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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. It is also commonly known as balm, balm mint and sweet balm. The lemon balm plant has round heart-shaped leaves that emit a lemon odour when crushed.
The herb has a soothing and a calming effect on the body which has been used to improve mood, cure insomnia and so on  . The stems and leaves of the plant are known for their antioxidant activity, total phenolic content and cytotoxic effects  .
Lemon balm has been used in herbal medicine since the middle ages to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and heal wounds. Today, it is used as a herb in cooking, teas and to make Melissa essential oil and capsules.
Health Benefits Of Lemon Balm
1. Treats cold sores
The antiviral properties of lemon balm extract can help treat cold sores caused by the Herpes virus according to a study published in Phytotherapy Research. The study found that the antiviral properties inhibited the spreading of herpes simplex virus type 1 into the healthy cells of the body  .
Lemon balm extract in cream form is said to help in faster healing and the symptoms start decreasing when used repeatedly  . Even lemon balm essential oil is effective in treating cold sores.
2. Reduces inflammation and pain
The anti-inflammatory properties of lemon balm can help treat diseases associated with inflammation and pain. The antinociceptive effect of the ethanolic extract from lemon balm leaves and the rosmarinic acid can help combat pain and inflammation  .
3. Mitigates insomnia
The efficacy of lemon balm in combination with valerian herb in treating sleep disorders was studied in children less than 12 years who were suffering from restlessness and nervous dyskoimesis . Lemon balm in combination with valerian can also reduce the symptoms of sleep disorders during menopause  .
4. Prevents heart palpitations
According to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, lemon balm leaves have the ability to reduce the effects of heart palpitations and anxiety  . Lemon balm essential oil when used aromatically can help lower high triglycerides level in the blood.
5. Lowers diabetes
The antioxidant activity of lemon balm essential oil has a profound effect in lowering high blood sugar levels. According to a study published in The British Journal of Nutrition, the essential oil could reduce oxidative stress and high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients  .
6. Prevents cancer
Lemon balm extract exhibited a cytotoxic effect on breast cancer cells even at low concentrations (100 μg/mL) according to a study  . Another study found that inhaling lemon balm essential oil could inhibit some of the factors that lead to the proliferation of liver cancer cells  .
7. Combats neurodegenerative diseases
Chronic neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, etc., can be combated with the help of lemon balm extract. According to a study, patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease who took lemon balm daily for four months improved their cognitive function .
Lemon balm herb also improved cognitive tasks which involved memory, concentration and mathematics in participants as compared to those who didn't ingest the herb  .
8. Reduces stress and anxiety
The intake of 600 mg of lemon balm reduces stress levels and induces a sense of calmness in the body according to a study  . Lemon balm contains a compound called rosmarinic acid which lowers the symptoms of anxiety-like excitement and nervousness. Foods containing lemon balm has a positive effect on your mood which reduces stress and anxiety as well  .
Also, lemon balm is useful in treating headaches related to stress. The relaxing properties of the herb can help release tension, relax your muscles and open up tight blood vessels which contribute to headaches.
9. Aids in digestion
Lemon balm is a carminative herb which means it can alleviate gas and bloating in the stomach. In a study conducted by the Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, the effects of a cold dessert containing lemon balm on functional dyspepsia were investigated. Participants were asked to have a sorbet with lemon balm which lessened their symptoms drastically  .
10. Relieves menstrual cramps
Lemon balm, when taken in capsule form, can reduce PMS symptoms. A study was conducted to assess the effect of lemon balm on the intensity of PMS in high school girls. They were given 1,200 mg of lemon balm daily for three months during their menstrual cycle and the result was lessened PMS symptoms  .
Possible Side Effects Of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is not used for long term purpose because it has been shown to cause dependency and withdrawal symptoms  . Consuming fresh lemon balm in recipes or drinking lemon balm tea has a much lower side effect. So far, no side effects have been reported if the herb is used topically or orally for up to 30 days.
Lemon balm supplements could cause the following side effects:
- A rise in body temperature
- Pain while urinating
- Stomach pain
- Skin allergy
Also, lemon balm interacts with certain medications like sedatives, thyroid medicines, glaucoma medicines and medications that affect serotonin and barbiturates. Before ingesting lemon balm, consult a doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, giving to a child under the age of 12 and if you have a surgery .
