Lemon balm: benefits, side effects, dosage, interactions

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Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ) belongs to the mint family of plants. It is often used to make tea, marinate chicken or fish, and add flavor to baked goods and jams.

Lemon balm is also believed to cure a number of ailments that affect the digestive tract, nervous system, and liver. It began to be used in the 14th century when Carmelite nuns used it to prepare an alcoholic tonic known as Agua Carmelita.

Today, lemon balm is used in folk medicine as a sleeping pill and as a digestion tonic. It can be consumed as a tea, as a supplement or extract, or rubbed into the skin with balms and lotions. Lemon balm essential oil is also popular in aromatherapy , where it is used to relieve stress and keep you calm.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits, side effects, and dosage of lemon balm. It will also talk about how lemon balm is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, liver disease, and nervous system problems.

Also know as

Lemon balm is also known as:

  • Bee balm
  • Panacea
  • Dropsy
  • Honey plant
  • Sweet balm
  • Sweet Maria
  • Melissa
  • Xiang Feng Cao (in traditional Chinese medicine)

What is lemon balm used for?

Lemon balm contains a compound known as rosmarinic acid, which has powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage, and antimicrobial drugs kill organisms that cause infections, such as bacteria and viruses.

Alternative medicine professionals believe that lemon balm can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Herpes
  • High cholesterol
  • Genital herpes
  • Acidity
  • Indigestion

Some even believe that it can improve thinking and memory in people with Alzheimer's .

Although it has long been used in traditional medicine, there is not much evidence to support many of these health claims. These are just a few of the findings from the current study.

Anxiety

Lemon balm can help reduce anxiety, according to a small study published in the journal Nutrients .

A sweetened water-based drink containing 0.3 grams of lemon balm extract reduces stress and improves mood in a group of healthy young adults compared to a placebo , according to Australian researchers.

These results were confirmed by repeating the test with yogurt instead of water. The anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) effect is generally felt after one to three hours.

Research has shown that rosmarinic acid increases the level and activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Low GABA levels in the brain are believed to be associated with anxiety and other mood disorders .

Insomnia

Rosmarinic acid is believed to relieve anxiety and improve sleep in people with insomnia .

Lemon balm combined with valerian root significantly improved sleep quality in 100 menopausal women compared to placebo, according to a 2013 study in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice section .

Insomnia and sleep apnea , often accompanied by depression and anxiety, are common features of menopause. The combination of herbs is believed to help you sleep by acting directly on the GABA receptors in the brain. This provides a mild sedative effect while stimulating the production of the hormone serotonin, which makes you feel good .

Herpes

Rosemary can help treat some viral infections. Most of the current data is limited to test tube studies in which rosmarinic acid kills a wide variety of common viruses. This includes the hepatitis B virus and viruses associated with the common cold , such as coronaviruses and rhinoviruses.

Rosmarinic acid is most effective against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). It is associated with herpes and some cases of genital herpes .

In a 2014 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, lemon balm extract was able to prevent cellular infection in 80% to 96% of drug-resistant HSV-1 strains.

These results can be especially helpful for people who cannot get rid of standard antiviral medications (such as acyclovir). More research is needed to see if the same results can be achieved in humans.

Gastrointestinal disorders

There is growing evidence that lemon balm can help treat symptoms of dyspepsia (upset stomach), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and acid reflux (heartburn). In addition to rosmarinic acid, lemon balm contains citral, citronellal, linalol, geraniol, and beta-caryophyllene, all of which can help reduce muscle spasms and gas.

A 2013 review of studies in Germany found that Iberogast , an over-the-counter drug containing lemon balm and eight other herbs, was consistently more effective than placebo in treating dyspepsia and IBS.

Alzheimer disease

Preliminary research showed that the citral in lemon balm extract can block an enzyme in the brain called cholinesterase. Increases levels of acetylcholine, a brain chemical essential for memory and learning.

Medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease, such as Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), and Razadin (galantamine), also block this enzyme. Therefore, they help improve thinking and memory.

Melissa can also reduce plaque formation in the brain associated with disease progression .

