- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: lemon balm
Brand and Other Names: balm, bee balm, cure-all, dropsy plant, honey plant, Melissa, Melissa folium, Melissa officinalis, sweet balm, sweet Mary
Drug Class: Herbals
What is lemon balm, and what is it used for?
Lemon balm is one of the common names of Melissa officinalis, a lemon-scented herb of the mint family.
Lemon balm has been used traditionally for centuries as a medicinal herb to promote sleep, relieve stress and anxiety, improve appetite and digestion, and to treat viral and other infections. Lemon balm is also used as an ingredient to flavor foods and beverages, health products, and cosmetics.
Studies indicate lemon balm has sedative, muscle relaxing (antispasmodic), digestive, anti-gas (carminative), antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. The therapeutic properties of lemon balm may come from the various chemical compounds it contains, including tannins, flavonoids, polyphenols such as rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid, terpenes such as oleanolic acid and ursolic acid, and essential oils.
Lemon balm is available as dry leaves that can be used to make tea, as capsules, extracts, and tinctures that can be taken orally or as creams and ointments that can be used topically. Lemon balm essential oils are used in aromatherapy and homeopathic medicine. Lemon balm is used for many conditions but there are insufficient scientific studies to support many of its uses. The suggested uses of lemon balm include:
- Improving cognitive function
- Irregular heart rhythm and nervous palpitations
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Appetite stimulant
- Indigestion and colic
- Abdominal distension and gas (flatulence)
- Graves’ disease
- Herpes simplex infection
- Viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections
- Menstrual irregularities
- Do not use lemon balm if you are hypersensitive to any of the ingredients in the lemon balm product.
- Avoid using lemon balm concurrently with other sedative agents.
- Stop using lemon balm at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery because it can increase the sedative effects of the medications used during and after surgery.
- Do not use lemon balm if you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), lemon balm may affect thyroid function and can worsen the condition.
What are the side effects of lemon balm?
Common side effects of lemon balm include:
- Increased appetite
- Hypersensitivity reactions
- Skin irritation with topical use
- May cause dependency and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation such as:
- May affect healthy cardiac functioning
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of lemon balm?
There isn’t enough reliable information to know what might be an appropriate dose of lemon balm. Check the manufacturer’s label.
- 1 cup orally as needed; 1.5-4.5 g leaf/150 mL water
- 2-6 mL orally three times daily; 1:5 in 45% alcohol
- Apply 1% of a 70:1 lyophilized aqueous extract topically two to four times daily up to 14 days
- According to a case study, prolonged use with high doses of lemon balm can lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.
- Lemon balm tea and supplements are unlikely to cause severe adverse effects with overdose.
- Lemon balm essential oil is highly toxic if undiluted and can cause drowsiness, muscle weakness, tremor, seizure, hallucinations, and respiratory difficulties. Overdose may be treated with symptomatic and supportive care.
What drugs interact with lemon balm?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
Lemon balm may have interactions with:
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
What else should I know about lemon balm
- Small amount of lemon balm consumed in food is possibly safe for most adults.
- Lemon balm supplements taken up to a dose of 500 mg daily for up to 6 months are possibly safe for most adults.
- Lemon balm is possibly safe for children if used topically to treat cold sores, or taken orally for up to a month.
- Use lemon balm supplements exactly as per label instructions.
- Check with your healthcare provider before using any herbal supplement, including lemon balm products.
- Herbal supplements often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the lemon balm product you choose.
- Lemon balm is marketed as an herbal supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store lemon balm safely out of reach of children.
- In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
Lemon balm has been used traditionally for centuries as a medicinal herb to promote sleep, relieve stress and anxiety, improve appetite and digestion, and to treat viral and other infections. The suggested uses of lemon balm include insomnia, anxiety, improving cognitive function, irregular heart rhythm and nervous palpitations, high blood pressure (hypertension), antispasmodic, appetite stimulant, indigestion, menstrual irregularities, and others. Common side effects of lemon balm include nausea, dizziness, sedation, increased appetite, wheezing, hypersensitivity reactions, and skin irritation.
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