Lemon balm is a plant with a long history of use as a relaxing herb.
Historically, lemon balm has been used as a topical remedy for wounds and venomous bites.
Modern research shows that this herb may be beneficial for mental health, brain function, and heart health. It has also been shown to have antiviral properties.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of lemon balm, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
- What is Lemon Balm?
- Health Benefits of Lemon Balm:
- Best Lemon Balm Supplement:
- Lemon Balm Safety:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
- History & Traditional Use:
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is a perennial plant. It was originally native to south-central Europe and the Mediterranean, but it can now be found growing wild throughout the United States and much of the rest of the world.
The Latin name for this herb is Melissa officinalis. It’s part of the Lamiaceae (mint) family of plants.
Lemon balm is primarily known for its uplifting and calming effects. It’s commonly made into a tea and used to soothe the mind and prepare the body for sleep. It’s also used as a natural sleep aid supplement.
Research reveals lemon balm’s health benefits, such as reducing PMS symptoms, managing blood pressure and cholesterol, helping relieve colic, as well as having antiviral properties.
Health Benefits of Lemon Balm:
There are many purported health benefits of lemon balm. This is a popular herb that has a good amount of human clinical research verifying its benefits.
1. May Improve Overall Sleep & Reduce Anxiety
Numerous studies show that lemon balm may help improve sleep and reduce anxiety. In fact, it’s one of the best herbs for anxiety.
An eight-week study of 80 participants demonstrated that supplementing with lemon balm was beneficial for patients experiencing sleeping issues and anxiety. The results showed improved sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep duration, and decreased stress, depression, and anxiety.
Another study conducted on hospitalized burn patients showed improved sleep quality and decreased anxiety and depression when given lemon balm tea twice per day.
Several clinical studies have tested lemon balm in combination with other herbs as a treatment to improve sleep, anxiety, and depression.
Another study using lemon balm and valerian evaluated menopausal women who experienced sleeping issues. Results indicated that this herbal combination could help promote sleep and improve overall sleep quality.
The combination of lemon balm extract with the addition of asparagus extract, saffron extract, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc in a study showed significant improvements in several sleep areas, including falling asleep, night-time awakening, overall sleep quality, feeling refreshed upon waking, and daytime functioning.
The combination of lemon balm and Persian lavender in a study revealed that it could help improve depression and anxiety for insomniacs while decreasing the overall severity of insomnia.
Summary:Research indicates that lemon balm may be able to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Additional large-scale clinical trials would be helpful for isolating the exact dose of lemon balm for anxiety and sleep.
2. May Support Cognitive Health
Research shows that lemon balm can significantly improve mood, calmness, and alertness.
Postpartum blues occur during the postpartum period, when mothers may experience depressive symptoms and low mood, which can lead to postpartum depression.
A clinical trial examined the incidence of postpartum blues on 60 women with cesarean section. Results showed that 500mg of lemon balm three times per day for ten days from the first-day post-cesarean section can significantly reduce the occurrence of postpartum blues.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
In a four-month clinical study involving participants with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, a daily lemon balm extract showed notable improvements in brain function, including enhancing mood and decreasing agitation.
Summary:Clinical research shows that lemon balm may be able to improve mood as well as overall brain function. Futher in-depth clinical studies are needed to prove these effects at scale.
3. May Help Treat Colic
Colic may occur during the first three months of a baby’s life and is characterized as excessive and inconsolable crying. This is usually due to an upset stomach or indigestion.
In a study of 88 breastfed colicky infants, those given an herbal lemom balm extract, chamomile, and fennel showed remarkable improvements in crying within one week. These results may be due to the antispasmodic effects of the herbs, which can help to calm the stomach.
Additionally, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) indicates the use of lemon balm internally for the treatment of minor digestive issues.
Summary:Lemon balm appears to be helpful in soothing digestive complaints. Further clinical research looking at the isolated impact of this herb on colic and other digestive complaints is needed.
