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Lemon Balm
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Lemon Balm?

Commonly called by its Latin first name, Melissa, lemon balm is a native of southern Europe, often planted in gardens to attract bees. Its leaves give off a delicate lemon odor when bruised.

Medical authorities of ancient Greece and Rome mentioned topical lemon balm as a treatment for wounds. The herb was later used orally as a treatment for influenza, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and nervous stomach.

Topical lemon balm is most popular today as a treatment for genital or oral herpes . It appears to make flare-ups less intense and last for a shorter period of time, but it doesn't completely eliminate them. Regular use of lemon balm might help prevent flare-ups, but this potential use hasn’t been properly studied.

Note: While conventional treatments can reduce infectivity and thereby help prevent the spread of herpes, there is no evidence as yet that lemon balm offers this benefit. Keep in mind also that common sense methods of avoiding passing on herpes are not entirely effective: Many people are infectious even when they do not have obvious symptoms, and use of a condom does not entirely prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, if you are sexually active with a...

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...