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Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Type 1) and Lemon Balm

Written by ColleenO, FoundHealth.

More commonly known in the United States as lemon balm, Melissa officinalis (or melissa) is widely sold in Europe as a topical cream for the treatment of genital and oral herpes. Lemon balm cream has shown great potential for decreasing the intensity and duration of cold sore outbreaks.

Effect of Lemon Balm on Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Type 1)

Numerous test tube studies have found that extracts of lemon balm possess antiviral properties.5,6 We don't really know how it works, but the predominant theory is that the herb blocks viruses from attaching to cells.5

Read more details about Lemon Balm.

Research Evidence on Lemon Balm

One double-blind, placebo-controlled study followed 66 people who were just starting to develop a cold sore.4 Treatment with lemon balm cream produced significant benefits on day 2, reducing intensity of discomfort, number of blisters, and the size of the lesion. (The researchers specifically looked at day 2 because, according to them, that is when symptoms are most pronounced.)

Another double-blind study followed 116 individuals with cold sores or genital herpes.3 Participants used either lemon balm cream or placebo cream for up to 10 days. The results showed that use of the lemon balm cream resulted in a significantly better rate of recovery than those given placebo.

How to Use Lemon Balm

For treatment of an active outbreak, the proper dosage is 4 thick applications daily of a standardized lemon balm (70:1) cream. The dosage may be reduced to twice daily for preventive purposes. Note: The best lemon balm extracts are standardized by their capacity to inhibit the growth of herpes virus in a petri dish.11

Safety Issues

Topical lemon balm is not associated with any significant side effects, although allergic reactions are always possible. Oral lemon balm is on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. However, according to one study, lemon balm reduces alertness and impairs mental function; for this reason, individuals engaging in activities that require alertness, such as operating a motor vehicle, should avoid using lemon balm beforehand. 1 In addition, one animal study suggests that if lemon balm is taken at the same time as standard sedative drugs, excessive sedation might occur. 2

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking sedative medications, use of oral lemon balm might amplify the effect, potentially leading to excessive sedation.

References

  1. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002;72:953-964.
  2. Soulimani R, Fleurentin J, Mortier F, et al. Neurotropic action of the hydroalcoholic extract of Melissa officinalis in the mouse. Planta Med. 1991;57:105-109.
  1. Wolbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine. 1994;1:25-31.
  2. Koytchev R, Alken RG, Dundarov S. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring Herpes labialis. Phytomedicine. 1999;6:225-230.
  3. Wolbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine. 1994;1:25-31.
  4. Dimitrova Z, Dimov B, Manolova N, et al. Antiherpes effect of Melissa officinalis L. extracts. Acta Microbiol Bulg. 1993;29:65-72.

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