Lemon balm helps with anxiety and cognitive performance. In addition, it has other surprising health benefits, including helping with cancer, reducing pain, and weight loss. Read this post to learn more about the many health benefits of lemon balm.
- Mechanisms of Action of Lemon Balm
- Lemon Balm Benefits the Brain and Mental Health
- Metabolic Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
- Other Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
- Side Effects
- Supplement Reviews
- Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a lemon-scented herb known for its calming and anti-inflammatory effects.
The main active constituents of lemon balm are [R]:
- Volatile compounds – geranial, neral, citronellal, and geraniol
- Triterpenes – ursolic acid and oleanolic acid
- Phenolics – rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, luteolin, naringin, and hesperidin
Mechanisms of Action of Lemon Balm
- Increases GABA in the brain by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down GABA (GABA transaminase). GABA produces a calming effect, improves mood, and reduces stress [R, R, R].
- Binds to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the brain. Both types of receptors are activated by acetylcholine and play roles in enhancing memory and alertness [R, R, R].
- Prevents the formation of blood vessels by inhibiting VEGF-A, which can combat obesity and help treat cancer [R, R].
- Activates the proteins caspases-3 and-7, causing cancer cells to self-destruct [R, R].
- Reduces inflammation by reducing TNF-alpha. It also suppresses inflammatory proteins (IL-1 and IL-6) [R, R].
Lemon Balm Benefits the Brain and Mental Health
1) Lemon Balm Treats Panic Attacks and Rapid Heart Beats
Fourteen days of lemon balm supplementation (DB-RCT) reduced the frequency of rapid heart beats and decreased anxiety in 55 patients [R].
2) Lemon Balm Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Lemon balm has anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in rats. By increasing GABA levels, lemon balm reduces anxiety, increases calmness, and improves mood [R].
Lemon balm completely eliminated anxiety in 14 people with stress (pilot trial) [R].
Also, a combination of lemon balm and valerian root significantly reduced anxiety in 24 healthy volunteers (DB-RCT) [R].
3) Lemon Balm Improves Sleep Quality
Lemon balm alone or in combination with valerian improves sleep quality in patients suffering from menopause symptoms and insomnia.
Lemon balm improved insomnia in 85% of people with anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances [R].
4) Lemon Balm Improves Memory and Brain Function
Lemon balm improved performance and memory in healthy participants (DB-RCTs). Thus, lemon balm may help treat diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, which are characterized by memory loss and learning disability [R, R].
In one study (DB-RCT), lemon balm improved cognitive performance and mood in 20 healthy participants [R].
Moreover, lemon balm increased accuracy and attention in cognitive performance tasks in 20 college students [R].
Lemon balm improves memory and brain function by binding to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the brain. Both types of receptors are activated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and play roles in enhancing memory and alertness [R, R, R].
Metabolic Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
5) Lemon Balm Helps with Weight Loss
6) Lemon Balm Helps with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by inflammation, high blood sugar, and fat.
In mice, lemon balm helps treat fatty liver disease by activating enzymes that break down fatty acids. Lemon balm also reduces the activity of white blood cells and inflammatory cytokines in the liver [R, R].
7) Lemon Balm Aids in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes
8) Lemon Balm Has Anti-Cancer Effects
Lemon balm kills brain cancer cells in a cell-based study. Citral in lemon balm activates cancer cell self-destruction (through caspase-3) and increases the cancer’s sensitivity to chemotherapy by inhibiting the drug-resistant gene MRP1 [R].
Lemon balm shrinks breast cancer tumors. Lemon balm induced the self-destruction of breast cancer cells and reduced the size of breast tumors in rats by decreasing antigen KI-67 (a protein that is associated with cell growth and reproduction) [R, R].
Lemon balm reduces the size of prostate cancer tumors.
Lemon balm prevents the growth of prostate cancers in cell models by inhibiting the growth of blood vessels that feed the tumors (VEGF-A).
Lemon balm also decreases the activity of the enzyme human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). Telomeres are added on to ends of chromosomes by telomerases, but as aging occurs, telomerase activity decreases. hTERT is overactive in cancer cells and necessary for tumor growth [R].
Other Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
9) Lemon Balm May Help with Hyperthyroidism
10) Lemon Balm Has Anti-Microbial Effects
Lemon balm oil has antimicrobial effects against yeast and harmful bacterial strains (E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Staphylococcus) in cell-based studies.
11) Lemon Balm Combats Cold Sores and Herpes
Lemon balm helps treat oral and genital herpes caused by the herpes simplex viruses (HSV-1 and HSV-2).
Rosmarinic acid in lemon balm prevented HSV-1 (oral herpes/cold sores) attachment to cells for both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant strains in a cell model study. The volatile oils in lemon balm also inhibit the replication of HSV-2 (genital herpes) [R, R, R].
12) Lemon Balm May Reduce Pain
13) Lemon Balm May Reduce Inflammation
Lemon balm reduces swelling caused by injury and inflammation in mice. It reduces inflammation by lowering oxidative stress.
14) Lemon Balm May Protect the Skin Against UV Rays
15) Lemon Balm Treats Infant Colic
Infant colic is a common condition that occurs in the first four months of life. Colic is excessive irritability, fussing, or crying in otherwise healthy infants.
Lemon balm significantly decreased average daily crying time after 28 days in 200 colicky infants and reduced colic episodes through its calming effects and by relaxing the gut [R].
Common side effects of lemon balm are [R]:
- Stomach pain
- Increased appetite
- Reduced alertness
- Eye pressure
Topical application can cause [R]:
- Redness of the skin
- Burning sensation
Patients with thyroid problems are recommended to avoid taking lemon balm since it may interfere with thyroid function. Caffeic acid in lemon balm directly inhibits thyroid-stimulating hormone [R, R].
Lemon balm should not be taken with [R]:
- Barbiturates – lemon balm increases the hypnotic effect of barbiturates.
- Sedative agents – combination of lemon balm with sedatives may result in additive effects.
- Glaucoma medications – lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure, which diminishes the effects of glaucoma medications.
- Thyroid agents – lemon balm reduces thyroid stimulating hormone concentrations.
- Nicotine and Scopolamine – may prevent drugs from binding to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, therefore blocking the effects of the drugs.
- Antidepressants (SSRIs) – lemon balm interacts with antidepressants by inhibiting concentrations of serotonin.
- Tea – one cup of tea several times per day as needed
- Tincture – 2 to 6 mL three times per day
- Liquid extract – 60 drops per day
- Capsules – 8 to 10 grams per day
- Cream – topically for up to four times per day for 5 to 10 days [R].
Some users report grogginess.
Lemon balm extract provides soothing relief and relaxation, but also works as a mouthwash, disinfectant, and helps to combat herpes outbreaks.
Lemon balm tea is a great alternative to take before bedtime to calm nerves and for a restful night of sleep.
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:
- Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
- SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
- SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
- Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
- Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
- BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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