Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is a popular herb in the mint family. It is often used in holistic medicines, herbal teas, and grown by those who take a more natural approach to their health and well being.
While just the scent of lemon balm alone is a wonderful aromatic journey for our olfactory sense, the health benefits are the icing on the proverbial cake. Speaking of cake, lemon balm is often used in cooking and herbal tea recipes. The lemon-scented herb can also be found in the form of an extract, salve, tincture, or oil. Many who use herbal medicines actually grow lemon balm in their yard. It isn’t too difficult to grow indoors either for those who live in cooler climates, like myself!
Lemon balm has several benefits that could aid the body. Although the herb has been used as a natural remedy for quite some time now, there are some fairly recent scientific studies that have looked into its possible health benefits.
Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep Disorders
Lemon balm may be used to help reduce anxiety, according to a small 2014 study published in Nutrients. Additionally, previous studies have suggested that a compound in lemon balm known as rosmarinic acid may have anti-anxiety effects by increasing the availability of GABA (a signaling chemical) in the brain. Because of the presence of rosmarinic acid, lemon balm helps calm the mind, thereby promoting sleep and alleviating some stress. Lemon balm may have an effect on sleep when combined with the herb valerian.
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2013 suggests that lemon balm in combination with valerian may help improve sleep quality during menopause. The researchers who conducted the study observed that the lemon balm/valerian supplement appeared to have a beneficial effect in reducing the symptoms of sleep disorders.
For benign heart palpitations, some holistic and natural doctors suggest the use of lemon balm instead of pharmaceutical medications. According to Dr. Tori Hudson, many of the heart palpitations are not only benign but are caused by stress or anxiety or too much caffeine. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, lemon balm helped reduce the episodes of heart palpitations.
After only 2 weeks of treatment, lemon balm extract at 500 mg twice daily significantly decreased the frequency of episodes of benign heart palpitations and anxiety. While this was a small study of short duration, clinical results within 2 weeks are what Dr. Hudson would be looking for in a patient with heart palpitations, and anxiety.
“I look forward to using lemon balm even more, for heart palpitations that in particular seem to be associated with anxiety disorders.” –Dr. Tori Hudson