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Lemon Balm

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What other names is Lemon Balm known by?

Balm, Bálsamo de Limón, Cure-All, Dropsy Plant, Honey Plant, Melisa, Melissa, Melissa officinalis, Melissae Folium, Mélisse, Mélisse Citronnelle, Mélisse Officinale, Melissenblatt, Monarde, Sweet Balm, Sweet Mary, Toronjil.

What is Lemon Balm?

Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family. The leaves, which have a mild lemon aroma, are used to make medicine. Lemon balm is used alone or as part of various multi-herb combination products.

Lemon balm is taken by mouth for digestive problems, including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence), vomiting, and colic It is also used for pain, including menstrual cramps, headache and toothache. Lemon balm is also used for mental disorders, including hysteria, melancholia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer's disease.

Many people believe lemon balm has calming effects so they take it for anxiety, stress, sleep problems, and restlessness. Lemon balm is also used for an autoimmune disease involving the thyroid (Graves' disease), swollen airways, rapid heartbeat due to nervousness, high blood pressure, cramps, sores, tumors, and insect bites.

Lemon balm is inhaled as aromatherapy for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Some people apply lemon balm to their skin to treat cold sores (herpes labialis) or to improve dementia in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

In foods and beverages, the extract and oil of lemon balm are used for flavoring.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Anxiety. Some research shows that taking a specific lemon balm product (Cyracos by Naturex SA) reduces symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. Also, early research shows that taking a product containing lemon balm plus 12 other ingredients (Klosterfrau Melissengeist by Klosterfrau) reduces anxiety symptoms such as nervousness or edginess.
  • Colic in breast-fed infants. Some research shows that giving a specific multi-ingredient product containing fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile (ColiMil by Milte Italia SPA) to breast-fed infants with colic twice daily for a week reduces crying time. Other research shows that giving infants a tea preparation containing German chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm (Calma-Bebi by Bonomelli) up to three times per day increases the number of infants for whom colic resolves.
  • Dementia. Some research shows that taking lemon balm by mouth daily for 4 months reduces agitation and improves symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Also, early research shows that applying a lotion containing lemon balm oils to the face and hands of people with dementia reduces agitation. However, other early research found no benefit.
  • Upset stomach (dyspepsia). A specific product containing lemon balm, peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle (Iberogast by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) seems to improve acid reflux (GERD), stomach pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. Also, a similar product containing peppermint leaf, clown's mustard plant, German chamomile flower, caraway, licorice root, and lemon balm (STW 5-II by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) seems to improve stomach and intestinal symptoms in people with upset stomach.
  • Herpes simplex virus infections. Applying a lip balm containing an extract of lemon balm (LomaHerpan by Infectopharm) to the infected area seems to shorten healing time and reduce symptoms of recurring herpes infections if applied at the early stages of infection.
  • Insomnia. Taking lemon balm (Cyracos by Naturex SA) twice daily for 15 days improves sleep in people with sleep disorders. Also, taking lemon balm in combination with other ingredients seems to help improve sleep quality in people with sleeping disorders.
  • Stress. Early research shows that taking a single dose of lemon balm increases calmness and alertness in adults during a stress test. Other early research shows that adding lemon balm to a food or drink reduces anxiety and improves memory and alertness during mental testing. Also, lemon balm appears to reduce anxious behavior in children during dental exams. Taking lemon balm along with valerian at a low dose appears to reduce anxiety during stress tests. But taking the combination at a higher dose appears to worsen stress-induced anxiety.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mental performance. Early research suggests that taking a single dose of lemon balm improves accuracy but slows performance on a timed memory task.
  • Colitis. Early research suggests that taking a combination of dandelion, St. John's wort, lemon balm, calendula, and fennel for 15 days reduces pain and improves bowel function in people with colitis. It's not clear if the effects are due to lemon balm or other ingredients.
  • Depression. Early research shows that taking lemon balm with fertilized egg powder does not improve symptoms of depression compared to taking fertilized egg powder.
  • Restlessness (dyssomnia). Early research shows that taking 1-2 tablets of a specific product containing lemon balm and valerian root (Euvegal forte by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) once or twice daily might decrease symptoms of restlessness in children under age 12. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, valerian, or the combination.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research suggests that adding 30 drops of a product containing lemon balm, spearmint and coriander (Carmint by PurSina Pharmacy) to standard treatment three times daily for 8 weeks reduces stomach pain and discomfort in people with IBS. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, other ingredients, or the combination.
  • Mental illness that causes physical pain (somatization disorder). Taking a product containing valerian, passionflower, and lemon balm (Relaxane, Max Zeller Söhne AG) seems to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with mental illness that causes physical pain. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, other ingredients, or the combination.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lemon balm for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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