Lemon balm, known as a calming herb, helps everything from anxiety to indigestion. It’s a perennial member of the mint family, its leaves having a light lemon fragrance.
Lemon balm is known by many other names, such as bee balm, cure-all, dropsy plant, honey plant, garden balm, heart's delight, sweet balm, and sweet Mary.
Native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia, lemon balm can be found in many parts of the world. Its small white flowers attract bees and other pollinators, while its lemony scent repels mosquitoes.
Lemon balm has been used as medicine for over a thousand years, believed to help with various disorders.
Studies have shown that the herb is a potential treatment for many issues, from anxiety to menstrual symptoms.
Lemon balm has been shown to provide the following health benefits:
If you need to relieve stress, lemon balm can help lower anxiety and nervousness.
Some research has shown that lemon balm extract can improve one's mood and attention. A study found that chemicals called terpenes found in lemon balm can help calm agitation in people with severe dementia by reactivating brain circuits.
Research has shown that when combined with herbs like valerian, lemon balm helps improve sleep. Also, drinking lemon balm tea can help with insomnia.
Easing Digestive Problems
Compounds in lemon balm may relieve gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating and indigestion.
Healing Cold Sores
Lemon balm ointments have been found to help heal cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Ease Menstrual Pain
The compound rosmarinic acid in lemon balm may help minimize the severity of menstrual symptoms like cramps and fatigue.
Although there are many benefits of using lemon balm, and it’s generally seen as safe, consuming it may have some health risks.
Thyroid Medication and Sedatives
If you’re taking thyroid medication or sedatives for insomnia, ask your doctor before consuming lemon balm — the herb can interact with these drugs.
Lemon balm may interact with HIV medications, but not enough is known at this time.
There have been some reports that taking lemon balm may increase eye pressure, impacting glaucoma.
Amounts and Dosage
There is currently no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) of lemon balm. The American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook lists lemon balm as a “class 1” herbal product, which refers to herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately.
In clinical trials, doses of 300 to 1,600 milligrams of lemon balm extract have been studied. One study found that after a 900 mg dose of lemon balm, reduced alertness was reported, possibly impairing the ability to drive or operate machinery. A lemon balm cream containing 1 % of a 70:1 extract has also been studied.
You can find lemon balm in health stores in the form of capsules, extracts, and oil.
Lemon balm is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It grows best in cool weather. The leaves can be plucked and used fresh or dried. The dried leaves can be stored for one year in a glass jar out of direct sunlight.
To make a lemon balm tea, brew 1.5 to 4.5 grams of leaves in 150 milliliters of hot water. This can be taken several times a day. The leaves can also be eaten, up to 10 grams a day.
Check supplement formulations with your doctor to make sure the dosages are suitable for you.