Lemon BalmMelissa officinalis
• Topical Lemon Balm:
• Oral Lemon Balm: Sedative (
• Inhaled Essential Oil of Lemon Balm (Aromatherapy): Reducing Agitation in
Commonly called by its Latin first name, Melissa , lemon balm is a native of southern Europe, often planted in gardens to attract bees. Its leaves give off a delicate lemon odor when bruised.
Medical authorities of ancient Greece and Rome mentioned topical lemon balm as a treatment for wounds. The herb was later used orally as a treatment for influenza, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and nervous stomach.
What Is Melissa Used for Today?
Topical lemon balm is most popular today as a treatment for genital or oral herpes
Note : While conventional treatments can reduce infectivity and thereby help prevent the spread of herpes, there is no evidence as yet that lemon balm offers this benefit. Keep in mind also that common sense methods of avoiding passing on herpes are not entirely effective: Many people are infectious even when they do not have obvious symptoms, and use of a condom does not entirely prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, if you are sexually active with a noninfected partner who wishes to remain that way, we strongly recommend that you use suppressive drug therapy.
There is some evidence that oral use of lemon balm has sedative effects, and it is currently used for
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Lemon Balm?
Numerous test tube studies have found that extracts of lemon balm possess antiviral properties.
We don't really know how it works, but the predominant theory is that the herb blocks viruses from attaching to cells.
Another double-blind study followed 116 individuals with oral or genital herpes.
Relatively informal observations suggest that regular use of lemon balm cream may help reduce the frequency of herpes flareups.
Lemon balm extracts have been found to produce a sedative effect in mice.
In another study, lemon balm essential oil applied to the skin in the form of a cream also reduced agitation in 71 people with Alzheimer's disease.
Lemon balm has also shown sedative and anti-anxiety effects in two small studies of healthy people.
For treatment of an active flare-up of herpes, the proper dosage is 4 thick applications daily of a standardized lemon balm (70:1) cream. The dosage may be reduced to twice daily for preventive purposes.
The best lemon balm extracts are standardized by their capacity to inhibit the growth of herpes virus in a petri dish. 9
When taken orally for its calming effect, the standard dosage of lemon balm is 1.5 to 4.5 g of dried herb daily; extracts and tinctures should be taken according to label instructions.
Topical lemon balm is not associated with any significant side effects, although allergic reactions are always possible. Oral lemon balm is on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. However, according to one study cited above, lemon balm reduces alertness and impairs mental function; for this reason, individuals engaging in activities that require alertness, such as operating a motor vehicle, should avoid using lemon balm beforehand. 11
In addition, one animal study suggests that if lemon balm is taken at the same time as standard sedative drugs, excessive sedation might occur.
11. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002;72:953-964.
12. Ballard CG, O'Brien JT, Reichelt K, et al. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. J Clin Psychiatry . 2002;63:553-558.
13. Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, et al. Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol NeurosurgPsychiatry . 2003;74:863-6.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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