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9 Impressive Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
A bottle of Lemon balm oil. Sharp memory and problem-solving are benefits of Lemon balm

Lemon balm has a reputation as an incredible herb for supporting good health. Its name is attributed to its lemony scent. The plant's reputed effect on vigor and longevity are attributed to its popularity, and scientific studies have only served to reinforce its reputation. Let's take a close look at nine impressive health benefits of lemon balm.

Lemon Balm Quick Facts:
Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis
Family: Lamiaceae
Origin: Europe
Plant Type: Flowering, Perennial
Health Benefits: Restful sleep, relieves discomfort, soothes irritation, supports the body’s natural response to harmful organisms, supports DNA integrity, encourages mental clarity.
Uses: Wound care, stress management, herbal tea, and supplementation.

Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

1. Calms the Mind

Lemon balm has been used for centuries to care for wounds and quell sleeplessness. Some attest that the pure, sweet aroma of the oil promotes a feeling of relaxation. Most sweet oils are said to provide the same benefit.

2. Encourages Restful Sleep

Lemon balm encourages restful sleep, especially for those who have trouble falling asleep. In one study, parents reported their children slept more peacefully throughout the night with lemon balm supplementation. It doesn’t only benefit restless children and their sleep-deprived parents. A placebo-controlled trial found that menopausal women suffering from interrupted sleep reported much better rest after taking a lemon balm and valerian extract.[1]

3. Improves Skin Appearance

The first cosmetic use of lemon balm goes back to the 14th century when the Queen of Hungary reportedly used it to erase years from her face by softening wrinkles. Today, it’s still recommended for boosting the appearance of skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines. Lemon balm also contains volatile components, such as caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, and rosmarinic acid, that work together to support the body’s natural response to the harmful organisms that cause lip blemishes.[2]

4. Boosts Alertness

Although lemon balm calms the mind, it certainly doesn’t dull the mind. In the right serving, it does the exact opposite. An Australian study reported improved alertness in participants who took the herb. The reported side effects, if you can call them that, included calm feelings and a positive mood.[3]

5. Sharpens Memory and Concern Solving

Studies like the one above observed improved memory and problem-solving in test subjects, regardless of age, after taking lemon balm. Young or old, those taking lemon balm supplements displayed improvement in problem-solving skills and recall.

Though preliminary, some studies have examined lemon balm and its relation to brain health. When combined with acupuncture, eugenol, a powerful antioxidant in lemon balm, helped test subjects recover memory-related functions.[4] Another study showed participants had significant improvements in brain function after 16 weeks of administration of a lemon balm extract containing 500 mcg of citral — a component of lemon balm oil.[5]

Another study reported that lemon balm helps stimulate memory and enhance mood. A phytochemical found in lemon balm suppresses the enzymes that break down the neurotransmitter responsible for memory and thought.[5]

6. Powerful Antioxidant

Lemon balm is loaded with antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals. Studies on eugenol and rosmarinic acid show they support healthy brain aging. The list of powerful antioxidants includes ferulic acid, caffeic acid, and quercetin.[6]

7. Supports the Liver

The liver detoxifies dangerous compounds from the body and, over time, can become tired and sluggish, especially if you follow an unhealthy diet. Animal studies have found that lemon balm is effective at protecting the liver from some of the negative effects of an unhealthy diet.[7] Lemon balm also supports the liver’s production of two important antioxidants — glutathione and superoxide dismutase.[8]

8. Supports Normal Blood Sugar

Many herbs that provide antioxidants also promote balanced blood sugar. Although preliminary, research suggests that lemon balm may encourage normal blood sugar levels.[9]

9. Protects Brain Cells

Beyond the positive effects on memory, thinking, and mood, research suggests lemon balm supports brain health. Antioxidants like eugenol detain free radicals before they can attack brain cells.[10] Rosmarinic acid, a key compound in lemon balm, is beneficial in this regard. If the brain doesn't get enough blood, it can quickly become an emergency that affects brain function. Animal models show that, when provided shortly after such an episode, lemon balm appears to protect the brain.[11]