4. May Reduce PMS & Dysmenorrhea Symptoms
Research indicates the use of lemon balm for reducing premenstrual syndrome symptoms as well as helping with dysmenorrhea.
A clinical trial of 43 females with moderate-to-severe dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps/pain) was conducted to compare lemon balm and a common pain drug (mefenamic acid) for pain management. Results revealed that lemon balm supplementation leads to a greater decrease in pain intensity than mefenamic acid.
Summary:Research indicates that lemon balm may be beneficial for women experiencing various premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
5. May Improve Cardiovascular Health & Diabetes
Researchers conducted a twelve-week study on patients with type II diabetes using 700mg of lemon balm per day. Findings revealed a significant improvement in laboratory biomarkers, including serum fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, CRP (inflammation marker), as well as systolic blood pressure.
Another clinical trial showed that lemon balm can notably decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The researchers reported a 10% (or greater) decrease in blood pressure.
A study was conducted on individuals who experienced benign heart palpitations. Results showed that those given 500mg of lemon balm extract twice per day had a reduced frequency of palpitation occurrences and reduced overall anxiousness.
Summary:Clinical studies show that lemon balm may provide a variety of cardiovascular health benefits. In particular, this herb appears to be effective for reducing blood pressure. Further clinical research is needed to verify the effectiveness of this herb in large populations.
6. May Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal condition where individuals may experience constipation and/or diarrhea, accompanied by abdominal pain and bloating.
Lemon balm may be one of the best natural remedies for gastrointestinal diseases. In a study of individuals diagnosed with IBS, those given a combination of lemon balm, spearmint, and coriander three times per day experienced significant relief in abdominal discomfort and bloating.
Germany’s Commission E, a governmental health agency, indicates that lemon balm is appropriate for use in individuals with gastrointestinal complaints.
Summary:Research shows that lemon balm may help to support digestive health. Additional large-scale trials would be helpful for isolating the exact impact of this herb on IBS.
Lemon balm has also been shown to be an effective herb for immune health.
An in vitro study was conducted to examine the antiviral activity of lemon balm essential oil on herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2. Findings concluded that this botanical has antiviral activity against these two viruses.
Another in vitro study looked at the antiviral activity of lemon balm essential oil and Tamiflu® (a common flu drug) for the treatment of influenza. The results showed that lemon balm effectively inhibited influenza virus growth. In addition, when used together, this herb was shown to increase the efficacy of Tamiflu®.
Summary:Lemon balm has been found to have antiviral properties. Human clinical trials are needed to determine the true impact of this herb on a variety of viruses.
8. Other Potential Benefits:
• Antibacterial Properties: A variety of lab-based studies show indications that lemon balm may be a useful herb for treating bacterial infections.
Summary:Lemon balm has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Best Lemon Balm Supplement:
As noted in this article, lemon balm benefits the body in a variety of ways, especially in aiding with relaxation and sleep. This begs the question, what is the best lemon balm supplement?
The best way to supplement with lemon balm is through either a tincture or an encapsulated formula. Lemon balm tea is also a great way to add this herb to your daily routine.
We recommend looking at Herb Pharm’s lemon balm tincture. Herb Pharm makes one of the best lemon balm supplements that we’ve come across. Their lemon balm supplements are made with certified organic lemon balm that’s grown on their farm in Oregon. Herb Pharm’s products are vegan and made in the USA.
Tea is another great way to add lemon balm to your routine. We recommend checking out FGO’s Organic Lemon Balm Tea bags. This certified organic and non-GMO verified tea is a great way to add lemon balm to your diet.
If you prefer capsules, you can pick up lemon balm capsules from Oregon’s Wild Harvest. This product is certified organic and easy to take.
Lemon Balm Safety:
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
The Botanical Safety Handbook puts lemon balm safety rating of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed. It has an interaction class of “A” which suggests no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.
