LEMON BALM

Bee balm, Cure-all, Dropsy plant, Honey plant, Melissa officinalis, Sweet balm, and sweet Mary.

Main Actions

  • Aids in calming, improving mood, and reducing anxiety
  • Aids in increasing alertness and memory
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant

Other Actions

  • Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral
  • Lipid-lowering
  • Lowers TSH and thyroid hormone levels

Description

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.  

CONSIDERATIONS

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.

REFERENCES

1. Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;66:607-13. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.117.7564&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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

3. Cases J, Ibarra A, Feuillère N, Roller M, Sukkar SG. 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. 2011 Jan 1;4(3):211-8. https://content.iospress.com/download/mediterranean-journal-of-nutrition-and-metabolism/mnm4-3-09?id=mediterranean-journal-of-nutrition-and-metabolism%2Fmnm4-3-09

4. Reichling J, Schnitzler P, Suschke U, Saller R. Essential oils of aromatic plants with antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and cytotoxic properties–an overview. Complementary Medicine Research. 2009;16(2):79-90. https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/eprint/18705/1/207196.pdf

5. Luo C, Zou L, Sun H, Peng J, Gao C, Bao L, Ji R, Jin Y, Sun S. A review of the anti-inflammatory effects of rosmarinic acid on inflammatory diseases. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2020 Feb 28;11:153. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.00153/full

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

7. Koksal E, Bursal E, Dikici E, Tozoglu F, Gulcin I. Antioxidant activity of Melissa officinalis leaves. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. 2011 Jan 18;5(2):217-22. https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-full-text-pdf/0045C3218375.pdf

8. Yarnell E, Abascal K. Botanical medicine for thyroid regulation. Alternative & Complementary therapies. 2006 Jun 1;12(3):107-12. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/act.2006.12.107

9. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 — Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182 (Accessed 10/21)

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