Ways To Consume Lemon Balm
Lemon balm leaves can be added as a final flavouring to meat and seafood dishes.
For fresh lemon fragrance, you can add the herb in fruit dishes, custards, salads and make herbal tea.
How To Make Lemon Balm Tea
- 2 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm leaves
- Honey for taste
- Boil the water and pour it over the lemon balm leaves.
- Let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Cool the tea add honey and drink.
How To Store Fresh Lemon Balm
Keep the leaves and stems in big pieces to retain the flavour and store it in paper bags or glass jars to preserve their freshness. They can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
How Often Can You Take Lemon Balm?
The recommended dosage of lemon balm is 1.5 to 4.5 g per day. 600 to 1,600 mg of lemon balm extract should be taken and not more than that. For sleep disorders, 80 mg lemon balm and 160 mg valerian extract should be taken 2 or 3 times per day. For the treatment of cold sores, a 1 per cent extract of lemon balm cream should be applied.
-  Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V., ... & Buchwald-Werner, S. (2014). Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods.Nutrients,6(11), 4805-4821.
-  Moacă, E. A., Farcaş, C., Ghiţu, A., Coricovac, D., Popovici, R., Cărăba-Meiţă, N. L., ... & Avram, Ş. (2018). A Comparative Study of Melissa officinalis Leaves and Stems Ethanolic Extracts in terms of Antioxidant, Cytotoxic, and Antiproliferative Potential.Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,2018.
-  Astani, A., Heidary Navid, M., & Schnitzler, P. (2014). Attachment and Penetration of Acyclovir‐resistant Herpes Simplex Virus are Inhibited by Melissa officinalis Extract.Phytotherapy research,28(10), 1547-1552.
-  Koytchev, R., Alken, R. G., & Dundarov, S. (1999). Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis.Phytomedicine,6(4), 225-230.
-  Miraj, S., Rafieian-Kopaei, & Kiani, S. (2016). Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective.Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine,22(3), 385-394.
-  Taavoni, S., & Haghani, H. (2013). Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause.Complementary therapies in clinical practice,19(4), 193-196.
-  Alijaniha, F., Naseri, M., Afsharypuor, S., Fallahi, F., Noorbala, A., Mosaddegh, M., ... & Sadrai, S. (2015). Heart palpitation relief with Melissa officinalis leaf extract: double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of efficacy and safety.Journal of ethnopharmacology,164, 378-384.
-  Chung, M. J., Cho, S. Y., Bhuiyan, M. J. H., Kim, K. H., & Lee, S. J. (2010). Anti-diabetic effects of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) essential oil on glucose-and lipid-regulating enzymes in type 2 diabetic mice.British journal of nutrition,104(2), 180-188.
-  Jun, H. J., Lee, J. H., Jia, Y., Hoang, M. H., Byun, H., Kim, K. H., & Lee, S. J. (2012). Melissa officinalis essential oil reduces plasma triglycerides in human apolipoprotein E2 transgenic mice by inhibiting sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c–dependent fatty acid synthesis.The Journal of nutrition,142(3), 432-440.
-  Akhondzadeh, S., Noroozian, M., Mohammadi, M., Ohadinia, S., Jamshidi, A. H., & Khani, M. (2003). Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial.Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry,74(7), 863-6.
-  Kennedy, D. O., Little, W., & Scholey, A. B. (2004). Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm).Psychosomatic medicine,66(4), 607-613.
-  Gasbarrini, G., Zaccone, V., Covino, M., & Gallo, A. (2010). Effectiveness of a" cold dessert", with or without the addition of a mixture of digestive herbs, in subjects with" functional dyspepsia".Journal of biological regulators and homeostatic agents,24(1), 93-98.
-  Akbarzadeh, M., Dehghani, M., Moshfeghy, Z., Emamghoreishi, M., Tavakoli, P., & Zare, N. (2015). Effect of Melissa officinalis Capsule on the Intensity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms in High School Girl Students.Nursing and midwifery studies,4(2), e27001.
-  Demirci, K., Akgönül, M., Demirdaş, A., & Akpınar, A. (2015). Does melissa officinalis cause withdrawal or dependence?.Medical archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina),69(1), 60-1.