Lemon Balm/melissa (Melissa Officinalis)

Lemon Balm/Melissa Benefits

Lemon Balm was dedicated to the goddess Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago. In the Middles Ages lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, and as a cure for toothache, skin eruptions, mad dog bites, crooked necks, and sickness during pregnancy. It was even said to prevent baldness. As a medicinal plant, lemon balm has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting. A tea made from Lemon balm leaves is said to soothe menstrual cramps and helps relieve PMS.

The herb is used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms.

It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea.

ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative On Phytotherapy) lists its internal use for tenseness, restlessness, irritability, and symptomatic treatment of digestive disorders, such as minor spasms; externally, for herpes labialis (ESCOP, 1997).

Recent evidence suggests that lemon balm has a depressant or sedative action on the central nervous systems of laboratory mice. The German Standard License for lemon balm tea approves it for nervous disorders of sleep and of the gastrointestinal tract, and to stimulate the appetite (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

Grave's Disease

Lemon balm may block some of the activity of thyroid hormone in the body. Therefore, it has been used in the past to treat Grave's disease, an auto-immune condition in which the thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. Although laboratory and animal studies show that lemon balm may help decrease thyroid in the body, no human studies have yet been conducted for this possible use.

Mental Clarity, Concentration and Relaxation

Lemon balm is widely used to treat anxiety and insomnia in Europe. It reduces anxiety and stress and eases sleep disorders. Recently it produced an unexpected result in a research study: it greatly increased the ability to concentrate and perform word and picture tasks.

Helpful for Homework?

In a study of lemon balm at Northumbria University in England students were tested for weeks while using either Lemon balm or a placebo. The students did significantly better on the tests after taking Lemon balm and continued to post improved scores for up to six hours after taking the herb. The students taking Lemon balm were noted to be calmer and less stressed during the tests. (From Prevention Magazine Sept. 2004)

Herpes and Antiviral Properties

Research has shown that the plant contains polyphenols, it can help significantly in the treatment of cold sores and combat the herpes simplex virus, shingles as well as other viral afflictions. Studies have shown a significant reduction in the duration and severity of herpes. Researchers also noted a "tremendous reduction" in the frequency of recurrence.

When applied to cold sores or genital sores caused by the herpes simplex virus, creams or ointments containing lemon balm have speeded healing. The infections did not spread as much and individuals using topical lemon balm also reported more relief from symptoms such as itching and redness. At least part of this effect is due to antiviral properties of caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are contained in lemon balm.

In one study on 115 patients, a proprietary preparation of lemon balm extract in a lip balm showed efficacy in treating lip sores associated with the herpes simplex virus (Wöbling and Leonhardt, 1994).


Several studies have used Lemon balm, and Lemon balm/Valerian combinations to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. The studies have shown improved sleep patterns and reduced stress and anxiety. In one study a Lemon balm/Valerian combination was found to be as effective as the prescription drug Halcion.

Lemon balm is approved for "nervous sleeping disorders" and "functional gastrointestinal complaints" by Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Commission E is the German governmental agency that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. The United States does not have a comparable agency to evaluate herbal products.

Thyroid and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Lemon balm is used in Europe for treating thyroid problems and has shown an ability to regulate thyroid hormone production. This ability, along with the herbs anti-viral characteristics have made the herb useful in the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Alzheimer's and Dementia

Lemon balm contains volatile (essential) oils ,including citronellal and citral A and B, which are known to have sedative properties. In both animal and human studies, lemon balm taken by mouth has had calming effects. In larger doses, it may promote sleep. In one study, researchers found that using lemon balm also improved memory and lengthened attention span in individuals suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This effect may be due to its content of antioxidants, which are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation.

Another small but interesting study used lemon balm, aromatherapeutically to calm overexcited individuals suffering from dementia. Dementia is an increasing deficiency in thought processes caused by brain damage such as from a stroke or disease such as Alzheimer's disease.

Lemon Balm/Melissa Herb Notes / Side Effects

Latin Names

Melissa officinalis

Common Names

Balm Mint, Bee Balm, Blue Balm, Cure-all, Garden Balm, Honey Plant, Melissa, Sweet Balm, Sweet Mary


anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral, aromatic, carminative, cerebral stimulant, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervous restorative, spasmolytic, sedative (mild), tonic.

Indicated for

Amenhorrhea, anxiety, calming nerves, chronic fatigue, colds, cold sores, colic, depression, dizziness, fevers, gastrointestinal complaints, Graves' disease, headaches, herpes virus, hypertension, hypothyroidism, insomnia, menstrual cramps, mental clarity and concentration, nausea relief, nervous agitation, neurocardiac syndrome, painful urination, palpitations, phobias, relaxation, shingles, sleeping problems, upset stomach, viral infections, wounds

Very little information is available on how lemon balm might affect a developing foetus, an infant, or a small child. Therefore, its use is not recommended during pregnancy, while breast-feeding, or during early childhood.

When lemon balm is used with both prescription and non-prescription drugs that promote sleepiness, the effects of the drug may be exaggerated, resulting in sedation or mental impairment. Lemon balm may cause excessive sedation if it is taken with other potentially sedating herbs such as: Catnip, Hops, Kava, St. John's Wort and Valerian

Due to its potential effects on thyroid hormone utilisation, lemon balm may interfere with therapy for hyperthyroidism (thyroid hormone excess) or hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone deficiency)

In animal studies, lemon balm increased pressure inside the eyes. Even though similar results have not been reported in humans, individuals who have glaucoma should not take lemon balm.

Important: Click Here to Read Our Disclaimer

Used This Herb? How Would You Rate It?

Current User Rating 7.8/10 Based On 226 Votes

Has Lemon Balm/Melissa Worked For You?

This page is not a wiki so it is not editable like Wikipedia, however we would like to hear your information and comments and sometimes incorporate these into the articles.

Click Here To Post a Comment
Jgardner 's avatar  Jgardner 25/01/2011 21:36

I've used lemon balm leaves in regular tea as a calming agent for many years (I grew my own). I also use capsules of Melissa before bedtime when i'm having difficulty relaxing.

3 people liked this.
Jake 's avatar  Jake 31/12/2010 03:01

I just recently bought lemon balm for my anxiety and panic attacks. This herb really worked excellent for me today it totaly took the edge off.

3 people liked this.
artemis133 's avatar  artemis133 27/12/2010 18:34

Last summer, I grew some lemon balm in my small garden. I dried it, and have used it for tea on a few occasions, and it definitely helps when I am feeling anxiety.

2 people liked this.
NikkiD 's avatar  NikkiD 15/10/2014 01:05

I grew some lemon balm in my back yard this summer. I bought a pack of 100 seeds, sprinkled them in my garden without covering them and just let nature run it's course. At first I regretted not taking better care of my lemon balm seeds. But, to my surprise this stuff has grown like wild fire! I've been making tea from the fresh leaves for the last few nights and it definitely relaxes you. I don't have trouble with sleeping, but it does cause me to be drowsy. And when waking up in the middle of the night I fall back asleep much faster. This plant is way too easy to take care of not to grow yourself!

1 person liked this.
Ibbie 's avatar  Ibbie 23/06/2014 06:34

Yes, relaxed and eased me to sleep without that groggy feeling when I woke up.

1 person liked this.
Vhugh1 's avatar  Vhugh1 10/11/2013 02:47

I would like to know where to buy Lemon Balm, I live near Portland, Or

1 person liked this.
View All Lemon Balm/Melissa Reviews and Comments