Animal studies show that lemon balm may affect thyroid hormones and inhibit the binding of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the TSH receptors. Those with hypothyroidism should consume lemon balm with caution.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration classifies lemon balm as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in foods, teas, and supplements.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
No information on the safety of lemon balm during pregnancy and lactation has been identified.
Lemon balm has been safely used in infants with colic; therefore, appropriate doses of lemon balm consumed by breastfeeding mothers are not likely to be harmful.
Some research suggests that lemon balm is safe to consume during lactation with no adverse effects or increased risks.
Standard dosing for lemon balm is as follows:
Tincture (1:5):Take 2-6mL 3x/day.
Infusion (tea): Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2-3 tsp. of dried herb. Allow it to steep for about 15 minutes. Drink 1 cup of tea 2x/day or as needed.
Capsule: Take one 375mg capsule 3x/day.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Lemon balm is a herbaceous perennial that grows to about three feet in height.
This plant is also commonly called also called sweet balm, melissa balm, balm mint, and honey balm.
Originally native to Europe and the Mediterranean, lemon balm can now be found growing all throughout the world.
The leaves have a fragrance and flavor reminiscent of lemon, hence the name “lemon balm”. Lemon balm does not have invasive roots, unlike other members of the mint family. The small, yellow to pinkish-white flowers produce tiny seeds, which germinate quickly and are the primary reason for the plant’s vigorous dispersion.
This herb is easy to grow and rapidly spreads. It makes a wonderful addition to any herb garden.
Melissa is from the Greek word melisso, meaning “bee,” referencing the plant’s flower’s strong bee attraction and the quality of the honey produced. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, first assigned the genus Melissa to this plant in 1737.
The genus Melissa is very small and includes only four commonly accepted species
- M. officinalis
- M. axillaris
- M. flava
- and M. yunnanensis
The second half of the plant binomial “officinalis” indicates that this plant is the “official” version of lemon balm.
Melissa officinalis is a fast-spreading plant that grows throughout the world. As such, there are no concerns in regard to the sustainability of this plant.
It is recommended that individuals grow their own lemon balm or source from a reputable grower. It’s noted that in the United States, there are many small- to medium-sized organic growers in several states, including California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Maine, and New York.
History & Traditional Use:
One of the earliest known plant descriptions of lemon balm appeared in Historia Plantarum by Greek philosopher and botanist Theophrastus of Eresus, which is dated to around 372-287 BC.
In ancient Greek and Roman medicines, this herb was steeped in wine and used orally and topically for wounds and venomous bites.
Later on, in the 10th century, lemon balm was introduced to Spain by the Moors. It was later brought to central Europe by Benedictine monks.
The Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) described the medicinal uses of lemon balm in her book entitled Physica. It is believed that the original idea of “Carmelite Water”, a blend of alcohol, lemon balm, and a variety of other herbs and spices, may be traced back to around the year 1200 when Christian hermits began living in caves on Mount Carmel. This medicine was seen as a miracle cure for a variety of health complaints.
Throughout Europe, the plant has been used for memory support, restlessness, irritability, and cold sores. In Germany, it has been used as a tea for sleep and digestive disorders.
Lemon balm contains a variety of different phytochemical constituents. Below is a brief overview:
- Essential oil (including citral)
- Flavonoids, including quercetin, rhammocitrin, luteloin
- Polyphenolics, including protocatechuic acid, caffeic acid, and rosmarinic acid
- Triterpenic acids including ursolic acid and pomolic acid
Nervine, carminative, antispasmodic, antidepressant, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, hepatic, sedative
Lemon balm appears to be a safe and well-tolerated herb.
Common usage tells us that this herb is helpful for various mental health complaints. Clinical research appears to be promising in regard to reducing PMS symptoms, treating colic, and as well as supporting heart health. It also appears that this herb has strong antiviral properties.
It’s worth looking into this herb if you are needing support in any of these areas.
As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.
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