Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a cultivated perennial lemon-scented herb. It’s a member of the mint family. Lemon balm is also known as bee balm and honey balm. Lemon balm is native to Europe, Central Asia, and Iran, but now used around the world. It grows in sandy and scrubby areas. It has been used traditionally to improve sleep and as a digestive tonic.
Recent research published in “The Phytotherapy” research publication shows lemon balm to be safe and effective for reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, particularly in an acute setting for adults and children.
A systematic review and meta-analysis including 10 randomised controlled trials involving 632 participants compared placebo or standard medication against various lemon balm preparations, with doses ranging from 300 mg to 5,000 mg per day. The duration of lemon balm administration varied from a single dose to 56 days.
In this meta-analysis, lemon balm was shown to significantly reduce depression and anxiety compared to a placebo with statistically significant results for acute anxiety. Lemon balm was well tolerated by participants, with no adverse events reported.
The shortest duration of oral lemon balm therapy that improved anxiety disorders was 5-7 days. A single oral dose of 300 mg in healthy individuals improved state anxiety scores and memory performance at 1 and 3 hours post-intervention. However, to improve depression symptoms, more extended periods of between 10 days and 8 weeks were required.
Only one of the studies evaluated compared lemon balm to medication. In this study, lemon balm was as effective as fluoxetine for improving depression scores in patients with mild to moderate depression and had fewer side effects than the antidepressant medication.
Lemon balm’s anxiolytic and antidepressant effects are attributed to its phenolic and flavonoid constituents, mainly rosmarinic acid. In animal studies, rosmarinic acid has been shown to upregulate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) by inhibiting the enzyme GABA transaminase (GABA-T) and reduce serum corticosterone levels, potentially contributing to the reduction in anxiety. The antidepressant action of rosmarinic acid may occur via effects on the serotonergic pathway and hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic levels. In addition, lemon balm’s other bioactive constituents may offer neural protection due to their anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging actions.
Lemon balm is safe for use with children, under the guidance of a trained herbalist. The benefits of lemon balm supplementation for children and adolescents are widely researched and have been shown to be beneficial for anxiety and mood as well as:
- Teeth grinding
- ADHD and ADD
- Insomnia and restlessness
- indigestion nausea and bloating
- Cold sores
When using herbs like lemon balm it is important to consult with a trained professional in Western herbal medicine. It is important to get the correct dosage and also investigate any possible side effects or interactions with medications or other supplements. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression and would like to discuss a holistic approach contact us at Elemental Health at email@example.com.