Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Parts used and where grown: The lemon balm plant originated in southern Europe and is now found throughout the world. The lemony smell and pretty white flowers of the plant have led to its widespread cultivation in gardens. The leaves, stems, and flowers of lemon balm are used medicinally.

In what conditions might lemon balm be supportive?

Â¥ colic

¥ GraveÕs disease (hyperthyroidism)

¥ herpes simplex (cold sores) ¥ indigestion and heartburn

Â¥ insomnia

Â¥ nerve pain

Historical or traditional use: Charlemagne once ordered lemon balm planted in every monastery garden, testifying to its importance and beauty.1 It was used traditionally to treat gas, sleeping difficulties, and heart problems. Additionally, topical applications to the temples was sometimes used for insomnia or nerve pain.

Active constituents: The terpenes, part of the pleasant smelling essential oil from lemon balm, produce this herbÕs relaxing and gas-relieving effects. Flavonoids, polyphenolics, and other compounds appear to be responsible for lemon balmÕs anti-herpes and thyroid-regulating actions. These constituents actually block attachment to the thyroid cells by the antibodies that cause GraveÕs disease.2 The brainÕs signal to the thyroid (thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH) is also blocked from further stimulating the excessively active thyroid gland in this disease.

How much should I take? A simple tea made from 2 U.S. tablespoons (30 grams) of the herb steeped for ten to fifteen minutes in 150 ml of boiling water, is often used. Tincture can also be used at 2-3 ml three times per day. Highly concentrated topical extracts for herpes can be applied three to four times per day to the herpes lesions.3

Lemon balm is frequently combined with other medicinal plants. For example, peppermint and lemon balm together are very effective for soothing a stomach upset. Valerian is often combined with lemon balm for insomnia and nerve pain. Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) and lemon balm are usually used together for GraveÕs disease.

Are there any side effects or interactions? No significant adverse effects from lemon balm have been reported. Unlike sedative drugs, lemon balm is safe even while driving or operating machinery. Lemon balmÕs sedating effects are not intensified by alcohol. Persons with glaucoma should avoid lemon balm essential oil, as animal studies show that it may raise pressure in the eye.4


1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 31, 286. 2. AufÕmkolk M, Ingbar JC, Kubota K, et al. Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and the biological activity of GravesÕ immunoglobulins. Endocrinol 1985;116(5):1687-93. 3. Wöhlbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract of Melissa officinalis. Phytomed 1994;1(1):25-31. 4. Leach EH, Lloyd JPF. Experimental ocular hypertension in animals. Trans Ophthalm Soc UK 1956;76:453-60.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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