Melissa officinalis, also known as lemon balm, is a lemon-scented herb of the mint family. It is native to southern Europe and northern Africa.
Lemon balm can be made into a tea, taken as a supplement or extract, or rubbed into the skin in lotion. Lemon balm essential oil is also popular in aromatherapy.
Uses of lemon balm
Supplement use should be individualized and reviewed by a healthcare professional. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.
Rosmarinic acid appears to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage. Antimicrobials kill infection-causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
It's also important to note that some studies used a combination of herbal supplements including lemon balm. Therefore, it's unclear whether lemon balm itself can produce the same effects.
Here are some findings from current research on lemon balm.
Lemon balm may help reduce anxiety, according to a small pilot study.
Studies have found that drinking sweetened water drinks containing lemon balm extract can reduce stress and improve mood compared to those drinking sugar-sweetened water drinks containing lemon balm extract.
The researchers repeated the test using yogurt instead of water, confirming the results. Participants reported feeling anxiety-reducing effects within one to three hours after eating yogurt. However, more human studies are needed to confirm the effects of lemon balm on anxiety in humans.
A compound in lemon balm called rosmarinic acid is thought to improve sleep in people with insomnia.
One study, as well as previous research, found that using lemon balm and valerian root significantly improved sleep quality in menopausal patients compared with taking a placebo.
Of note, these studies and others used a combination of lemon balm and another herbal supplement. Therefore, more research is needed on lemon balm to see if it can have these effects on sleep without being combined with something else.
Most of the research on lemon balm for cold sores has been done through laboratory test-tube studies.
Research shows that lemon balm can kill many common viruses, such as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 is associated with cold sores and some cases of herpes.
More randomized controlled trials in humans are needed to determine whether lemon balm can actually help treat cold sores.
What are the side effects of lemon balm?
Consuming supplements such as lemon balm may cause side effects. These side effects may be mild, common, or severe.
Common side effects
Lemon balm may also cause side effects common with herbal supplements:
- abdominal bloating
The risk of side effects often increases as the dose used increases.
serious side effects
Long-term use or overuse of lemon balm is not recommended.
People with thyroid problems such as Grave's disease should not take lemon balm without medical supervision. High doses may affect thyroid function by slowing the production of thyroid hormones, which control metabolism and other body functions. Abruptly stopping treatment after long-term use can also lead to worsening or recurrence of symptoms (rebound anxiety). Some people may develop an allergy called contact dermatitis when using lemon balm preparations on their skin. To be safe, apply a little on your forearm and wait 24 hours to see if there is any redness, rash, or irritation.
A serious allergic reaction to lemon balm is possible but is rare. If you experience any side effects while using lemon balm, contact your healthcare provider.
Until more safety studies are conducted, lemon balm extract and supplements should not be used by children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding people.
Lemon balm is said to be a substance that aids in milk supply (galactogogue).
However, more research is needed to support this claim.
Combining lemon balm with other herbal supplements that have sedative or hypnotic effects (sedatives) may make these effects stronger and could be dangerous.
If you are planning to have surgery, talk with your healthcare provider about when to stop taking lemon balm.
It is recommended to avoid using lemon balm if you have:
- drinking alcoholic beverages
- use sedatives
- taking glaucoma medications (such as travoprost) and/or thyroid medications (such as levothyroxine)
- Taking anti-HIV drugs
Dosage: How much lemon balm should I take?
Always check with your healthcare provider before taking supplements to make sure the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.
Lemon balm is available in several different formulations and there is no set dosage or standard course of treatment. More research is needed on dosage for specific health needs and populations.
What will happen if I take too much lemon balm?
Never take more lemon balm than recommended on the manufacturer's packaging. If you experience side effects, stop taking lemon balm and call your healthcare provider.
Carefully read a supplement's ingredient list and nutrition facts panel to find out what ingredients are included and how much of each ingredient is included.
Review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications you take.
Lemon balm may make you feel sleepy and calm. The effects will be stronger if you take it with alcohol or other herbal supplements that act as sedatives, such as:
- St. John's Wort
- Over-the-counter sleeping pills
- prescription sedatives
Although research is unclear, lemon balm may interact with antiretroviral medications. Other potential drug interactions include:
- Thyroid medications, such as Synthroid (levothyroxine)
- Glaucoma drugs such as Travatan (travoprostane)
How to Store Lemon Balm
Each form of lemon balm will look different. Store lemon balm according to manufacturer's instructions. Dispose as directed on the package.
What to look for when it comes to the sources of lemon balm and lemon balm
Research has not shown that some forms of lemon balm are better than others. Lemon balm supplements are available in the following dosage forms:
Please consult your healthcare provider before starting to use any product.
Some lemon balm preparations may contain trace amounts of lead.
Melissa officinalis is an herbaceous plant in the mint family. It can be brewed as a tea, taken as a supplement or extract, or applied to the skin in the form of balms and lotions.
Lemon balm has been studied for its potential use in treating anxiety and sleep disorders, but research is limited. More human studies are needed to consider lemon balm as a single supplement rather than a combination product.
It's important to remember that lemon balm is not intended to replace any treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare provider. Remember, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so be careful when purchasing any supplement. As with most supplements, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you are considering using lemon balm for any health purpose.
Frequently asked questions
I take medication for thyroid disease. Can I take lemon balm?
It is not recommended that you take lemon balm because it may make your medications less effective. Instead, please consult your physician healthcare provider for further guidance.
Can I grow my own lemon balm?
OK . Lemon balm can be grown almost anywhere.
Can I drink alcohol while using lemon balm?
Drinking alcohol and using lemon balm are not recommended as they are both sedatives (substances that cause drowsiness). Please consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.