Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family. The leaves, which have a mild lemon aroma, are used to make medicine. Lemon balm is used alone or as part of various multi-herb combination products.
Lemon balm is taken by mouth for digestive problems, including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas (flatulence), vomiting, and colic It is also used for pain, including menstrual cramps, headache and toothache. Lemon balm is also used for mental disorders, including hysteria, melancholia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer's disease.
Many people believe lemon balm has calming effects so they take it for anxiety, stress, sleep problems, and restlessness. Lemon balm is also used for an autoimmune disease involving the thyroid (Graves' disease), swollen airways, rapid heartbeat due to nervousness, high blood pressure, cramps, sores, tumors, and insect bites.
Lemon balm is inhaled as aromatherapy for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Some people apply lemon balm to their skin to treat cold sores (herpes labialis) or to improve dementia in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
In foods and beverages, the extract and oil of lemon balm are used for flavoring.
How it works
Lemon balm contains chemicals that seem to have a sedative, calming effect. It might also reduce the growth of some viruses and bacteria.
Some research shows that taking a specific lemon balm product (Cyracos by Naturex SA) reduces symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. Also, early research shows that taking a product containing lemon balm plus 12 other ingredients (Klosterfrau Melissengeist by Klosterfrau) reduces anxiety symptoms such as nervousness or edginess.
Some research shows that giving a specific multi-ingredient product containing fennel, lemon balm, and German chamomile (ColiMil by Milte Italia SPA) to breast-fed infants with colic twice daily for a week reduces crying time. Other research shows that giving infants a tea preparation containing German chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm (Calma-Bebi by Bonomelli) up to three times per day increases the number of infants for whom colic resolves.
Some research shows that taking lemon balm by mouth daily for 4 months reduces agitation and improves symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Also, early research shows that applying a lotion containing lemon balm oils to the face and hands of people with dementia reduces agitation. However, other early research found no benefit.
A specific product containing lemon balm, peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle (Iberogast by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) seems to improve acid reflux (GERD), stomach pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. Also, a similar product containing peppermint leaf, clown's mustard plant, German chamomile flower, caraway, licorice root, and lemon balm (STW 5-II by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) seems to improve stomach and intestinal symptoms in people with upset stomach.
Applying a lip balm containing an extract of lemon balm (LomaHerpan by Infectopharm) to the infected area seems to shorten healing time and reduce symptoms of recurring herpes infections if applied at the early stages of infection.
Taking lemon balm (Cyracos by Naturex SA) twice daily for 15 days improves sleep in people with sleep disorders. Also, taking lemon balm in combination with other ingredients seems to help improve sleep quality in people with sleeping disorders.
Early research shows that taking a single dose of lemon balm increases calmness and alertness in adults during a stress test. Other early research shows that adding lemon balm to a food or drink reduces anxiety and improves memory and alertness during mental testing. Also, lemon balm appears to reduce anxious behavior in children during dental exams. Taking lemon balm along with valerian at a low dose appears to reduce anxiety during stress tests. But taking the combination at a higher dose appears to worsen stress-induced anxiety.
Lemon balm is LIKELY SAFE when used in food amounts
It's POSSIBLY SAFE in adults when taken by mouth or applied to the skin in medicinal amounts, short-term. It's been used safely in research for up to 4 months. Not enough is known about the safety of lemon balm when used long-term.When taken by mouth, lemon balm can cause some side effects including increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and wheezing.When applied to the skin, lemon balm may cause skin irritation and increased cold sore symptoms.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of lemon balm duringpregnancyand breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.Are there any interactions with medications?
Infants and children. Lemon balm is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken appropriately by mouth for about one month. Diabetes. Lemon balm might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use lemon balm. Surgery: Lemon balm might cause too much drowsiness if combined with medications used during and after surgery. Stop using lemon balm at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.Thyroid disease: Don't use lemon balm. There is a concern that lemon balm may change thyroid function, reduce thyroid hormone levels, and interfere with thyroid hormone-replacement therapy.
Alcohol can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Lemon balm might also cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking large amounts of lemon balm along with alcohol might cause too much sleepiness. However, some research has found that combining lemon balm with alcohol does not increase sleepiness.