Iran preliminary investigation reported that a four-month course of lemon balm extract was moderately more effective than placebo in improving dementia in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Each of the participants received 60 drops of lemon balm extract every day for 16 weeks. Although the results were promising, the results have yet to be duplicated in other studies.

Possible side effects of lemon balm

Melissa is considered safe for short-term use. Side effects can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Swelling
  • Gas
  • Threw up
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain when urinating
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

The risk of side effects increases with dose.

Prolonged or excessive consumption of lemon balm is not recommended. High doses can potentially affect thyroid function by slowing down the production of thyroid hormones , which control metabolism and other bodily functions. Suddenly stopping treatment after long-term use can also cause recurrent anxiety (worsening or recurrence of symptoms) .

Generally speaking, you should only use lemon balm extracts or supplements for no more than four to six weeks.

Some people can develop a form of allergy known as contact dermatitis when lemon balm is applied to their skin. Just in case, dab some on your forearm and wait 24 hours to see if redness, a rash, or irritation appears. Serious allergic reactions are rare.

Melissa can slow blood clotting. If you are scheduled for surgery, stop using lemon balm for at least two weeks to avoid excessive bleeding.

Lemon balm extracts and supplements should not be used by children, pregnant and lactating women until additional safety studies have been conducted.

Drug interactions

Melissa can cause sedation. This is especially true when used with alcohol, over-the-counter sleeping pills, or prescription sedatives such as clonopin (clonazepam), ativan (lorazepam), donnatol (phenobarbital), and ambien (zolpidem). ).

Melissa can interact with other medications, including:

  • Thyroid medications such as Synthroid (levothyroxine )
  • Blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix (Clopidogrel)
  • Glaucoma medications such as Travatan (Travoprost )
  • Chemotherapy drugs such as tamoxifen and camptosar (irinotecan)

In some cases, it may be necessary to divide the doses of the drug over several hours to avoid interactions. In other cases, a dose reduction or change in medication may be required.

Get Drug Information / Anastasia Tretyak

Dosage and preparation of lemon balm.

Lemon balm supplements are available in capsule, tablet, powder, and tincture form. Because there are so many different formulations, there are no prescribed doses or standard treatments.

The dosage range for oral capsules and tablets is 250 to 500 mg and they are considered safe in this range. The dose of tincture can vary depending on the concentration (potency) of the composition. As a general rule, never take more than the recommended dose indicated on the product label.

Herpes medications containing 1% lemon balm can be applied to herpes three to four times a day. They are believed to work best at the first sign of herpes.

Lemon balm essential oil is for external use only. Even food grade essential oils used to flavor candy and other foods should not be ingested.

What to look for when choosing lemon balm

Melissa is classified as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so no quality and safety testing is required.

When purchasing supplements, always choose products that have been voluntarily submitted to the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or other independent certification bodies. This way, you can be sure that the product is safe and contains the amount of ingredients indicated on the product label.

When choosing essential oils , choose those that are certified organic and include both the genus name of the plant (in this case, Melissa officinalis ) and the place of origin. Ireland continues to be a major producer of lemon balm essential oil. Hungary, Italy and Egypt are the largest producers of medicinal plants.

Other questions

How to make lemon balm tea?

  1. Start by pruning some fresh lemon balm leaves. Avoid yellow, discolored, or moldy ones. Rinse the leaves well and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Cut or break the leaves into smaller pieces and place them in the tea infuser. You can even stir them with the back of a spoon or toothpick to remove more herbal oils. Do it at the last minute; leaves turn black and dry if cut too early.
  3. Pour a tablespoon of the leaves with a glass of hot water and leave it for about five minutes. You can double or triple the recipe as needed.

After brewing the tea, be sure to keep the kettle or cup closed so that steam remains, which is believed to contain the herbal oils.

Summary

Melissa is used to treat various diseases of the digestive tract, nervous system, and liver. You can drink it in tea, take it as a supplement or extract, or rub it on your skin in the form of balms and lotions.

Lemon balm essential oil is also popular in aromatherapy. It can help relieve stress and keep you calm. It is safe for short-term use, but should not be used for more than six weeks. Stop using lemon balm two weeks before surgery. This is because it can slow blood clotting.

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