Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

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.

Health Benefits

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:

Reducing Anxiety

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.

Treating Insomnia

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. 

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Health Risks

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.

HIV Medication

Lemon balm may interact with HIV medications, but not enough is known at this time.

Glaucoma

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. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 13, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Botanical Council: "Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Lemon Balm."

Herb Society of America: "Lemon Balm: An Herb Society of America Guide."

Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: "The Effects of Lemon Balm on Menstrual Bleeding and the Systemic Manifestation of Dysmenorrhea."

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: "Aromatherapy as a Safe and Effective Treatment for the Management of Agitation in Severe Dementia: The Results of a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial With Melissa."

Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy: “Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.”

Journal of Medicinal Plants Research: "Melissa officinalis L., a valuable medicine plant: A review."

Mayo Clinic: "Functional Dyspepsia."

Mayo Clinic: "Herbal Treatment for Anxiety: Is It Effective?"

Mount Sinai: "Lemon Balm."

Nutrients: "Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods."

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