Lemon balm belongs to the mint family. This herb is native to Europe, West Asia, and North Africa. Studies show it can help relieve stress and boost mental health in several other ways (1).
It tastes refreshing and citrusy with a hint of lemon and is often used for culinary purposes. Research has revealed the many other ways lemon balm can promote your health. In this post, we will discuss potential benefits, dosage, and side effects of lemon balm.
Table Of Contents
What Are The Potential Health Benefits Of Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is primarily known to relieve stress and anxiety and boost cognitive health. It can also help treat insomnia, thanks to its calming effects. Some research states that it may help lower blood glucose levels.
1. May Help Relieve Stress And Anxiety
Studies on lemon balm show that it can boost mood in individuals. This was found true with most food products containing lemon balm as the primary ingredient (1).
In mice studies, the administration of lemon balm extracts reduced the levels of stress and anxiety. These were also found to boost cognitive performance in humans (2). However, more research is needed to understand the mechanism of regulation.
In another study, lemon balm could ameliorate negative moods and also increase self-ratings of calmness (3). The potential of lemon balm in mitigating the effects of stress needs further investigation.
Certain rat studies show that lemon balm may aid depression treatment (4). However, the efficacy of the herb in this regard was based on administration length and gender. More research is warranted before we can conclude if lemon balm could be useful in treating depression in humans.
Taking lemon balm in a capsule form (300 mg) twice a day may help relieve stress or anxiety (3).
2. May Boost Cognitive Function
The administration of lemon balm was suggested to improve cognitive performance. Studies show an increased sense of calmness and improved memory performance in individuals who were administered lemon balm extracts (5).
Lemon balm was also found to have an influence on long-term memory. In rat studies, the administration of the herb had positively impacted their long-term memory. This property could be attributed to the synergistic effects between the various compounds of lemon balm, including caffeic acid (6).
The extracts of lemon balm were also found to have potential in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Individuals with Alzheimer’s experienced significant benefits in cognition after 16 weeks of treatment with lempon extracts (7). These results need further investigation.
You may take lemon balm in capsule form (300 mg) thrice a day for results. However, research is unclear on the dosage, so please consult your doctor.
3. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
Lemon balm may exhibit glycemic control, as per studies. It contains flavonoids and flavonols that may help lower blood sugar levels. In addition, the herb may also combat inflammation and high cholesterol, which are two serious effects of diabetes (9).
In another study, the administration of lemon balm extracts was found to prevent and simultaneously treat type 2 diabetes and associated disorders (like high cholesterol) (10).
However, more research is warranted in this regard. Please consult your doctor before using lemon balm for managing diabetes symptoms.
4. May Treat Insomnia
Studies show that lemon balm and valerian combinations can have beneficial effects on adults with insomnia and other sleep disorders. The herb could improve the condition without causing any form of daytime sedation or rebound phenomena (8).
Lemon balm can also assist in reducing the symptoms of sleep disorders during menopause (11).
A combination of lemon balm and Nepeta menthoides Boiss. & Buhse was found to improve insomnia associated with depression. It achieves this by inducing a self-related sense of calmness in the individual.
Lemon balm also works by inhibiting the function of GABA transaminase, which is an enzyme that degrades the activity of GABA neurotransmitter (12). GABA neurotransmitter regulates anxiety in humans.
A lemon balm and valerian preparation was found to be effective in the treatment of dyssomnia and restlessness in children (13).
This combination can help treat insomnia and other related sleep disorders (13). Please consult your doctor regarding the dosage.
5. May Help Treat Cold Sores
Lemon balm may have inhibitory effects on the Herpes simplex virus, which is the major cause of cold sores. This effect can be attributed to the antiviral properties of lemon balm (14). More clinical trials are needed on this medicinal plant.
Similar effects were observed with lemon balm essential oil. Its ability to penetrate the skin layers may make it a suitable treatment for cold sores (15).
Lemon balm also has antihistamine effects and may be helpful in treating insect bites as well (16).
You can apply a lemon balm cream to the sores, at least 4 times daily for 5 days (17). Ensure you do a patch test first before applying the cream. You can buy the cream at your nearest pharmacy or online.
6. May Help Relieve Nausea
It is believed that lemon balm was used historically to treat nausea. However, there is lack of evidence in modern research (18).
Please check with your doctor before using lemon balm for relieving nausea.
7. May Promote Digestive Health
The tea prepared from the leaves of the lemon balm herb may ease digestive disturbances (19).
Other research also states that lemon balm can help treat indigestion associated with flatulence and nervous tension (20).
You may use lemon balm powder to aid digestive health. Mixing it with your smoothie should help. Please check with your doctor regarding the dosage.
8. May Lower Blood Pressure Levels
There is limited research available to support this.
One rat study states that intake of lemon balm may have a mild protective effect on arrhythmias, which is a condition where the heart beats with an irregular rhythm. This condition may be related to elevated blood pressure levels (21). However, further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms and dosage of lemon balm extract that can have these antiarrhythmic effects.
9. May Relieve Headache
Lemon balm has been traditionally used to treat stress-induced headache. Its essential oil also has use in the treatment of headaches (22).
In some countries, the tea made from lemon balm leaves is used as a treatment for migraine (23).
The exact mechanism of lemon balm in treating headaches is yet to be completely researched. You may consume lemon balm tea to relieve headaches (we will discuss its preparation in a later section in this post).
10. May Relieve Toothache
Lemon balm has been traditionally used to relieve toothaches (24). However, more research is warranted in this regard.
