Lemon balm is a safe and effective relaxing herb to naturally treat anxiety, stress and insomnia

lemon balm leavesFrom before the Middle Ages the delicious herb lemon balm has been used to improve mood, help heal wounds, and treat insect bites. Today lemon balm is still used for health, especially stress, anxiety, relaxation, insomnia, cold sores, shingles, and digestive problems. Lemon balm is grown in herb gardens, and in crops for medicine, cosmetics, and making furniture polish. The herb is generally considered safe, with few side effects.

What is lemon balm?
How does lemon balm work?
How can we buy lemon balm?
What is lemon balm used for?
What evidence is there that lemon balm works for anxiety, depression, relaxation and insomnia?
Does lemon balm have any withdrawal symptoms?
Does lemon balm have any side effects?
What medications can lemon balm interact with?
Who should avoid taking lemon balm?

What is lemon balm?

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. It is a flowering herb native to Europe and grown all over the world. Lemon balm leaves smell like lemons when rubbed together.

How does lemon balm work?

Lemon balm contains chemicals that have a sedative (calming) effect. Lemon balm might also be antiviral (kill viruses).

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), lemon balm also contains the chemical eugenal. This calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills bacteria.

Lemon balm leaves, oil and extract are used in food and drinks for flavoring.

How can we buy lemon balm?

The UMMC says lemon balm is sold as a dried leaf that can be bought in bulk. Lemon balm is also available as tea, and in capsules, extracts, tinctures, homeopathic remedies, oil, and aromatherapy oil (essential oil).

Some creams in Europe contain lemon balm. These are not sold in the United States.

Lemon balm tea can be applied to the skin with cotton balls.

What is lemon balm used for?

Lemon balm is taken internally for:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • relaxation
  • depression
  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • hysteria
  • sleeping problems such as insomnia
  • headaches
  • digestive problems such as bloating, flatulence (gas), vomiting, indigestion, heartburn, colic and poor appetite
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • period pain
  • helping treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • stimulating the menstrual period in women with absent or light periods
  • cramps caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • heart palpitations
  • allergic reactions
  • rapid heartbeat
  • respiratory congestion
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid is overactive)
  • improving the immune system in people with autoimmune diseases

Lemon balm is applied to the skin for:

  • blemishes
  • chest pain
  • cold sores
  • fever blisters
  • genital herpes
  • hives
  • insect bites
  • shingles
  • wound healing

What evidence is there that lemon balm works for anxiety, depression, relaxation and insomnia?

Naturopathic doctor and nutrition specialist Cathy Wong says 24 healthy volunteers took part in a study of valerian and lemon balm in 2006. The study found that this combination of herbs helped reduce participants’ anxiety during a stress-inducing lab experiment.

According to the UMMC, several studies have found that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, hops, and chamomile) helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Few studies have examined lemon balm by itself, except for use on the skin. For example, in one study of people with minor sleep problems, those who took a herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm said they slept much better than those who took a placebo (dummy pill). Whether the result was caused by lemon balm or valerian (or the combination) is not clear from this and other studies. The same is true of a few studies of anxiety, which used a combination of herbs to reduce symptoms.

The UMMC also reports on another double-blind, placebo-controlled study of lemon balm. Eighteen healthy volunteers received two separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or a placebo for 7 days. The 600 mg dose of lemon balm improved mood and increased calmness and alertness.

The Australian National University says: “There is no scientific evidence on whether lemon balm works for depression…Given the lack of scientific evidence, lemon balm cannot currently be recommended for depression. ”

Does lemon balm have any withdrawal symptoms?

Richard N. Podell, M.D. reported in Nutrition Science News the results of a study of valerian and lemon balm on 68 people with insomnia. Podell wrote that during the post-treatment washout period “daytime anxiety decreased after using valerian/lemon balm compared with placebo, with no indication of withdrawal or rebound symptoms.”

At the end of the article Podell said: “While a few people are sensitive to these herbs, there are remarkably few adverse reports.”

Does lemon balm have any side effects?

MedicineNet.com says lemon balm might cause drowsiness. If drowsiness worsens or persists, contact your doctor.

What medications can lemon balm interact with?

Wong and the UMMC say lemon balm might interact with sedatives and thyroid medications. The UMMC advises that if you take either or both of these medications, ask your doctor before taking lemon balm.

MedicineNet.com recommends that:

Before using this product, tell your doctor or pharmacist of all prescription and nonprescription medications you may use, especially drugs that cause drowsiness.

The following drugs are then listed:

  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • antihistamines such as diphenhydramine
  • anti-seizure drugs
  • medicine for sleep
  • muscle relaxants
  • narcotic pain relievers such as codeine
  • psychiatric medications
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers

Many cough-and-cold products have ingredients that might cause drowsiness. Before using cough-and-cold medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safe use of these products.

Who should avoid taking lemon balm?

MedicineNet.com recommends asking your doctor or pharmacist about the safe use of lemon balm.

The website also says:

  • limit alcohol intake while using lemon balm. Alcohol might strengthen side effects such as drowsiness.
  • take lemon balm with caution when doing tasks that need mental alertness, such as driving.
  • caution is advised if you have diabetes, alcohol dependence and/or liver disease.
  • lemon balm is not recommended for use by pregnant women.
  • breast feeding while taking lemon balm is not recommended because of the possible risk to the infant.

Author Elaine Moore says lemon balm is not recommended for people with glaucoma.

written by Nyomi Graef

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6 Responses to “Lemon balm is a safe and effective relaxing herb to naturally treat anxiety, stress and insomnia”

  1. […] Lemon balm is a protected as well as in effect relaxing herb to of course … […]

  2. […] Lemon balm is a safe and effective relaxing herb to naturally … […]

  3. I started using lemon balm for anxiety. It works really well. I stopped taking prescription pill for anxiety. They had bad withdrawals when I came off of them. So far lemon balm is helping me with my anxiety.

  4. Shaw says:

    I have always gotten “cold sores”, “fever blisters” aka Herpes. This last one was the worst. I know it’s my immune system telling me I need rest. My question: (and I hope no one gets offended) can Herpes on the face/lips be transfered to genital herpes on another person? (I don’t want to get graphic, but you know what I mean!) I know there’s different kinds of the Herpes virus – just wondering if they are inter-transferable to other body parts. Thanks. There is a product H-Balm Control from ForcesOfNature, anyone used this?

  5. Nyomi says:

    Hi Shaw,

    In regards to your question, this New York Times article might help you: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/19/health/19real.html?_r=0 , in particular the last line in the article.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Kind Regards,

  6. Jacky86 says:

    The sour taste of lemon juice is explained by the presence of citric acid, which is approximately 8 percent of the fruit. This excellent source of vitamin C also contains other vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin E and a complex of B vitamins.
    To strengthen immunity and combat disease-causing bacteria, you must drink every morning a glass of lemon juice. Here is a description of why lemon is still useful.
    It contains antioxidants that help in the fight against premature aging of the skin, fight free radicals – the main factor responsible for the appearance of symptoms of aging.

    Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen. It helps to increase the elasticity of the skin. Antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of lemon allow it to be used as a natural remedy for acne and other skin infections.

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