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Melt Away Tension With Lemon Balm

By Christine Climer

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, has been used for centuries to melt away tension, relax the body and soothe the mind. Often overlooked, it deserves to be considered as a part of any medicinal herb garden.

The power of lemon balm
The great news is recent research has shown that adults taking lemon balm do indeed experience stress relief. They report improved moods as well as decreased anxiety and increased cognitive function. Lemon balm actually calms you down and helps you think more clearly!

The herb also inhibits some viruses. When applied to herpes sores several times daily, it speeds healing, prevents spreading and decreases pain and swelling. Research also indicates that it might even possess activity against HIV. While no research has yet been done to examine lemon balm’s potential to help with other viral infections, there is hope. The herb has also been used to calm the thyroid in patients with Grave’s disease.

Is lemon balm for me?
Its power to calm agitation and increase brain function has sparked much interest from doctors and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The herb has proven to have a positive effect in mild to moderate illness.

These same effects have also caused parents to wonder if the herb might be helpful in children with ADHD. While no formal scientific investigation has yet been completed, it is likely that the herb is gentler than pharmaceutical products currently available.

Other conditions likely to benefit from lemon balm’s calming effects:

• herpes
• insomnia
• anxiety
• depression
• physical aches and pains
• stomach upset
• hyperthyroidism

When to talk to your healthcare provider first
If you are currently taking any sedative medication or have a thyroid condition, speak with your healthcare professional before taking this herb.

Lemon balm may decrease milk supply, so nursing moms should take this into consideration. Speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement or medication if you are pregnant or nursing.

How to use lemon balm
The fresh or dried leaves may be taken as a capsule, extract or infused tea. For a relaxing bath, wrap the herb in cheesecloth and steep in bathwater as you would for tea.

Lemon balm gets its name from the fresh lemony flavor it imparts. You may also use it as a culinary herb. It goes particularly well with seafood.

If you choose to grow lemon balm in your own garden, make sure it is well contained. Like other mints, it can be very invasive and it easily re-seeds itself. For more information on growing or preparing lemon balm, visit

Akhondzadeh S, 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 Jul;74(7):863-6.

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. Endocrinology. 1985;116:1687–1693.

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(4):607-13.

Kennedy DO, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28(10):1871-81.

Koytchev R, Alken RG, Dundarov S. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):225-30.

Pediatric Integrative Medicine Education Project website content

University of Maryland Medicine website content

Yamasaki K, et al. Anti-HIV-1 activity of herbs in Labiatae. Biol Pharm Bull. 1998 Aug;21(8):829-33.

© Christine Climer

NFO Health & Wellness channel Editor Christine Climer is a registered nurse with experience in pulmonary disease, pediatrics, home health and hospice services. See more about Christine.


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