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Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

May 19, 2023May 19, 2023

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Medically reviewed by Fallon Mumford, PharmD

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family of plants. Its botanical name is Melissa officinalis. Lemon balm plants are native to Iran, Europe, and Central Asia and are cultivated all over the world today.

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 reported side effects. It's often used as an ingredient in teas, skin salves, chapsticks, and various herbal supplements.

Research is limited when it comes to the benefits of lemon balm, but there are some promising studies.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable 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. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Many people think of lemon balm as being able to 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 into a beverage. The researchers found consuming lemon balm was linked to improved moods and cognitive function.

A review of past studies found 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 positively affect mental health.

Lemon balm has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Due to these properties, some research has examined lemon balm's ability to treat or prevent herpes simplex virus, the virus that causes cold sores. The studies found that lemon balm can shorten the length of cold sore infections, prevent repeated infections, and reduce redness and swelling.

Lemon balm is often used in teas and other herbal preparations to help with falling asleep. There is some evidence that shows a connection between lemon balm and better sleep.

For example, one study found people who’d undergone heart surgery had improved sleep when taking lemon balm capsules as compared to a group given a placebo.

However, more research needs to be done to determine lemon balm's impact on sleep.

Lemon balm may offer benefits for people who experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

One study looked at PMS symptoms among teenage girls. The study found a 1,200 milligram daily dose of lemon balm in a capsule form reduced the intensity of PMS symptoms compared to participants who received a placebo.

The researchers did note more research is needed using more diverse populations and a larger number of participants.

Lemon balm is often used to help with digestive symptoms, such as bloating and gas. It's also been used to help infants with colic, crying that can sometimes be triggered by gas or other digestive pains.

Some research has found positive connections between lemon balm and improved indigestion and colic. However, many of these studies used various herbal blends containing lemon balm rather than lemon balm alone. Because of this, it's difficult to determine which herb gave the benefit.

One animal-based study looked at lemon balm alone and found the herb calmed the small intenstines in mice. However, human-based research is needed to confirm this benefit for people.

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 up into a salad, added to a cold beverage, 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, salves, and soaps.

There are no evidence-based dose recommendations for lemon balm.

Different lemon balm preparations may be more concentrated than others. For example, lemon balm teas are usually less potent than tinctures or extracts. When using lemon balm as a supplement, it's best to follow the manufacturer's recommended use and dosage.

If you are unsure about what a safe dosage of lemon balm is for you, speak to a healthcare provider.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes lemon balm within their "generally regarded as safe" list.

But lemon balm may not be as equally safe for everyone. There is some evidence lemon balm may not be safe for people who have thyroid disorders. Also, not much is known about whether lemon balm is safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it's best to speak to your healthcare provider before consuming it during those times.

Lemon balm is considered to be safe in most instances. However, there is very little information about whether lemon balm is safe to take with other medications.

There is some evidence suggesting lemon balm may interact negatively with sedatives.

Speak to a healthcare provider before taking lemon balm alongside other medications, especially if you plan to consume concentrated amounts of it, such as in a capsule, extract, or tincture.

When purchasing lemon balm supplements, such as capsules, tablets, extracts, and tinctures, it's important to keep in mind herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The benefits listed on the product, as well as the quality of the product itself, may or may not be accurate.

The FDA recommends you purchase products that are third-party tested for quality by organizations like, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia.

There is no standard dosing for lemon balm, so the limit on 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, have much higher doses of the herb. When taking these forms of lemon balm, it's best to follow the manufacturer's recommended dosage.

Stop taking a supplement if you experience any side effects.

Most people don't experience side effects when consuming lemon balm.

Research has found consuming lemon balm at manufacturer-recommended doses topically or orally for up to 30 days does not usually produce side effects. The same is true when consuming it as a food.

Rarely, side effects like headaches, increased body heat, and burning during urination have been reported. Oral use of lemon balm may also increase your appetite.

Lemon balm is a popular food and drink ingredient, as well as an herbal supplement. There is some evidence 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 on safely taking higher doses and how lemon balm may interact with other medications. It's always best to contact your healthcare provider before beginning an herbal supplement like lemon balm.

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Read the original article on Health.

Medically reviewed by Fallon Mumford, PharmD