Lemon Balm vs Mint: Similarities & Differences
I know we all have that moment—seeing two plants with similar appearances and wondering if they are somehow related. That is exactly what I thought when I personally saw lemon balm and mint side by side.
Generally, lemon balm has a variety of uses in the culinary and cosmetic fields. However, mint is also a good choice as a culinary spice, a digestive pain reliever, and a toothpaste additive because of its menthol flavor.
Are they similar or different in taste? How about nutrient value? Uses? Lifespan? Hold those questions up because they will be answered in just a while. Let us dive in!
Lemon balm and mint are similar in terms of leaf color, leaf texture, and stem type. However, they are different in leaf edges, stem color, flower structure, and flower color range.
The texture of lemon balm and mint leaves are somehow similar. However, they differ in terms of the sharpness of their leaf edges. Lemon balm leaves have sharper edges compared to mint leaves.
Both lemon balm and mint are green in terms of leaf color. They are also comparable when it comes to their texture as observed in the picture above, right? However, you can notice a slight difference between their leaf edges—lemon balm has sharper and smaller edges.
Most of the time, lemon balm stems are light green in color. Meanwhile, mint stems, depending on the specific variety, range from light green to purple.
Both lemon balm and mint have an herbaceous stem. This means they are filled with water and are crunchy when you pinch them!
Conversely, their difference lies in color. Since mint has more varieties than lemon balm, it has a wider range of stem colors—from green to purple. On the other hand, lemon balm stems are commonly light green in color.
The average lemon balm flower has broad white, yellow, or purple petals that open on leaf axils when they bloom. Conversely, mint flowers are clustered and grow at the end of the stem. They can be white or purple in color and grow with spikes.
The flowers of lemon balm, as seen in the picture above, are quite small. They look like the typical flowers we used to draw when we were kids! (You will figure out why I mentioned this later.)
Lemon balm flowers have oval petals and they can be white, yellow, or purple in color. They bloom beside the stem (leaf axil) during the summer. And guess what—they can attract bees!
In contrast, mint flowers do not look anything like the flowers we used to draw when we were kids! Mint flowers grow at the end of the stem and they look like a bunch of very little flowers with spikes. Their color can also be white or purple.
Lemon balm has a lemon-like taste with a mild mint flavor, while mint highly tastes like menthol.
Do you know what causes lemon balm’s lemony and minty taste? Let me introduce you to citral and citronellal! These are the two chemicals responsible for producing a strong taste and aroma in a variety of herbs and fruits. They can be found in lemongrass, orange, and even in citrus peelings.
In the case of mint, there are a lot more chemicals that determine their flavor and scent. You may ask why. The answer is because it also has different types!
Ever wondered why water feels cold after eating mint?
Learn more about this phenomenon in our article about mint.
We have peppermint, spearmint, cornmint, pennyroyal, and citrata, among others. Perhaps, you are most familiar with peppermint and spearmint, so let us focus on them.
For peppermint, the major chemicals responsible for its taste are menthone and menthol. Yes, you got that right—menthol is a chemical compound! These are the same chemicals used as additives in candies and gums.
On the other hand, the chemical carvone causes the flavor of spearmint. This chemical is commonly used in car air fresheners, lotions, and soaps. Aside from spearmint, carvone is also naturally found in mandarin orange peels.
3. Nutritional Value
Both lemon balm and mint contain several nutrients and minerals. As such, adding these herbs to dishes not only enhances the taste and aroma but also improves the nutritional value of the food.
|Nutrient||Lemon Balm (dried 100g)||Mint (dried 100g)|
|Calories||172.8 kcal||280 kcal|
|Total Fat||4 g||6 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 mg|
|Sodium||126 mg||340 mg|
|Potassium||1404 mg||1920 mg|
|Total Carbohydrates||32 g||52 g|
|Protein||13 g||20 g|
Lemon balm makes a good choice for those concerned about their calorie intake! This is because the calorie content of lemon balm is lower than mint. Overall, mint has higher total fat, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein. Meanwhile, both herbs have zero cholesterol.
Lemon balm and mint can be used in a variety of industries namely culinary and cosmetics.
1. Lemon Balm vs Mint in Culinary
In general, lemon balm is used extensively in culinary arts for its distinct flavor—from appetizers to desserts. Meanwhile, mint is commonly used purely as a spice, tea, or decoration.
Lemon balm can be described as a versatile herb! Why? Because it can be used to give additional flavor to beverages, appetizers, main courses, and even desserts!
Imagine, it can be incorporated into appetizers such as salads, sandwiches, and soups. It can also be stuffed or added to proteins such as fish, poultry, pork, veal, and egg dishes.