11. May Promote Menstrual Health
Studies show that lemon balm can reduce the severity of the symptoms of menstruation. The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb play a role in relieving pain and cramps commonly associated with menstruation (25).
In another study conducted on high school girl students, lemon balm capsules were found to be effective in reducing PMS symptoms (26). However, the application of this medication requires further investigation.
While a few of the benefits of lemon balm have been proven, a few others warrant further research. This doesn’t have to stop you from relishing the goodness of the herb, though.
The simplest way to enjoy the herb is through its tea.
How To Prepare Lemon Balm Tea
What You Need
- 1 tablespoon of dry lemon balm leaves (Buy them here)
- 10 ounces of water
- Honey (optional)
- Add the leaves to a tea strainer and place it over a teacup.
- Boil the water.
- Pour the boiled water into the teacup and allow the leaves to steep for about 10 minutes.
- Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired.
You can drink the tea once or twice a day. But hold on, this tea (or even the herb) may not be for everyone.
What Are The Side Effects Of Lemon Balm?
- May Interfere With Thyroid Function
Studies show that lemon balm may interfere with thyroid function. The herb may act as a thyroid disruptor (27). Hence, those with thyroid issues (including hypothyroidism) must keep away from lemon balm.
- May Interfere With Medications
Lemon balm may interfere with medications for glaucoma or diabetes.
It may increase intraocular pressure and, hence, must be used with caution while taking medications for glaucoma (28).
As lemon balm has a calming effect, it should not be taken along with alcohol or other sedatives (28).
For the ideal dosage of lemon balm, do consult a doctor. But the following values must give you some idea (28).
- Fluid extract – 60 drops a day
- Tincture – 2 ml to 6ml, thrice a day
- Leaf powder – 8 grams to 10 grams
- Tea – 1 cup of 1.5 grams to 4.5 grams, multiple times a day (as needed)
Does Lemon Balm Interact With Any Drugs Or Herbs?
Lemon balm may interact with different classes of drugs, including barbiturates, sedatives, nicotine and scopolamine, and SSRIs (29).
Lemon balm may also interact with other herbs, including ashwagandha root, calamus, calendula, capsicum, catnip, cough grass, German chamomile, gotu kola, St, John’s wort, stinging nettle, valerian, and wild lettuce (28).
The major use of lemon balm is in possibly boosting mental health. Certain other potential benefits warrant further research. However, you can include lemon balm in your diet after consulting your healthcare provider.
Also, be wary of the interactions lemon balm can have with certain medications.
How do you plan to include lemon balm in your routine? Do share with us by leaving a comment in the box below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does lemon balm help you lose weight?
Lemon balm is often used in weight loss formulations, given its ability to reduce stress (30). However, there is no direct research stating the efficacy of lemon balm in reducing weight.
Is it safe to take lemon balm every day?
Yes. But be wary of the possible side effects.
Can you freeze fresh lemon balm?
Lemon balm is best used when fresh. But you can store the leaves for a few days in the freezer. Chop the leaves and combine them with fresh water in an ice cube tray.
Can you eat lemon balm leaves raw?
Yes. You can add the raw leaves directly to salads or to other already-cooked recipes.
- Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm), Psychosomatic Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) extract in rats: Influence of administration and gender, Indian Journal of Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties, Neuropsychopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Influence of the Melissa officinalis Leaf Extract on Long-Term Memory in Scopolamine Animal Model with Assessment of Mechanism of Action, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Hindawi.
- Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with
mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial, Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The use of alternative therapies in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Paediatrics & Child Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Efficacy of Melissa officinalis L. (lemon balm) extract on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial, Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Lemon balm extract causes potent antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic effects in insulin‐resistant obese mice, United States Department of Agriculture.
- Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effects of Herbal combination (Melissa officinalis L. and Nepeta menthoides Boiss. & Buhse) on insomnia severity, anxiety and depression in insomniacs: Randomized placebo controlled trial, Integrative Medicine Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children, Phytomedicine, ScienceDirect.
- Inhibitory activity of Melissa officinalis L. extract on Herpes simplex virus type 2 replication, Natural Product Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses, Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Assessment of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis L.) Hydrogels: Quality and Bioactivity in Skin Cells, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis, Phytomedicine, ScienceDirect.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, ResearchGate.
- Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- The Protective Effect of Melissa officinalis L. in Visceral Hypersensitivity in Rat Using 2 Models of Acid-induced Colitis and Stress-induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Possible Role of Nitric Oxide Pathway, Journal of Neurogastoenterology and Motility, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Efficacy of Melissa officinalis in Suppressing Ventricular Arrhythmias following Ischemia-Reperfusion of the Heart: A Comparison with Amiodarone, Medical Principles and Practice, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The Effect of Melissa Officinalis Extract on the Severity of Primary Dysmenorrha, Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Does Melissa Officinalis Cause Withdrawal or Dependence?, Medical Archives, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- An Overview of Badranjboya (Melissa officinalis), International Research Journal of Biological Sciences.
- The Effects of Lemon balm on Menstrual Bleeding and the Systemic Manifestation of Dysmenorrhea, Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of Melissa officinalis Capsule on the Intensity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms in High School Girl Students, Nursing and Midwifery Studies, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- In vitro assay of thyroid disruptors affecting TSH-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity, Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, ResearchGate.
- Herb–drug interactions: an overview of systematic reviews, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
- Using Herbal Remedies to Maintain Optimal Weight, The Journal of Nurse Practitioners, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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