Lemon balm (scientific name: Melissa officinalis) is a herb that belongs to the peppermint family. The crunchy, lemony flavored leaves have wider health benefits than you imagined. It is commonly grown in all parts of the world, Americas, Asia, Europe, New Zealand and other continents. The earliest evidence of the use of this herb came from the middle ages when people used it as calming medicine. The earliest use of lemon balm dates back to ancient Greece and Turkey. David O Kennedy and Andrew Scholey jointly published an article where they not only talked about the potential benefits of Melissa officinalis but also mentioned its historical significance. Ancient literary evidence on lemon balm can be found in ‘Historia Plantarum’ which was possibly written in the 300 BCE and the ‘Materia Medica’ from the 50-80 BCE. Use of lemon balm as ornamental plants and in culinary is well known in Iran, write F. Naghibi et al.
Lemon balm is widely used in herbal and naturopathy, aromatherapy, medicine, cosmetics and perfumes, and as a flavor enhancer in the food industry. It is an excellent organic medicine to heal wounds, arthritis joint pain, fight depression and anxiety, increase appetite and cure digestive disorders. Unfortunately, the benefits of this perennial plant have been overlooked for years, but the current rise in the interest in organic and herbal ingredients shifted the conventional paradigm. Understanding its versatile effects on the human health, we have composed this article to explain the benefits and use.
Benefits of Lemon Balm
Before we jump into the benefits of lemon balm, let’s find out what makes it so special for the users. The prime organic chemical compounds found in lemon balm are flavonoids, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, triterpene acid, and caffeic acids, whereas, the lemon balm essential oil contains linalool, citronellal, neral, geranial and monoterpene glycoside which are proven components to treat several diseases and disorders.
Lemon balm extract plays an important role in improving memory. Some researchers have been conducted to learn the exact way of the mechanism of the lemon balm extracts on the brain tissues. M. Soodi and co-authors have stated that this herb essentially improves memory and works on neurological disorders.
It has been proved through their studies that lemon balm extracts have “cholinergic” properties. Lemon balm stimulates the nicotine receptors due to which the brain functions better. The authors added that the herb also helps to enhance memory and initiates cognitive development. It is also apprehended that the herb can be used to treat the Alzheimer disease and dementia.
In the Alzheimer’s disease, the patients suffer from the loss of forebrain cholinergic neurons which are responsible for learning and cognition. Administration of lemon balm extract can be used to treat such patients and restore the functions of the brain.
Reduces Stress & Fights Depression
It is nothing new that lemon balm effectively targets stress and soothes the mind. This is why it is used to improve sleep disorders and depression. Andrew Scholey and colleagues conducted a study on participants who were suffering from stress and anxiety and found out that rosmarinic acid, one of the main ingredients in lemon balm efficiently reduced stress level among the patients.
Depression is one of the reasons to cause insomnia or sleeplessness. As a matter of fact, M.officinalis calms the mind and promotes sleep, and therefore, helps the patients to fight sleep disorders.
Whether you are suffering from the skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea or joint pain and arthritis, lemon balm has a cure for all kinds of inflammatory diseases. A Bounihi et al. indicate the use of the lemon balm in traditional Moroccan medicine to treat inflammation.
Other than the traditional skin care benefits, lemon balm also calms an inflamed skin which can the result of various skin diseases and allergy.
Works as an Antioxidant
Enriched in antioxidant property, rosmarinic acid, the herb serves as one of the best remedies and alternatives to fighting skin aging. According to Jean-Paul Kamdem and colleagues, M.officinalis controls the free radicals. Radicals are one of the main reasons for skin-aging and wrinkles.
Application of lemon balm on skin leaves it free from bacterial infections and also visible signs of aging. It also protects and heals from radiation and oxidative stress. Lemon balm is associated with DPPH radical-scavenging and strengthening the skin cells for which a user experiences youthful and healthy skin.
Works on Diabetes
It is one of the major advantages of lemon balm. According to M.J. Chung and coauthors who published an article in the British Journal of Nutrition, lemon balm is rich in anti-diabetic elements. In their studies, they found that administration of lemon balm essential oil significantly reduced blood sugar level.
Treats Gastrointestinal Disorders
Lemon balm, like any other mint, is used for its great benefits to cure digestive disorders. Gene Bruno, the Dean of the Huntington College of Health Sciences, gives a detailed account of lemon balm in his scholarly article. He points out that lemon balm with chamomile, licorice, celandine, and peppermint can be orally administered to a patient for four weeks to treat indigestion or dyspepsia, nausea, acid reflux, and cramps.
Even the German Commission E and ESCOP have acknowledged the medicinal properties of lemon balm to treat gastrointestinal issues. One can use it as the herbal alternative and a perfect home-remedy for pot-belly, bloating, indigestion and other issues.
Helps in Menopause
Menopause refers to the period when menstruation completely stops for a period lasting over a year. Dealing with menopause is not easy as it gives rise to several health issues. One of the known symptoms of menopause is sleep disruption.
Due to hot flushes and sweating one can feel extremely uncomfortable during sleep. Lemon balm assists in treating insomnia, sleep disturbance and other symptoms of menopause.
How to Use Lemon Balm?
There are multiple ways to add lemon balm to your diet. It is a common plant which can grow in hot, humid, dry to moderate climatic conditions. You can easily grow lemon balm in your house or in the garden and use the fresh leaves in food preparation. Edible capsules are also available at the chemist. Moreover, lemon balm tea is becoming increasingly popular among the consumers.
For the topical use, you can choose lemon balm essential oil. There are several products which are sold online which use lemon balm as a proprietary medicine, such as skin care products and perfumes.
Additionally, you can store the dried leaves for future use and use them in tea or beverages. Another thing you can do is adding the leaves or 1-2 drops of diluted essential oil in hot water and enjoy the steam. It is very effective for breathing problems, sore throat, and asthma.
Are there any Side-Effects of Lemon Balm?
Yes, there are but mostly related to its overdose. Excessive use f lemon balm can cause mild sedation, hallucinations, and dizziness. Certain elements can cause vomiting and irritation in the body.
Although the symptoms vary from case to case, it is always recommended that you consult with your physician and ask for suggestions. Especially, if you are under medical supervision for another treatment, you should avoid the herb unless your doctor recommends you the same.
Lemon balm is grown in several variants all over the world, and the benefits of lemon balm greatly vary from one to another. In fact, the concentrations of certain organic compounds also vary in lemon balm strains depending upon the geographic location, soil type, harvesting conditions, etc.
Therefore, the benefits pointed out above are only a few. Other than these the herb is also used to cure neurosis, heart diseases, infantile colic, symptoms of menopause and respiratory problems.
The best part is it is totally inexpensive to grow lemon balm. It does not require special care to grow the herb, plant them in the garden or keep in the house near the window, so it gets sufficient sunlight. It will also purify the interior air and give you its sweet aroma.