Lemon balm is a member of the mint family native to areas of the Mediterranean and western Asia. Going back to at least the Middle Ages, it has been used to treat stress, insomnia and intestinal discomfort. For ages it was mixed with wine to improve one’s mood.
Today lemon balm grows around the world and is commonly sold in teas, capsules, and other forms for medicinal purposes. Dozens of studies have found it to be an effective antiviral and calming agent in the body.
Lemon balm as a sleep aid
Stress is one of the leading causes of insomnia, which makes lemon balm an excellent natural sleep aid. Lemon balm relaxes the body by reducing symptoms of nerviousness, anxiety and even panic. Heart palpitations of a nervous origin may even be helped. In modern treatments it is often combined with other relaxing herbs such as hops, valerian, or chamomile to magnify the calming effect.
Lemon balm helps curb bloating and indigestion
Anxiety often contributes to nausea, acidity, and even gas pains. Lemon balm relaxes nerves and tension helping reduce stress related digestion problems.
Lemon balm as an antiviral
The tannins found in lemon balm serve as an effective antiviral. Most commonly, cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus are treated with a topical ointment. One study found lemon balm ointment to reduce the healing time of cold sores by half to 5 days and reduce the frequency of outbreaks. This is comparable in effect to prescription acyclovir, but without the possible harmful side effects.
Other medicinal uses of lemon balm
Lemon balm has been used to reduce fevers and lessen muscle aches and pains from the flu. Ointment made with it also makes a first-aid remedy for minor cuts and insect stings.
Some studies show lemon balm inhibits thyroid function which would be useful in treating hyperthyroidism. Another study even suggests lemon balm may have a role in treating HIV.
How to take Lemon Balm
Lemon balm leaves are available dried as well as in capsules, extracts, tinctures, ointments and essential oils. While lemon balm can be easily home-grown in temperate climates, most consumers will find obtaining the needed remedy over the counter more convenient.
Lemon balm is considered very safe with no side effects or toxicity reported from use. While lemon balm has been reported to inhibit thyroid function, please consult with a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine before using lemon balm to treat thyroid problems, and with your doctor if taking a medicine such as thyroxine. Lemon balm is not recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers.
Written By: Updated: November 27,2009