Medically reviewed by Fallon Mumford, PharmD
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family of plants. The botanical name is Melissa officinalis. Lemon balm plants are native to Iran, Europe and Central Asia and are today grown all over the world.
People have used lemon balm leaves for centuries for the plant’s supposed digestive, antimicrobial, metabolic, and mental health benefits. Lemon balm is usually considered safe and has few side effects. It is commonly used as an ingredient in teas, skin ointments, chapsticks, and various herbal supplements.
Research is limited when it comes to lemon balm benefits, but there are some promising studies.
Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be right for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.
May boost mental health
Many people believe that lemon balm can calm the mind and provide mental clarity. Research has found some truth to those claims.
One study looked at how participants’ moods changed after consuming lemon balm mixed with yogurt or mixed in a drink. The researchers found that consuming lemon balm was linked to improved moods and cognitive functions.
A review of previous studies found that lemon balm significantly improved anxiety and depression compared to a placebo. However, these results were based on small studies. More larger studies are needed to confirm that lemon balm can have a positive impact on mental health.
Can help with cold sores
Lemon balm has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of these properties, some research has investigated lemon balm’s ability to treat or prevent the herpes simplex virus, the virus that causes cold sores. The studies found that lemon balm can shorten the duration of cold sore infections, prevent repeated infections, and reduce redness and swelling.
May reduce insomnia
Lemon balm is often used in teas and other herbal preparations to help you fall asleep. There is some evidence that there is a link between lemon balm and better sleep.
For example, one study showed that people who had heart surgery slept better when taking lemon balm capsules compared to a group given a placebo.
However, more research needs to be done to determine lemon balm’s impact on sleep.
May reduce PMS symptoms
Lemon balm may provide benefits for people who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
One study looked at PMS symptoms in teenage girls. The study found that a daily dose of 1,200 milligrams of lemon balm in capsule form reduced the intensity of PMS symptoms compared to participants who received a placebo.
The researchers noted that more research is needed using more diverse populations and a larger number of participants.
May improve digestion
Lemon balm is often used to help with digestive symptoms, such as bloating and gas. It has also been used to help babies with colic, crying that can sometimes be caused by gas or other digestive pains.
Some studies have found positive links between lemon balm and improved indigestion and colic. However, many of these studies used different herbal blends containing lemon balm rather than just lemon balm. This makes it difficult to determine which herb gave the benefit.
An animal-based study looked only at lemon balm and found that the herb calmed minor intenstines in mice. However, human-based research is needed to confirm this benefit for humans.
How to take lemon balm
Lemon balm can be consumed in several ways. People often drink it as a tea or as an ingredient in a tea blend. You can eat the herb fresh – chopped into a salad, added to a cold drink or even as an ingredient in baked goods. You can find it as a supplement in capsule or tablet form or as an herbal tincture. Many cosmetic products also contain lemon balm, including chapsticks, balms, ointments, and soaps.
There are no evidence-based dosing recommendations for lemon balm.
Different lemon balm preparations may be more concentrated than others. For example, lemon balm tea is usually less potent than tinctures or extracts. When using lemon balm as a supplement, it is best to follow the use and dosage recommended by the manufacturer.
If you’re not sure what a safe lemon balm dosage is for you, talk to a health care professional.
Is lemon balm safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes lemon balm in their “generally regarded as safe” list.
But lemon balm may not be safe for everyone. There is some evidence that lemon balm may not be safe for people with thyroid disease. Also, not much is known about whether lemon balm is safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it’s best to consult your doctor before using it during that time.
Potential Drug Interactions
Lemon balm is considered safe in most cases. However, there is very little information on whether lemon balm is safe to take with other medications.
There is some evidence that lemon balm may interact negatively with sedatives.
Talk to a healthcare provider before using lemon balm alongside other medications, especially if you plan to consume concentrated amounts of it, such as in a capsule, extract, or tincture.
What to look for
When purchasing lemon balm supplements, such as capsules, tablets, extracts, and tinctures, it is important to keep in mind that herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The benefits stated on the product, as well as the quality of the product itself, may or may not be accurate.
The FDA recommends that you purchase products that have been third-party quality tested by organizations such as consumerLab.com, NSF International, and US Pharmacopeia.
Can you take too much lemon balm?
There is no standard dosage for lemon balm, so the limit to how much lemon balm you can safely have is unclear.
Consuming the amount of lemon balm you enjoy as a food ingredient should be safe.
Concentrated forms of lemon balm, such as in a tincture, extract, or capsule form, contain much higher doses of the herb. When using these forms of lemon balm, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosag
Stop taking a supplement if you experience side effects.
Side effects of lemon balm
Most people do not experience any side effects when consuming lemon balm.
Research has found that consuming lemon balm in manufacturer-recommended doses topically or orally for up to 30 days usually causes no side effects. The same is true when consumed as food.
Rarely, side effects such as headache, increased body heat and burning sensation during urination have been reported. Oral use of lemon balm may also increase your appetite.
A quick overview
Lemon balm is a popular food and drink ingredient as well as an herbal supplement. There is some evidence that the plant may help improve mental health, sleep, digestion, PMS and cold sores. Lemon balm is generally considered safe, especially when consumed as a tea or food. However, more information is needed about taking higher doses safely and how lemon balm may interact with other medications. It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before starting an herbal supplement such as lemon balm.
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Read the original article on Health.