The Real Differences Between Lemon Balm vs Mint to Know!


When you think of lemon balm and mint, you think: Wait, aren’t they the same? (*)

They smell similar and look alike, so their name must be the only difference!

We hate to break it to you, but these are two totally different herbs. The question you want to ask is: Are they at least closely related cousins or completely unrelated and just share striking similarities?

That’s where we come along, folks!

Read on as we share the comparison guide of lemon balm vs mint.

image of mint vs lemon balm

Lemon Balm Vs Mint: Differences, Similarities, Uses to Know

Lemon balm vs balm is two of the more popular herbs worldwide for sweet and savory preparations. They come from the same family but have different branches of the family. Here are how to tell them apart:

1. Varieties

There are about 40 varieties of mint, while there is only one lemon balm, which is the Melissa Officinalis. So, we can say that mint has more to offer, with people preferring the popular spearmint.

Fun fact: There is also such as thing as lemon mint, which is also called the lemon beebalm. This is great in curries, lamb roasts, Greek dishes, and flavor fruit jams, jellies, or other fruit recipes.

We’ll be focusing more on spearmint for this article when comparing lemon balm vs mint. But other than mint, there are many variations, like spearmint, peppermint, or even light apple-mint. There are even heavily cocoa-based mints!

image of lemon balm

2. Perennial and Annual

Lemon balm is a bushy perennial featuring oval leaves. The plant has a robust central spine with veins pointed outwards.

Mint appears similar in appearance and is an annual plant. Their difference is their height. The lemon balm can grow up to 24 inches tall, while other varieties can grow up to a whopping eight feet tall! (*)

When growing them, they are intrusive in nature, growing by runners. Because of that, it’s a bit difficult keeping those herbs. You can use pots and containers to grow these herbs, but you’ll see these runners escaping the bottom.

3. Their Origins

Fun fact: Lemon balm is actually a mint! It comes from the mint family, the Lamiaceae. Mint is an annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Monarda spp genus, where basil and oregano come from.

As for lemon balm, it’s a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Melissa spp genus.

image of mint

4. Location

Lemon balm is a native herb in Iran and the Mediterranean Basin. They are also found in Central Asia, North Africa, and south-central Europe. As for mint, it’s widespread in Africa, Australia, mainland Europe, and North America.

5. Type

Lemon balm is the only one in its genus, so it isn’t as versatile as mint. On the other hand, mint has over 40 varieties with light to heavy flavors to choose from!

6. Appearance

We understand that lemon balm and mint look the same, even we can’t tell these apart from time to time! But they have different physical characteristics, so it’s easy to identify which is which.

For starters, the lemon balm plant grows up to two feet tall with bright green foliage if exposed to a lot of sunlight. As for mint plants, their height can range from six inches to three feet. They can even grow taller than that, depending on the variety. The leaves are dark green, having smooth, matte surfaces.

7. Aroma and Taste

When rubbing the leaves of a lemon balm, you’ll smell citrus and zesty warmth. As for mint, you’ll just get that lovely, fresh mint scent. There are mint varieties with varying aromas, ranging from pineapple to chocolate scents. But one thing they have in common is that underlying menthol aroma.

In terms of taste, lemon balm would have a lemony flavor and just a hint of mint, whereas mint tastes sweet and cold. You’ll have a chilly sensation with mint’s menthol presence.

8. Health Benefits

One thing’s for sure: Both lemon balm and mint have notable health benefits you can take advantage of!

Did you know that lemon balm can reduce anxiety and stress because it helps with your calmness? Moreover, other health benefits include lessening insomnia, nausea, indigestion, or cold sores. (*)

As for mint, they help freshen bad breath, again thanks to the presence of menthol. Also, mint leaves help treat IBS and improve brain function! (*)

Pro-tip: We recommend getting mint with bright and unblemished leaves, which you can eat on its own, steep in tea, or add to your other favorite dishes. Avoid over-chopping or using a dull knife for the mind, as this can have it to lose its flavor!

Are There Any Similarities Between Lemon Balm vs Mint?

Now that we’ve tackled the differences, you’re probably wondering about these two herbs’ similarities.

For starters, these two herbs have similar garden characteristics. Since the lemon balm comes from the mint family (though it’s a perennial herb), both lemon balm and mint have similar gardening requirements. You grow them in well-drained soil with a lot of water! They also have similar weather requirements and harvesting methods.

And of course, we can’t forget their similar shape, which is what has people mistake one for the other!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When do you use lemon balm or mint?

While they may have slightly different purposes, you can use either lemon balm or mint in food and drinks like:

Fun fact: Lemon balm is a gnat and mosquito repellent. It's also a scented fragrance and bee attractor that people love applying to their skin. Furthermore, it offers a soothing and calming effect, helpful for those who feel stress and anxiety.

Lemon balm is great in dishes that taste great with a mild citrus note, particularly in fish and poultry.

It’s also lovely in salads.

Mint is excellent for its herbaceous character and cooling effect, perfect for meats’ gamey flavors, like lamb or mutton. It’s also suitable for brightening salads and certain beverages.

2. Can you use lemon balm as a mint substitute and vice versa?

Yes, it’s possible to use these two herbs interchangeably if needed or desired. However, it will have your dishes taste different!

If you want more zest in your food or drinks, we recommend lemon balm. But if you prefer a cooler sensation and menthol on your tongue, we recommend using mint. If you can’t find any lemon balm, mint will suffice, but again, expect a change in flavor and sensation!

3. What other herbs look like mint and lemon balm?

Thai basil and catnip look a lot like lemon balm and mint, and this most likely has something to do with sharing similar origins.

Catnip tastes more similar to mint but has a weaker flavor. It would have a woody and grass-like flavor when added to your tea.

Wrapping It Up

Out of everything said here about lemon balm vs mint, it all boils down to these significant differences: Lemon balm isn’t as famous as mint, which is easier to find. Furthermore, expect a mild lemony flavor from lemon balm, while mint is, well, it’s just minty!

We hope that our comparison guide on lemon balm vs mint helped you correctly differentiate these two herbs. Make sure you use the appropriate herb to prepare your food and drinks!

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