The leaves of lemon balm, Melissa officinalis L (Lamiaceae), are used in Iranian folk medicine for their digestive, carminative, antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic, tonic, and diuretic properties, as well as for functional gastrointestinal disorders. Studies reviewed the traditional usage of this herb, including antimicrobial activity (antiparasitic, antibacterial, antiviral, etc), antispasmodic, and insomnia properties. Then, its antioxidant properties were overviewed. Various studies have shown that Melissa officinalis L possesses high amounts of antioxidant activity through its chemical compounds, including high amounts of flavonoids, rosmaric acid, gallic acid, phenolic contents. Many studies confirmed the antioxidative effects of Melissa officinalis; thus, its effect in preventing and treating oxidative stress-related diseases might be reliable.
A systematic review and a meta-analytic approach were considered to investigate the effects of lemon balm as a medicinal herb on anxiety and depression in clinical trials and its side effects. All randomized clinical trials published up to October 30, 2020 that examined lemon balm in patients with symptoms of depression or anxiety, with acute or chronic manifestations, were searched in 12 online databases. Based on meta-analysis results, lemon balm significantly improved mean anxiety and depression scores compared with the placebo, without serious side effects. Current evidence suggests that lemon balm may be effective in improving anxiety and depressive symptoms, particularly in the acute setting.
Lemon balm has antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-histaminic and antiviral properties. It is used in cases of anxiety, neurosis and nervous excitability, palpitation and headache, and also in hyperthyroidism.
Lemon balm has a long-standing reputation as a calming and uplifting herb. The hydro-alcoholic extract exhibited sedative effects on the central nervous system in animal studies. A study showed that a 600 mg dose of standardized M. officinalis extract improved mood, calmness and alertness, and a 300 mg dose increased the subjects’ mathematical processing speed. Another study indicated that a 600 mg dose of a standardized product containing Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis reduced anxiety in human subjects.
Historically, lemon balm was believed to sharpen memory. A study published in 2003 showed that 1600 mg of dried leaf improved memory and calmness.
Lemon balm is one of several plants which may be useful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to inhibit acetylcholinesterase and its antioxidant activity…
Lemon balm is approved by the German Commission E for nervous sleep disorders and ‘functional gastrointestinal complaints’. ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy) recommends the external use of lemon balm for cold sores and the internal use for tenseness, restlessness, irritability, digestive disorders and minor spasms. Lemon balm is also used in homeopathic medicine for menstrual irregularities. Medicinal lemon balm preparations include teas/infusions, tinctures, syrups, baths/foot baths, capsules, pills, powders, poultices, salves, steams, fomentations, oil, liquid and dried extracts.
The Botanical Safety Handbook gives lemon balm a ‘class 1’ rating, assigned to ‘herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately,’ and Dr James Duke (2003) categorizes lemon balm as ‘safer than coffee,’ (+++) which is his highest safety rating.
The Herb Society of America guide to Lemon balm (2007) records the following culinary (and household) uses for lemon balm:
Lemon balm is a surprisingly versatile culinary herb which can be used to flavor many different types of dishes, from beverages, to appetizers, main courses and desserts. It can be added to salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, jams, sauces, marinades, dressings… cakes, ice cream, cookies, and pies
Lemon balm complements many fruits, including honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, apples, and pears.
For culinary purposes, fresh leaves are most flavorful. Chopped, fresh leaves can be added to baked goods but whole leaves can be used in many other types of dishes.
One of the most popular ways to use lemon balm is in tea. Leaves can be combined with Earl Grey, green or black tea and a handful can be added to a pitcher of iced tea. Fresh leaves are best for tea, but dried leaves can also be used…
Lemon balm flowers also have culinary use. They can be candied or used to garnish fruit salad, beverages or rice.
In the commercial food industry, lemon balm oil and extract are used to flavor alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, candy, baked goods, gelatin, pudding and frozen dairy desserts. Lemon balm is an ingredient in liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse.
Lemon balm has been used historically as an insect repellent. It has also been shown to stop the growth of the food spoilage yeasts, Torulasopra delbrueckii, Zygosaccharomyces bailii, Pichia membranifaciens, Dekkera anomala and Yarrowia lipolytica.
Some of the highest quality options for Lemon Balm are sold by Nootropics Depot:
For teabags, try Handpick.
For loose leaves, try U.S. Wellness Naturals.
For a tincture, try Nature’s Craft.