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Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Cam

Search Health Information    Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Uses

Common names:
Melissa
Botanical names:
Melissa officinalis

Parts Used & Where Grown

The lemon balm plant originated in southern Europe and is now found throughout the world. The lemony smell and pretty white flowers of the plant have led to its widespread cultivation in gardens. The leaves, stems, and flowers of lemon balm are used medicinally.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
3 Stars
Cold Sores
Apply a 1% 70:1 herbal extract four times per day
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Lemon balm has antiviral properties. A cream containing an extract of lemon balm has been shown in double-blind trials to speed the healing of cold sores.2 In one double-blind trial, topical application of a 1% 70:1 extract of lemon-balm leaf cream, four times daily for five days, led to significantly fewer symptoms and fewer blisters than experienced by those using a placebo cream.3 In most studies, the lemon-balm cream was applied two to four times per day for five to ten days.

2 Stars
Alzheimer’s Disease
60 drops per day of a 1:1 herbal tincture, standardized to contain at least 500 mcg per ml of citral
Learn More

In a double-blind trial, supplementation with an extract of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) for 16 weeks significantly improved cognitive function and significantly reduced agitation, compared with a placebo, in people with Alzheimer's disease.4 The amount of lemon balm used was 60 drops per day of a 1:1 tincture, standardized to contain at least 500 mcg per ml of citral.

2 Stars
Colic (Chamomile, Fennel, Licorice, Vervain)
1/2 cup (118 ml) of tea up to three times daily
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Carminatives are a class of herbs commonly used for infants with colic. These herbs tend to relax intestinal spasms.

Chamomile is a carminative with long history of use as a calming herb and may be used to ease intestinal cramping in colicky infants. A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain , licorice , fennel , and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo.5 In this study, approximately 1/2 cup (150 ml) of tea was given during each colic episode up to a maximum of three times per day.

2 Stars
Genital Herpes
Apply a cream containing 1% of a standardized 70:1 extract four to five times per day
Learn More

A double-blind trial found that topical application of a cream containing a highly concentrated extract of lemon balm  (Melissa officinalis) four to five times a day helped heal oral and genital herpes sores faster than use of a placebo.6

1 Star
Hyperthyroidism
Refer to label instructions
Learn More
Flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other compounds appear to be responsible for lemon balm’s anti-herpes and thyroid-regulating actions. Test tube studies have found that lemon balm blocks attachment of antibodies to the thyroid cells that cause Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism).7 The brain’s signal to the thyroid (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH) is also blocked from further stimulating the excessively active thyroid gland in this disease. However, clinical trials proving lemon balm’s effectiveness in treating Grave’s disease are lacking.
1 Star
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Carminatives (also called aromatic digestive tonics or aromatic bitters) may be used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, particularly when there is excessive gas. It is believed that carminative agents work, at least in part, by relieving spasms in the intestinal tract.8

Lemon balm is a carminative herb used traditionally for indigestion.9 Lemon balm, usually taken as tea, is prepared by steeping 2–3 teaspoons of leaves in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes in a covered container. Three or more cups per day are consumed immediately after meals. Three to five milliliters of tincture can also be used three times per day.

1 Star
Infection
Refer to label instructions
Learn More
1 Star
Insomnia
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

A combination of valerian and lemon balm has been tested for improving sleep. A small preliminary trial compared the effect of valerian root extract (320 mg at bedtime) and an extract of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) with that of the sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion).10 The effectiveness of the herbal combination was similar to that of Halcion, but only the Halcion group felt hung over and had trouble concentrating the next day. A double-blind trial found that a combination of valerian and lemon balm, taken over a two-week period, was effective in improving quality of sleep.11

Another double-blind trial found a combination of 360 mg valerian and 240 mg lemon balm taken before bed improved reported sleep quality in one-third of the participants.12

1 Star
Nerve Pain
Refer to label instructions
Learn More
Traditionally, topical applications to the temples were sometimes used by herbalists for insomnia or nerve pain.13

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Charlemagne once ordered lemon balm planted in every monastery garden because of its beauty.1 It has been used traditionally by herbalists to treat gas, sleeping difficulties, and heart problems. In addition, topical applications to the temples were sometimes used by herbalists for insomnia or nerve pain.