Lemon balm can also improve the flavor of vegetables, fruit cups, jams, jellies, sauces, marinades, dressings, herb vinegar, and wine. It can be added to cakes, custards, tarts, ice cream, cookies, and pies as well!
On the other hand, mint is harvested and then either used fresh or dried. It is used as a spice for dishes to add that menthol punch. Most chefs also incorporate mint as a decoration for food plating. Mint is also commonly consumed as tea.
2. Lemon Balm vs Mint in Cosmetics
Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, lemon balm is one of the best ingredients for cosmetics. It is now used in the creation of various skincare products. On the other hand, mint is used to manufacture skin, bath, makeup, and dental products.
An interesting fact about lemon balm is that it is proven effective against the herpes simplex virus. With this property, it has become an ideal ingredient to produce skincare products. An example of this is a homemade lip balm that can not only moisturize, but also prevent cold sores.
Here are other common skincare products with lemon balm;
- Bath bags
- Skin cleansers
- Facial steam
- Hair rinses
In comparison, mint imparts a very refreshing aroma and taste to products. This is why it is commonly used as an additive to dental products. Furthermore, mint’s essential oil can also act as a conditioning agent Thus, its use in the cosmetic and personal care industry.
Other Uses of Lemon Balm and Mint
Lemon balm can also be used in:
- Designing crafts
- Repelling insects
- Weed prevention in gardens
- Controlling for soil erosion
- Preserving food
Similarly, mint has a variety of other commercial and industrial applications too.
Mint can also be used for:
- Additional liquor flavoring
- Perfume oil formulations
- Tobacco production
So if you’re feeling experimental, you could try out your hand in any of these. Personally, I find that being able to create DIY insect repellents using these aromatic herbs from my garden is both exciting and practical!
On average, lemon balm can last up to 20–30 years while mint typically only lasts for 5–10 years.
Wait, what? You may be in shock right now.
Herbs such as lemon balm and mint rapidly grow and can dominate your garden! They can thrive for many years because they are classified as perennial herbs.
Perennial herbs are capable of living longer because they grow and spread each year. During winter, these perennial herbs die back to the ground and grow again during the spring.
Learn more about the reproduction of mint in our article is mint a creeper?
The method used for harvesting lemon balm and mint is the same. When harvesting herbs such as lemon balm and mint, one just needs to pinch the leaves using their fingers or a pair of scissors.
Here’s a little trivia for you!
Did you know that after pinching the ends of herbs like lemon balm and mint, more side leaves will grow? This is because the sugars that are promoting the growth at the end of the stem will now shift and devote their energy to producing new leaves on the side.
This is the same principle as to why you can have an unlimited supply of herbs such as basil! Pretty amazing, right?
Where to Buy Lemon Balm and Mint?
Below are lemon balm and mint seeds available on Amazon.
Herb Seeds (Set of 5). This choice will give you more bang for your buck as it has 3 other seeds that you can transform into a home garden! This set will also be a perfect gift for anyone who wants to have their own garden.
Both mint and lemon seed products below are open-pollinated varieties, heirlooms, and come with an easy-to-follow guide.
Can you replace lemon balm with mint?
Mint can also provide the same flavor that lemon balm offers, but without the lemony taste. To make up for that, it is advised to add some lemon zest. Hence, you can use mint and lemon zest as a replacement for lemon balm in any recipe.
Is lemon balm better than mint?
Lemon balm has a more complex flavor compared to mint because it incorporates a lemony taste with menthol. However, using either of these two depends on your desired taste. If you want your food with a lemon kick, go with lemon balm. If you are only interested in the menthol flavor, using mint would be a good choice.
Summary of Lemon Balm vs Mint
Lemon balm and mint are perennial herbs that are similar in terms of their leaf texture, leaf color, and stem type. They are also rich sources of antioxidants because of their flavonoid content. Both are being used in the culinary, medicine, and cosmetics industries. They are also harvested easily by pinching or cutting with the use of scissors.
In terms of appearance, these herbs differ in terms of the sharpness of their leaf edges, stem color, flower structure, and flower color range. Mint has a wider range of flower and stem colors—from light green to purple—because it has more varieties.
In terms of taste, mint has a menthol flavor while lemon balm has an additional lemony taste. For benefits, lemon balm is considered a “herb cure-all”; whereas mint is more involved in dental applications. The lifespan of lemon balm is also longer (20-30 years) compared to mint (5-10 years).
- “Health Benefits of Mint Leaves” by Brennan D, M.D. in WebMD
- “Lemon Balm: An Herb Society of America Guide” by The Herb Society of America in Herb Society
- “Reading Manual for Mint and Mint Product Processing Under PMFME Scheme” by National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management in Ministry of Food Processing Industries