Balm, balm mint, bee balm, blue balm, Citra, citronellae, citronmelisse, common balm, cure-all, dropsy plant, English balm, folia citronellae, folia melissae citratae, garden balm, gastrovegetalin, hjertensfryd, honey plant, kneipp melisse pflanzensaft, Labiatae/Lamiaceae (family), lemon melissa, lomaherpan, melissa, Melissa officinalis, Melissa officinalis L., melissae, melissae folium, Melisse (German and French), melissenblatt, melissengeist, sweet balm, sweet mary, toronjil (Spanish), valverde boutons de fievre cr©me.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb with a lemon scent native to southern Europe. Historically, lemon balm has been said to possess sedative/tranquilizing, anti-gas, fever-reducing, antibacterial, spasmolytic, hypotensive (blood pressure lowering), memory-enhancing, menstrual-inducing, and thyroid-related effects and has been proposed by some to be an herbal cure-all. Laboratory data suggest that lemon balm may contain high concentrations of antioxidants.
The German Commission E recommends lemon balm for nervous sleep disorders and functional gastrointestinal complaints. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends its use for tenseness, restlessness, and irritability. Lemon balm has been placed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list. No serious side effects have been reported, although there is limited research of long-term effects.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Herpes simplex virus infections
Rigorous clinical data is lacking. Preliminary clinical studies demonstrate promising effects.
Agitation in dementia
Limited data is available supporting the use of lemon balm as a treatment of agitation in dementia patients. Additional study is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.
Preliminary human evidence has been published that supports the use of lemon balm for anxiety, commonly referred to in the literature as psycho-vegetative disturbances. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Clinical data suggest that the use of standardized lemon balm extract has some effect on particular self-reported measures of mood and cognition through cholinergic activities. More rigorous studies need to be conducted using patient-relevant outcomes to better assess the validity of these results as they apply to patient care.
Limited clinical evidence is available supporting the use of lemon balm for the treatment of chronic colitis.
Dyspepsia (upset stomach)
Clinical evidence of varying quality suggests that lemon balm may help reduce dyspepsia as a component of combination products. However, further research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.
High-quality clinical evidence supporting the use of lemon balm as a sedative/hypnotic is lacking. The available evidence is conflicting. Additional study is required to better support the use of lemon balm as a sedative/hypnotic.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below. Analgesic (pain reliever), anorexia, anticholinergic (drug that blocks the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, often effective in reducing the tremor of Parkinson's disease), anti-gas, antihistaminic, antisecretory, antispasmodic, anti-ulcerogenic, antiviral, aromatic, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer, chronic bronchitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colic, coughs, depression, digestive aid, fever reduction, flatulence, flatulent colic, gastrointestinal disorders, Graves' disease, heart conditions, high blood pressure, HIV, influenza, insect bites, insomnia, irregular menstrual periods, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal relaxant, memory enhancer, migraine, nausea, nervous palpitations, nervous stomach, neuralgia (nerve pain), neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion), promoting menstrual flow, promoting sweating, restlessness, sedative, shingles, skin irritations, sleep disorders, tension headache, toothache, tranquilizer, vasodilatation, vomiting, wound healing (topical).
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is no proven effective dose for lemon balm. A common dose of lemon balm is one cup of tea taken several times per day as needed. A dosage of 2-6 milliliters three times per day (1:5 in 45% alcohol) as a tincture has been used historically. Lemon balm extract in a dose of 60 drops per day has been cited in research on patients with Alzheimer's disease for improvement in cognition.
Lemon balm is also commonly used in combination with other herbs and supplements. Examples of some products include Songha Night© (valerian extract and lemon balm extract), Klosterfrau Melissengeist© (essential oils of lemon balm, orange peel, cinnamon, and myristica), and Iberogast© (Matricata recutita, Iberis amara, Angelica archangelica, Carum carvi, Silybum marianum, lemon balm, Chelidonium majus, Glycyrrhiza glabra, and Mentha x piperita).
Creams and teas containing lemon balm have also been applied on the skin to treat herpes.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for lemon balm in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to lemon balm. Hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, including contact dermatitis.
Side Effects and Warnings
Lemon balm is likely safe when applied on the skin or taken by mouth in recommended doses (up to 30 days) in otherwise healthy adults and when consumed in amounts found in foods. Lemon balm has been given generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status in the United States with a maximum level of 0.5% in baked goods. However, lemon balm preparations may contain trace amounts of lead. A study evaluating metal dispersion in food crops suggested that the soil in which some plants are grown may be contaminated by lead from environmental pollution and therefore may cause the plant to contain trace amounts of the element.
Contact dermatitis, local reddening, burning sensation, paresthesia, residual pigmentation, and dermal irritation on application of cream have been reported. One case of irritation and one case of exacerbation of herpes symptoms were reported when lemon balm was applied on the skin. Cases of nausea and diarrhea have been reported.
Lemon balm may also cause headache or EEG changes. It may also reduce alertness, so caution should be used when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep disturbances and tiredness have been reported with a combination of lemon balm and valerian (although sedative properties of Valeriana officinalis alone are well-described and the additional effects of lemon balm are not clear in this combination).
Although not well studied in humans, lemon balm may also increase intraocular (inside the eye) pressure and cause palpitations. Use cautiously in patients with glaucoma as anecdotal reports have suggested that lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure.
Preliminary study suggests that constituents of lemon balm may block the binding of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to its receptor by acting both on the hormone and the receptor itself. Studies have suggested that patients with thyroid problems such as Graves' disease use caution due to the potential for thyroid hormone inhibition. Lemon balm may interfere with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Lemon balm is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
In theory, alcohol use with lemon balm may increase the sedative effects of alcohol. Combination use of lemon balm with other sedatives may also result in additive effects. However, no additive effects of alcohol were shown when combined with a Valeriana officinalis-Humulus lupulus-lemon balm combination product.
Although not well studied in humans, lemon balm has been reported to increase the hypnotic effects of barbiturates.
Although not well studied in humans, lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure, thereby diminishing effects of glaucoma medications. Caution is advised.
Lemon balm may reduce pituitary and serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations. Constituents of lemon balm may block the binding of TSH to its receptor by acting on both the hormone and the receptor itself. Thus, in theory, lemon balm may interfere with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Lemon balm may displace drugs bound to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, as demonstrated in clinical trials with the displacement of nicotine and scopolamine from these receptors. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.
Lemon balm may inhibit concentrations of serotonin and therefore may interact with drugs that affect concentrations of serotonin. Caution is advised in patients taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram (Celexa©), escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro©), fluoxetine (Prozac©), or paroxetine (Paxil©).
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
A study examining efficacy and safety of herbal sedatives suggested that combination use of sedative herbs with lemon balm may result in additive effects. Such herbs include German chamomile, hops (Humulus lupulus), or kava.
Although not well studied in humans, lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure, thereby diminishing effects of glaucoma treatments. Caution is advised.
Lemon balm may reduce pituitary and serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations. One study suggested that constituents of lemon balm may block the binding of TSH to its receptor by acting both on the hormone and the receptor itself. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.
Lemon balm may inhibit concentrations of serotonin and therefore may interact with herbs that affect concentrations of serotonin. Caution is advised.
Lemon balm may displace herbs or supplements bound to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, as demonstrated in clinical trials with the displacement of nicotine and scopolamine from these receptors. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)