Tips for Growing Lemon Balm

The many benefits of lemon balm might inspire you to grow your own. Lemon balm prefers well-drained clay or sandy loam and a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. It prefers Zones 4a through 9b and grows best in U.S. Zone 7, where you can harvest it until November. Plant seeds indoors during early spring (6-8 weeks before the last frost) or sow seeds on the surface of outside soil after the last frost of spring. You should see the first shoots within 12 to 21 days after sowing. When the leaves are ready to harvest, dry them on screens or hang in bunches to preserve for later use. On average, it takes about ten weeks to go from seeds to full-leaf plants.

Using Lemon Balm

There are several ways to use lemon balm. Many people make lemon balm part of their diet in the form of tea or supplements. Lemon balm essential oil has amazing aromatherapy applications. Regardless of your preferred use, organic lemon balm is always the best choice.

Because of its soothing properties, lemon balm is an essential ingredient in many types of popular skin care and beauty products.

References (11)
  1. Taavoni, S., Nazem, Ekbatani N., Haghani, H. "Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause." Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2013 Nov;19(4):193-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.07.002.
  2. "Herbs and Natural Supplements, volume 1, 4th edition: Braun & Cohen." 2014. Print. 12 Jan. 2017.
  3. Scholey, A., Gibbs, A., Neale, C., Perry, N., Ossoukhova, A., Bilog, V., Kras, M., Scholz, C., Sass, M., Buchwald-Werner, S. "Anti-stress effects of M. Officinalis-containing foods." Nutrients. 2014 Oct 30;6(11):4805-21. doi: 10.3390/nu6114805.
  4. Liu, Z., Niu, W., Yang, X., Wang, Y. "Effects of combined acupuncture and eugenol on learning-memory ability and antioxidation system of hippocampus in Alzheimer disease rats via olfactory system stimulation." J Tradit Chin Med. 2013 Jun;33(3):399-402.
  5. Obulesu, M., Rao, D.M. "Effect of plant extracts on Alzheimer’s disease: An insight into therapeutic avenues." J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2011 Jan;2(1):56-61. doi: 10.4103/0976-3147.80102.
  6. Spiridon, I., Colceru, S., Anghel, N., Teaca, C.A., Bodirlau, R., Armatu, A. "Antioxidant capacity and total phenolic contents of oregano (Origanum vulgare), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) from Romania." Nat Prod Res. 2011 Oct;25(17):1657-61. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2010.521502.
  7. Ali, Zarei, Saeed, Changizi Ashtiyani, Soheila, Taheri, and Fateme Rasekh. "Comparison between effects of different doses of Melissa officinalis and atorvastatin on the activity of liver enzymes in hypercholesterolemia rats." Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 15?23.
  8. Zeraatpishe, A., Oryan, S., Bagheri, M.H., Pilevarian, A.A., Malekirad, A.A., Baeeri, M., Abdollahi, M. "Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on oxidative status and DNA damage in subjects exposed to long-term low-dose ionizing radiation." Toxicol Ind Health. 2011 Apr;27(3):205-12. doi: 10.1177/0748233710383889.
  9. Weidner, C., Wowro, S.J., Freiwald, A., Kodelja, V., Abdel-Aziz, H., Kelber, O., Sauer, S. "Lemon balm extract causes potent antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic effects in insulin-resistant obese mice." Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Apr;58(4):903-7. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201300477.
  10. Nagababu, E., Rifkind, J.M., Boindala, S., Nakka, L. "Assessment of antioxidant activity of eugenol in vitro and in vivo." Methods Mol Biol. 2010;610:165-80. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-029-8_10.
  11. Luan, H., Kan, Z., Xu, Y., Lv, C., Jiang, W. "Rosmarinic acid protects against experimental diabetes with cerebral ischemia: relation to inflammation response." J Neuroinflammation. 2013 Feb 17;10:28. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-10-28.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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