Bee balm, Cure-all, Dropsy plant, Honey plant, Melissa officinalis, Sweet balm, and sweet Mary.
- Aids in calming, improving mood, and reducing anxiety
- Aids in increasing alertness and memory
- Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral
- Lowers TSH and thyroid hormone levels
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the same family of plants (Lamiaceae) that includes mint, basil, sage, oregano, and thyme. The plant has a light lemony scent and while native to southern Europe, it is now found throughout the world. Melissa comes from the Greek word meli, meaning “bee,” as the nectar of this prolific summer flower attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Used for centuries in many traditional medicines, with records dating at least to 300 BCE, Lemon Balm’s uses vary widely. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend lemon balm for skin conditions, and to delay signs of aging. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is called Xiang Feng Cao, and used to calm, soothe, and reduce stress. Today, several clinical studies echo the historical knowledge of this medicinal herb and have indicated that Lemon Balm increases a sense of calm, improves memory and alertness, and reduces anxiety.,
The therapeutic qualities of Lemon Balm are primarily derived from the plant’s leaf. Extracts of the leaf contain flavonoids, monoterpenoids, polyphenols, and triterpenoids. Research has indicated that these substances have several different actions including:
- Neurologic effects including calming, memory enhancement, and anti-anxiety properties – In one study, it was found that Lemon Balm reduced anxiety in 95% of patients, and helped with sleeplessness.
- Antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects – Lemon Balm can inhibit the growth and replication of various bacteria, fungi (eg. Candida species), and viruses.
- Anti-inflammatory effects – Rosemarinic acid, a component of Lemon Balm, has been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma and atopic dermatitis.
- Lipid- lowering effects – Geraniol, found in Lemon Balm, decreases total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Antioxidant actions – Oxidative stress can damage cells, tissues, and organs – thus the need for antioxidants. In lab tests, Lemon Balm has been shown to minimize oxidative damage.
Lemon Balm can decrease thyroid hormones by decreasing the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and should be used cautiously in those with a history of hypothyroid disease.
Plant Properties and Research
The leaf of the lemon balm plant is used for medicinal purposes. Extracts of the leaf contain flavonoids (eg. Luteolin), monoterpenoids (eg. Citronellal), polyphenols (eg. rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, and tannins), and triterpenoids (eg. Ursolic and oleanolic acids). What do all these compounds do? Research has indicated that these substances have several different actions including:
- Neurologic effects including calming, memory enhancement and anti-anxiety effects
- In this study, lemon balm reduced anxiety in 95% of patients. In addition, the lemon balm benefitted insomnia as well.
- Antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects
- Lemon balm can inhibit the growth and replication of various bacteria, fungi (eg. Candida species) and viruses (eg. Herpes viruses (HSV-1, HSV-2), HIV and some strains of the flu virus).
- Anti-inflammatory effects
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2. Haybar H, Javid AZ, Haghighizadeh MH, Valizadeh E, Mohaghegh SM, Mohammadzadeh A. The effects of Melissa officinalis supplementation on depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disorder in patients with chronic stable angina. Clinical nutrition ESPEN. 2018 Aug 1;26:47-52. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405457717305144
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6. Heshmati J, Morvaridzadeh M, Sepidarkish M, et al. Effects of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) on cardio-metabolic outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2020;34(12):3113-3123. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.6744
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