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Herb Reference Guide

Lemon Balm

History

Lemon balm is a lemon scented member of the mint family and is native to Southern Europe. With its mild lemon scent and flavor, Lemon balm has historically been valued as a culinary, cosmetic and medicinal herb. Fresh lemon balm leaves are often used to top drinks and garnish salads and main dishes while the dried leaves have been frequently used for teas. Throughout history as a medicinal herb, lemon balm has been used as a mild sedative and as a digestive aid to relieve gas, and is also well known for its use with fevers and to increase perspiration.

Function

Lemon balm is often used alone or in combination with other synergistic herbs. The supportive role of lemon balm in the body is mainly due to its active constituents, particularly for its role in optimizing immune health, digestive health and providing a sense of balance for the nervous system. In the digestive system, lemon balm has historically been used to calm occasional discomfort associated with indigestion, gas and bloating. It is often used safely in infants with colic. While still in the early stages, several human research studies show promise with use of lemon balm to promote a sense of calm in body, particularly when it is stressed. Much of this research stems from an understanding of historical use of this herb. Research and traditional use also support using lemon balm in a supportive role for the immune system. Research demonstrates that lemon balm supports the immune system by initiating a healthy immune response and promoting health of the cell wall which is usually where microbes enter and infect the cell. While human studies are limited, in vitro studies do show promise for this herb in helping to promote a healthy immune system.

Uses of Lemon Balm

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Citronellal, geraniol, citral, flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds (including rosmarinic acid), monoterpene glycosides and aldehydes.

Parts Used

  • Leaf and leaf oil.

Important precautions

Should be used with caution with sedative medication but is not an absolute contraindiaction.

Additional Resources

Awad R, et al. Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity. Phytother Res. 2009 Aug;23(8):1075-81.

Blumenthal M. The Complete German Commission E Monograph; American Botanical Council, Austin, TX; 1998:124.

Kennedy DO et al. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. 2006 Feb;20(2):96-102.

Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Jul;72(4):953-64.

Kennedy DO et al. 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. 2003 Oct;28(10):1871-81.

Kucera LS et al. Antiviral activities of extracts of the lemon balm plant. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1965 Jul 30;130(1):474-82.

Mazzanti G, Battinelli L, Pompeo C, et al. Inhibitory activity of Melissa officinalis L. extract on Herpes simplex virus type 2 replication. Nat Prod Res. 2008;22(16):1433-40.

Müller SF, Klement S. A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children. Phytomedicine. 2006 Jun;13(6):383-7.

Nolkemper S, Reichling J, Stintzing FC, et al. Antiviral effect of aqueous extracts from species of the Lamiaceae family against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Planta Med. 2006 Dec;72(15):1378-82.

Schnitzler P, Schuhmacher A, Astani A, Reichling J. Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses. Phytomedicine. 2008 Sep;15(9):734-40.

Photo by Georges Jansoone.