Lemon Balm

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What other names is Lemon Balm known by?

Balm, Bálsamo de Limón, Cure-All, Dropsy Plant, Honey Plant, Melisa, Melissa, Melissa officinalis, Melissae Folium, Mélisse, Mélisse Citronnelle, Mélisse Officinale, Melissenblatt, Monarde, Sweet Balm, Sweet Mary, Toronjil.

What is Lemon Balm?

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.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Anxiety. 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.
  • Colic in breast-fed infants. 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.
  • Dementia. 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.
  • Upset stomach (dyspepsia). 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.
  • Herpes simplex virus infections. 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.
  • Insomnia. 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.
  • Stress. 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.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mental performance. Early research suggests that taking a single dose of lemon balm improves accuracy but slows performance on a timed memory task.
  • Colitis. Early research suggests that taking a combination of dandelion, St. John's wort, lemon balm, calendula, and fennel for 15 days reduces pain and improves bowel function in people with colitis. It's not clear if the effects are due to lemon balm or other ingredients.
  • Depression. Early research shows that taking lemon balm with fertilized egg powder does not improve symptoms of depression compared to taking fertilized egg powder.
  • Restlessness (dyssomnia). Early research shows that taking 1-2 tablets of a specific product containing lemon balm and valerian root (Euvegal forte by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) once or twice daily might decrease symptoms of restlessness in children under age 12. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, valerian, or the combination.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research suggests that adding 30 drops of a product containing lemon balm, spearmint and coriander (Carmint by PurSina Pharmacy) to standard treatment three times daily for 8 weeks reduces stomach pain and discomfort in people with IBS. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, other ingredients, or the combination.
  • Mental illness that causes physical pain (somatization disorder). Taking a product containing valerian, passionflower, and lemon balm (Relaxane, Max Zeller Söhne AG) seems to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with mental illness that causes physical pain. It's not known if the effect is due to lemon balm, other ingredients, or the combination.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lemon balm for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideSleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More

Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More

How does Lemon Balm work?

Lemon balm contains chemicals that seem to have a sedative, calming effect. It might also reduce the growth of some viruses and bacteria.

Are there safety concerns?

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.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of lemon balm during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

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.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Alcohol
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.



Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Lemon balm might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking lemon balm along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.



Sedative medications (Barbiturates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Lemon balm might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness and drowsiness are called sedatives. Taking lemon balm along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some of these sedative medications include pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), and others.



Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Lemon balm might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking lemon balm along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.



Thyroid hormone
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Taking lemon balm seems to decrease how well thyroid hormone works in the body. Taking lemon balm with thyroid hormone might decrease the effectiveness of the thyroid hormone.
Some medications used for thyroid hormone replacement include levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid), liothyronine (Cytomel), Armor Thyroid, and others.

Dosing considerations for Lemon Balm.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

ADULTS

BY MOUTH:
  • For anxiety: 300 mg of a standardized lemon balm extract (Cyracos by Naturex SA) taken twice daily for 15 days has been used. Also 0.23 mL/kg body weight of a combination product containing 13 ingredients including lemon balm (Klosterfrau Melissengeist, Klosterfrau) taken three times daily for 8 weeks has been used.
  • For dementia: 60 drops per day of a standardized lemon balm extract has been used for 4 months.
  • For upset stomach (dyspepsia): A specific combination product containing lemon balm, peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle (Iberogast by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) has been used in a dose of 1 mL three times daily for 4 weeks. Also, a similar herbal preparation containing lemon balm, clown's mustard, German chamomile flower, peppermint leaves, caraway, and licorice root (STW 5-II by Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH) has been used in a dose of 1 mL three times daily for up to 8 weeks.
  • For insomnia (inability to sleep): 300 mg of a standardized lemon balm extract (Cyracos by Naturex SA) has been used twice daily for 15 days. Also, a specific combination product containing 80 mg of lemon balm leaf extract and 160 mg of valerian root extract (Euvegal forte, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) has been taken 2-3 times daily for up to 30 days. Also tablets containing 170 mg of valerian root, 50 mg of hops, 50 mg of lemon balm, and 50 mg of motherwort have been used.
  • For stress: Many different doses have been studied in scientific research. A single dose of 600 mg of lemon balm extract during a stress test has been used. Also, a single dose of 300 mg of lemon balm extract (Bluenesse by Vital Solutions) has been added to food or drink and used during a mental test. Also three tablets of a specific product containing 80 mg of lemon balm extract and 120 mg of valerian root extract per tablet (Songha Night by Pharmaton Natural Health Products) have been taken before a stress test.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
  • For cold sores (herpes simplex virus): Cream containing 1% lemon balm extract (LomaHerpan by Infectopharm) has been applied 2-4 times daily. It is usually applied at the first sign of symptoms to a few days after the cold sores have healed.
INHALED AS AROMATHERAPY:
  • For dementia: A lotion containing 10% lemon balm has been massaged into the hands and upper arms for 1-2 minutes twice daily for 4 weeks.
CHILDREN

BY MOUTH:
  • For colic: In breast-fed infants, a specific multi-ingredient product containing 164 mg of fennel, 97 mg of lemon balm, and 178 mg of German chamomile (ColiMil by Milte Italia SPA) has been used twice daily for one week. Also 150 mL of an herbal tea containing German chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm (Calma-Bebi by Bonomelli) has been taken three times daily for 7 days.
  • For dyssomnia (poor sleep quality): 1-2 tablets of a specific combination product containing 80 mg of lemon balm leaf extract and 160 mg of valerian root extract (Euvegal forte, Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals) has been taken once or twice daily in children under 12 years-old.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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