What is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)? How does it work (mechanism of action)?

Lemon balm is a plant used as an herbal supplement. It may have antiviral activity against some viruses, for example, the herpes virus as well as calming effects. It active compounds in lemon balm are caffeic acid and tannins.

What are the uses for lemon balm?

Lemon balm may be used digestive aid, increase appetite, flatulence, genital herpes, and insomnia and anxiety. Discuss all herbs and supplements you are currently taking with your doctor.

What are the side effects of lemon balm?

Side effects of lemon balm include:

  • Hypersensitivity reactions
  • Sedation
  • Skin irritation

What is the dosage for lemon balm?

Lemon balm is available as:
  • Tea: Use 1.5 to 4.5 gram leaf in 150 ml water to prepare 1 cup of tea, as needed.
  • Tincture: Take 2 to 6 ml by mouth 3 times a day.
  • Cream/ointment: Apply 1% of a 70:1 extract to the affected area(s) 2 to 4 times a day for up to 14 days.

Which drugs or supplements interact with lemon balm?

Lemon balm might interact with thyroid medications and sedatives.

Is lemon balm safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

No. Women who are pregnant or breasfeeding should not take or use lemon balm. 

What else should I know about lemon balm?

  • Lelmn balm is available as:
    • Tea
    • Tincture
    • Creams
    • Ointments
  • Due to many manufacturers producing each formulation, storage requirements may vary based on individual product.
  • Lemon balm is available over-the-counter (OTC) in generic form.
  • Brand names for Melissa officinalis are Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, and Melissa.


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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a plant used as an herbal supplement used as a digestive aid, increased appetite, gas and bloating, genital herpes, insomnia, and anxiety. Side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking this supplement.

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Medically reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP; Board Certified Emergency Medicine