Mint is a refreshing herb that has many uses in cooking and home remedies. There are about 20 different varieties of mint.
Lesser known than its popular peppermint and spearmint cousins, lemon balm is actually a type of mint — with a unique set of benefits.
In this guide from Sunwink, we’ll explain exactly what lemon balm is and how it’s different from other mint types.
What Is Mint?
Mint — or mentha — is an aromatic herb that belongs to the Lamiacea family. It is native to countries bordering the Mediterranean sea and is used extensively in regional cuisine and home remedies.
Though there are about 20 different mint varieties, people are often most familiar with two of them, peppermint and spearmint. Different mint species have different potential health benefits.
What Are the Different Types of Mint?
The most popular mint types include:
- Curly mint
- Apple mint
- Pineapple mint
- Chocolate mint
- Grapefruit mint
…and many more.
As you can probably guess, many mint names hint at their flavor qualities. For instance, apple mint has a mild apple scent, while orange mint has a mild citrusy flavor.
When it comes to cooking, spearmint is probably the most used mint. Whether it’s for brewing herbal teas or seasoning meat, it’s the mint type that you’re most likely to find in someone’s kitchen.
Peppermint may prove too strong for many dishes. However, because of its high potency, it’s very popular for home remedies. It’s usually processed into peppermint oil, which can be either used on its own or further refined into menthol.
What Is Mint Used For?
Mint is traditionally used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking for flavoring dishes like lamb, poultry, salads, and sauces. It is also a favorite ingredient for making herbal tea, which is as easy as steeping mint leaves in hot water.
However, mint is perhaps most popular for use in supporting health and wellness. While the specific benefits of mint really depend on which type is used, mint is generally well-known for the following benefits.
1. Aids Digestion
For those experiencing an upset stomach, like bloating, cramps, and nausea, mint can be an excellent way to get back on track.
In addition, one type of mint — spearmint — contains a compound called carvone. This compound can inhibit muscle contractions in the digestive tract, leading to some relief.
One study found that spearmint can help soothe digestive pain, bloating, and general discomfort.
2. Supports Clear Skin
Mint has various anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm redness and irritation. Mint may help reduce the appearance of pimples, rashes, bug bites, and even sunburn, ease discomfort, and soothe the skin.
3. Support Hormonal Health
An imbalance in sex hormones can lead some women to experience various health problems, such as extreme PMS, skin breakouts, and even fertility issues.
One study found that spearmint tea can potentially offer some relief. Drinking mint tea may help support a healthy balance of hormones.
While researchers aren’t sure exactly how mint affects hormones, it seems to be a promising remedy for those with hormonal issues.
What Is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It has lemon-scented leaves that have made it a popular cooking herb in the Mediterranean and Central Asia.
While the name may mislead you, lemon balm is not actually a balm (like the type you put on your skin) — although it can certainly be made into one.
Unlike some other mint varieties, lemon balm contains a compound called rosmarinic acid. Researchers think that this compound has strong antioxidant properties, which can prevent oxidative damage caused by harmful UV rays, air pollution, and environmental toxins.
Rosmarinic acid may also have antimicrobial properties, which can help it to directly attack infection-causing bacteria and viruses.
How Is Lemon Balm Used?
Lemon Balm has many of the same uses as other plants in the mint family. However, researchers also found that lemon balm can help support mental health and promote feelings of wellness.
Here are some benefits that lemon balm can offer:
1. Support Mental Calm
For those with high levels of stress, lemon balm can help to provide some relief. One study found that taking just 0.3 grams of lemon balm extract significantly reduced feelings of tension and supported a positive mood.
Researchers think these calming effects are thanks to rosmarinic acid, which can support healthy levels of a brain chemical known as GABA. This chemical has an inhibitory effect on the brain, which can produce a deep sense of calm.
2. Support Skin Health
Lemon balm may help support overall skin health and skin cell health, likely thanks to its antioxidant properties. More research is needed to confirm how and why lemon balm might aid skin health, but its rich flavonoid and phenolic contents may be beneficial.
3. Support Brain Health
In addition to rosmarinic acid, lemon balm has another compound of interest to researchers: citral. This compound may help support cognitive function, especially when it comes to thinking, learning, and memory.
While more research is needed, lemon balm could be a promising supplement that offers support for brain health.
Lemon Balm vs. Mint: How Are They Different?
Even though lemon balm technically comes from the mint family, it’s slightly different from common mint types, like spearmint and peppermint.
Thanks to its high content of other compounds, such as rosmarinic acid, it can be used for the same purposes as other mint types — and then some. For instance, lemon balm may be more likely to be used for supporting brain health than other types of mint.
However, in the end, both lemon balm and mint are excellent for improving general wellbeing. We love these two superfoods for supporting digestion, supporting feelings of calmness, and soothing irritated skin.
A Refreshing Superfood
Mint — and its many varieties, such as lemon balm — have been used for centuries to flavor food, soothe irritated skin, and support healthy digestion.
You can add fresh mint to your recipes, brew it in a tea, or drink it in our Hibiscus Mint Unwind Sparkling Superfood Tonic to experience its refreshingly awesome benefits.