Lemon balm is cousin to the world’s go-to flavor from toothpaste to chewing gum: mint. For the Latin educated it’s known as Melissa officinalis and can be found in the loving confines of the European Union. Before our modern reliance on pharmacies lemon balm was used to calm anxiety, boost memory, improve sleep and aid digestion. If you ever get your hands on fresh leaves rubbing them together produces a lemon-like scent. The German Commission E, an advisory board for herbs, approved lemon balm for nervous sleep conditions.
Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how lemon balm makes us feel sleepy but they suspect it works in a manner similar to benzodiazepines as it results in calming effects.
...was found to decrease pathological restlessness and improve sleep
Does it work? Prove it.
· A study with varying doses of lemon balm was performed in the UK on 20 healthy volunteers. At doses of 300mg and 900mg the volunteers reported increased feeling of calmness and hour after taking the herb.
· 18 healthy volunteers were placed in a stressful situation by having to answer brain game questions on a computer. The volunteers that took 600mg of lemon balm after the stressful event said they felt calmer and less alert.
· 60 drops a day of lemon balm extract reduced levels of agitation in 42 patients with mild- moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.
· 66 healthy Swiss volunteers reported improved sleep quality after taking a combination of valerian 360mg and lemon balm 240mg for 30 days.
· In a large German study on 917 children 12 years and below, a combination of valerian 160mg and lemon balm 80mg taken up to 2 tablets twice a day, was found to decrease pathological restlessness and improve sleep. There were no harmful side effects seen.
Is it safe?
Some reports having nausea, vomiting or dizziness after ingestion but there was no difference compared to placebo. No serious or life threatening known side effects.
How do I use Lemon Balm?
Recommendations from University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide include the following for difficulty sleeping:
· Capsules: Take 300-500 mg of dried lemon balm, 3x a day or as needed.
· Tea: Pour 1.5 – 4.5 grams (1/4 -1 teaspoon) of dried lemon balm in hot water. Drink up to 4x a day.
· Tincture: 60 drops a day
· Lemon balm is a calming herb.
· Research shows that is works to relax healthy people in stressful conditions and even those with dementia.
· A combination of valerian and lemon balm can boost your (and your children’s) sleep quality.
· It really does smell like lemons.
· Can be taken as a capsule, tea or tincture.
-Dr. Valerie Cacho
1. Background: Woodard S. ANCIENT Remedies Modern CURES. Prevention [serial online]. February 2010;62(2); 102-108. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 25, 2016.
2. University of Maryland: A, 2013. “Lemon balm.” University of Maryland Medical Center Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. University of Maryland Medical Center, 1997. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.
3. UK study: D.O Kennedy, Andrew B Scholey, N.T.J Tildesley, E.K Perry, K.A Wesnes, Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Volume 72, Issue 4, July 2002, Pages 953-964, ISSN 0091-3057.
4. Brain game: Kennedy, D. O., Little, W., & Scholey, A. B. (2004). Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosomatic medicine, 66(4), 607-613.
5. Alzheimer’s dementia: Akhondzadeh, S., Noroozian, M., Mohammadi, M., Ohadinia, S., Jamshidi, A. H., & Khani, M. (2003). Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry,74(7), 863-866.
6. Combination: Cerny, A., Schmid, K., 1999. Tolerability and efficacy of valerian/lemon balm in healthy volunteers (a double blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study). Fitoterapia 70, 221–228.
7. Children: S.F. Müller, S. Klement, A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children, Phytomedicine, Volume 13, Issue 6, 12 June 2006, Pages 383-387, ISSN 0944-7113, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2006.01.013.