dark green to grey-green, purple, blue, and even pale yellow. They have a strong and refreshing smell that’s slightly spicy and distinctively minty.
Mint’s refreshing flavor makes it a popular ingredient in many recipes. This herb also has medicinal properties and can cool, soothe, and reduce inflammation.
Difference between Lemon Balm vs Mint
Mint and lemon balm belong to the same family but vary in many ways. These two herbs look similar and have similar origins but they differ in appearance, taste, and uses.
Take a look at the biggest differences between lemon balm and mint.
Lemon balm and mint are both herbs in the mint family. Although they share some characteristics, there are several key differences in their appearance.
Lemon balm has bright green, heart-shaped leaves with a soft and hairy texture. The leaves have a rough, veined surface, and scalloped edges, and are larger than mint leaves.
Lemon balm’s stems are square-shaped and typically green in color. This herb grows around 3 feet tall and produces small white or pale pink flowers that bloom during summer.
On the other hand, mint has smaller and more pointed leaves than a lemon balm, which are dark green in color. Mint’s leaves are also smoother than lemon balm’s leaves.
Mint also has square-shaped stems, but they can be green or purple in color. These fragrant herbs can grow up to 4 feet tall and develop white, purple, or pink-colored flowers.
Taste and Aroma
Although they look similar, lemon balm and mint taste and smell differently.
Lemon balm has a sweet and fresh lemony aroma with a hint of mint. This herb tastes like lemonade and boasts a pleasantly refreshing citrusy flavor.
Mint, on the other hand, has a strong and distinctively minty flavor. When squeezed, mint leaves produce a cool and refreshing aroma, that’s minty and slightly spicy at the same time.
Both mint and lemon balm have culinary and medicinal uses.
Fresh or dried leaves of lemon balm plant can be used to add refreshing lemony flavor and aroma to various dishes and beverages. Lemon balm is known for having anti-spasmodic and calming properties and can be used to soothe an upset stomach, calm the nervous system, promote relaxation, reduce LDL cholesterol, and calm restless behavior.
Mint’s refreshing flavor makes it a popular addition to various dishes and beverages, including teas and cocktails. This herb is also prised for its medicinal properties and is used to relieve nausea and gas, stimulate blood flow, inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria, and soothe the stomach and muscle cramps.
Can We use Mint instead of Lemon Balm?
Yes, you can use mint instead of lemon balm in recipes. Mint can provide the same flavor as a lemon balm in recipes, but without the lemony aroma. To make up for that, you can use mint and lemon zest as a substitute for lemon balm in any recipe.
Does Lemon Balm Smell Like Mint?
Lemon balm is a part of the mint family, but it doesn’t smell exactly like mint. Lemond balm leaves smell like lemon with a hint of mint. On the other hand, mint has a stronger, minty aroma without any lemony notes.
Lemon balm and mint are perennial herbaceous plants that belong to the same family. These two aromatic herbs and similar in many ways, but differ in several key aspects.
While there is only one lemon balm, there are over 40 different varieties of mint. Lemon balm has a sweet lemony taste with mild minty undertones, while mint has a strong and refreshing minty aroma.
Mint also has smaller and darker leaves than lemon balm and grows taller. The leaves of mint plants are also more delicate and smoother than lemon balm leaves which have a rough and hairy surface.