How It Works

Common names:
Melissa
Botanical names:
Melissa officinalis

How It Works

The terpenes, part of the pleasant smelling volatile oil from lemon balm, are thought to produce this herb’s relaxing and gas-relieving (carminative) effects. Flavonoids , phenolic acids, and other compounds appear to be responsible for lemon balm’s anti-herpes and thyroid-regulating actions. Test tube studies have found that lemon balm blocks attachment of antibodies to the thyroid cells that cause Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism).14 The brain’s signal to the thyroid (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH) is also blocked from further stimulating the excessively active thyroid gland in this disease. However, clinical trials proving lemon balm’s effectiveness in treating Grave’s disease are lacking.

One small preliminary trial studying sleep quality compared the effect of a combination product containing an extract of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and an extract of valerian root with that of the sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion). The effectiveness of the herbal combination was similar to that of Halcion, as determined by the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep.15 Another trial also found that the same combination of valerian and lemon balm, taken over a two-week period, is effective in improving quality of sleep.16

According to double-blind research, topical use of a concentrated lemon balm extract speeds healing time of herpes simplex virus sores ( cold sores ) on the mouth.17 , 18

How to Use It

The German Commission E monograph suggests 1.5 to 4.5 grams of lemon balm in a tea several times daily.19 The herb can be steeped for ten to fifteen minutes in 150 ml of boiling water to make the tea. Tincture can also be used at 2 to 3 ml three times per day. Concentrated extracts, 160 to 200 mg 30 minutes to one hour before bed, are sometimes recommended for insomnia . Highly concentrated topical extract ointments for herpes can be applied three to four times per day to lesions.

Lemon balm is frequently combined with other medicinal plants. For example, peppermint and lemon balm together are effective for calming upset stomach . Valerian is often combined with lemon balm for insomnia. Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) and lemon balm have been used together for Graves’ disease.

Interactions

Common names:
Melissa
Botanical names:
Melissa officinalis

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • none

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • Dessicated Thyroid

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.20

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Levothyroxine

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.21

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Liothyronine

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.22

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Liotrix

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.23

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.

Explanation Required

  • none

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Common names:
Melissa
Botanical names:
Melissa officinalis

Side Effects

Unlike sedative drugs, lemon balm appears to be safe even while driving or operating machinery. Lemon balm’s sedating effects are not intensified by alcohol.

People with glaucoma should avoid lemon balm volatile oil until human studies are conducted, as animal studies show that it may raise pressure in the eye.

References

1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 31, 286.

2. Wölbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract of Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:25–31.

3. Koytchev R, Alken RG, Dundarov S. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis. Phytomedicine 1999;6:225–30.

4. Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, et al. Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2003;74:863–6.

5. Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D, et al. Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. J Pediatr 1993;122:650–2.

6. Wolbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract of Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:25–31.

7. Auf’mkolk M, Ingbar JC, Kubota K, et al. Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and the biological activity of Graves’ immunoglobulins. Endocrinol 1985;116:1687–93.

8. Forster HB, Niklas H, Lutz S. Antispasmodic effects of some medicinal plants. Planta Med 1980;40:303–19.

9. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985.

10. Dressing H, Riemann D, Low H, et al. Insomnia: Are valerian/balm combination of equal value to benzodiazepine? Therapiewoche 1992;42:726–36 [in German].

11. Dressing H, Köhler S, Müller WE. Improvement of sleep quality with a high-dose valerian/lemon balm preparation: A placebo-controlled double-blind study. Psychopharmakotherapie 1996;6:32–40.

12. Cerny A, Schmid K. Tolerability and efficacy of valerian/lemon balm in healthy volunteers (a double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study). Fitoterapia 1999;70:221–8.

13. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 31, 286.

14. Auf’mkolk M, Ingbar JC, Kubota K, et al. Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and the biological activity of Graves’ immunoglobulins. Endocrinol 1985;116:1687–93.

15. Dressing H, Riemann D, Löw H, et al. Insomnia: Are valerian/balm combination of equal value to benzodiazepine? Therapiewoche 1992;42:726–36.

16. Dressing H, Köhler S, Müller WE. Improvement of sleep quality with a high-dose valerian/lemon balm preparation: A placebo-controlled double-blind study. Psychopharmakotherapie 1996;6:32–40.

17. Wöhlbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract of Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:25–31.

18. Koytchev R, Allen RG, Dundarov S. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring Herpes labialis. Phytomed 1999;6:225–30.

19. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 160–1.

20. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

21. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

22. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

23. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

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