Lemon balm: Uses and health benefits

Lemon balm is a perennial herb which people can grow to help attract bees in their garden. Outside the greenhouse, people use lemon balm for a variety of purposes including relieving stress and increasing mental alertness.

Some people also think that lemon balm can boost digestive health and have antispasmodic and analgesic effects (pain-relieving).

Sadly, there is limited research showing the effectiveness of the lemon balm in larger populations.

Read more on the lemon balm and its potential uses in this article.

What is lemon balm?

lemon balm
One potential use of lemon balm is to reduce stress.

Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis L., grows in Western Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe native.

Lemon balm has a lemonic scent and taste, as the name suggests.

In traditional medicine people use lemon balm for a variety of purposes ranging from digestive health and healing wounds to heart rate control.

Some of the possible effects of lemon balm and the studies that examine those claims are as follows.

Promoting gastrointestinal health

Lemon balm can relieve a number of less severe conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Several conditions people use it to treat include, according to one study review,:

  • stomach acid
  • bloating
  • colic
  • indigestion
  • nausea

A small study in 2010 suggested that lemon balm may be helpful in indigestion. The study examined 30 people with functional dyspepsia, a disorder which can cause stomach upset.

Researchers presented participants with a dessert similar to a sorbet with or without lemon balm, which they also mixed with another herb (artichoke, or Cynara scolymus).

Participants who ate the dessert with herbs were less upset about their stomachs than those who did not.

Reducing stress

Balm of lemon can help to reduce tension. One very small study looked at the impact on mood and stress levels of foods that contain lemon balm.

Participants ingested the lemon balm into drinks and yogurts during the test. They were then required to complete a stress test involving multitasking and simulating public speaking.

Researchers concluded that certain doses of lemon balm and delivery could reduce stress and depressive moods or anxiety.

It is important to note that the study had support from companies making lemon balm-containing products, so it may have a bias. Further work on these effects is required before researchers can draw conclusions.

Providing antioxidants

Lemon balm serves as an antioxidant, and is effective in the fight against oxidative stress, according to a study analysis.

The researchers suggested that lemon balm can help with oxidative stress-related conditions, such as:

  • diabetes
  • chronic neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease)
  • cardiovascular diseases

Nonetheless, the analysis shows the factors that directly impact the efficacy of the lemon balm, including how people manufacture it and dose it.

Aiding sleep

Lemon balm with valerian can help to treat sleeping problems and restlessness in children, according to an older study.

The study included more than 900 children and found that while taking the supplements, more than 80 percent reported changes in their sleeping problems.

However, 70 percent of the children reported changes in restlessness. Finally, there were no adverse effects from the medication on any of the patients.

Though, people should always talk to a doctor before they give a child some sort of medication.

Reducing inflammation

There is some evidence that lemon balm has the ability to help reduce inflammation. The authors of a 2013 report partially advocate the use of lemon balm in the management of pain and inflammation following injury.

While it did fight swelling and pain, the authors were unable to conclude on the exact anti-inflammatory mechanism of the plant.

However, these findings come from an animal study and further human work is required.

Relieving PMS symptoms

A small Iranian study of teenage girls found positive results that helped to relieve symptoms and pain during menstruation of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

The researchers divided the participants of the analysis into 2 groups. Every day during their time, they gave a group 1,200 milligrams of lemon balm essence in a tablet, while the other group had a placebo.

While both groups experienced a reduction in symptoms, there was considerably greater relief from the group that provided lemon balm.

Fighting viral infections 

Some research suggests antiviral effects of the lemon balm. Scientists have looked at the antimicrobial properties as they apply to conditions such as type 1 and type 2 herpes simplex viruses, according to one study.

The scientists suggested that certain concentrations and mixtures containing lemon balm may be useful in the treatment of herpes infections in early stages.

Herpes, among other diseases, is a very common virus that causes cold sores.

The study also found that lemon balm has been successful against certain human bacterial and fungal infections.

Another study of the research also addressed the antiviral activity of lemon balm. Researchers found that lemon balm prevented virus development in vitro causing simplex herpes, influenza, and myxoviruses.

Relaxing muscles

Several studies indicate that the lemon balm is beneficial because of its antispasmodic effects in helping calm smooth muscles.

Researchers found in a study analysis, that lemon balm helped to relax smooth muscle tissue in an animal model at appropriate concentrations.

They noted, however, that a 30 per cent concentration was not enough to show smooth muscle relaxation.

Side effects

Lemon balm is safe to use for most otherwise healthy people. There are few hazard studies but common side effects include:

  • skin rashes
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • heart palpitations

One research study found no side effects when people were using lemon balm at the correct dose for 30 days or less. The study did, however, point out that a potential risk can exist for:

  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • young children
  • people with thyroid disorders
  • people taking sedatives

A case study involving one person with specific symptoms suggested that the lemon balm may cause symptoms similar to withdrawal.

The authors suggested the person showed strong symptoms of withdrawal that coincided with not using lemon balm any more. I advise that more studies are needed to explore the potential dependence issues with the use of lemon balm

How to use

People with a garden may wish to try planting and growing lemon balm themselves.

Summary

Lemon balm can have some potential benefits and uses for the skin. Such properties may include reducing gastrointestinal discomfort, alleviating stress, reducing symptoms of PMS and preventing certain infections.

People should be careful, particularly if they are pregnant or have an underlying condition, and speak to a physician before trying new herbal remedies.

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