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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, and in some cases still is, used orally as a treatment for generalized anxiety, influenza, insomnia, depression, panic disorder and nervous stomach.
Effect of Lemon Balm on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Though the exact reasons are unknown, lemon balm (Melissa) has been show to have anti-anxiety affects in addition to its antiviral and antidepressant properties as well.
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Research Evidence on Lemon Balm
Several small double-blind studies by a single research group have found preliminary evidence that oral use of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) may reduce anxiety levels.46,47 Like other anti-anxiety agents, it may also impair mental function to some degree. A combination of lemon balm and valerian has also been tested, with generally positive results.48
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Kennedy DO, Wake G, Savelev S, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003. [Epub ahead of print]
- Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Psychosom Med. 2004;66:607-613.
- Kennedy DO, Little W, Haskell CF, et al. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa oficinalis and Valeriana oficinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. 2006 Jan 27. [Epub ahead of print].
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