Medically reviewed by Fallon Mumford, PharmD
Melissa is a member of the mint plant family. Its botanical name is Lemon balm. Melissa plants are native to Iran, Europe and Central Asia and today are grown all over the world.
People have used lemon balm leaves for centuries for the plant’s purported digestive, antimicrobial, metabolic, and mental health benefits. Melissa is generally considered safe and has few reported side effects. It is often used as an ingredient in teas, skin ointments, lip balms, and various herbal supplements.
Research is limited when it comes to the benefits of lemon balm, but there are some promising studies.
Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be right for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting any supplements.
It can boost mental health
Many people think that lemon balm can calm the mind and provide mental clarity. Research has found some truth in these claims.
One study looked at how participants’ mood changed after consuming lemon balm mixed with yogurt or mixed into a drink. Researchers found that consuming lemon balm was linked to improved mood and cognitive function.
A review of previous studies found that lemon balm significantly improved anxiety and depression compared to a placebo. However, these results were based on small studies. Larger studies are needed to confirm that lemon balm can positively affect mental health.
May help with cold sores
Lemon balm has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of these properties, some research has looked into lemon balm’s ability to treat or prevent the herpes simplex virus, the virus that causes cold sores. Studies have found that lemon balm can shorten the duration of cold sore infections, prevent repeat infections, and reduce redness and swelling.
It can reduce insomnia
Lemon balm is often used in teas and other herbal preparations to help fall asleep. There is some evidence showing a connection between lemon balm and better sleep.
For example, one study found that people who had undergone heart surgery had improved sleep when taking lemon balm capsules compared to a group given a placebo.
However, more research is needed to determine the impact of lemon balm on sleep.
It can reduce the symptoms of PMS
Lemon balm may offer benefits for people suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
One study looked at PMS symptoms among adolescent girls. The study found that a daily dose of 1,200 milligrams of lemon balm in capsule form reduced the intensity of PMS symptoms compared to participants who received a placebo.
The researchers noted that more research using more diverse populations and larger numbers of participants is needed.
It can improve digestion
Melissa is often used to help with digestive symptoms, such as bloating and gas. It has also been used to help babies with colic, crying which can sometimes be triggered by gas or other digestive pains.
Some research has found positive connections between lemon balm and improving indigestion and colic. However, many of these studies used various herbal blends containing lemon balm rather than just lemon balm. Because of this, it is difficult to determine which herb gave the benefit.
One animal study looked at just lemon balm and found that the herb calmed the small intestines in mice. However, human-based research is needed to confirm this benefit for people.
How to take lemon balm
Melissa can be consumed in different ways. People often drink it as a tea or as an ingredient in a tea blend. You can eat the chopped fresh herb in a salad, added to a cold drink, or even as an ingredient in baked goods. You can find it as a supplement in capsule or tablet form, or as an herbal tincture. Many cosmetic products also contain lemon balm including lip balms, balms, ointments and soaps.
There are no evidence-based dose recommendations for lemon balm.
Several lemon balm preparations may be more concentrated than others. For example, lemon balm teas are generally less potent than tinctures or extracts. When using lemon balm as a supplement, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended usage and dosage.
If you’re not sure what a safe dosage of lemon balm is for you, talk to a healthcare professional.
Is lemon balm safe?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ranks lemon balm within their generally considered safe list.
But lemon balm may not be equally safe for everyone. There is some evidence that lemon balm may not be safe for people who have thyroid disorders. Also, not much is known about whether lemon balm is safe for use while pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s best to talk to your doctor before consuming it during those times.
Potential drug interactions
Melissa is considered safe in most cases. However, there is very little information that lemon balm is safe to take with other medications.
There is some evidence to suggest that lemon balm may interact negatively with sedatives.
Talk to a healthcare professional before taking lemon balm alongside other medications, especially if you plan to consume concentrated amounts, such as in a capsule, extract, or tincture.
What to look for
When shopping for lemon balm supplements, such as capsules, tablets, extracts, and tinctures, it’s important to keep in mind that herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. The benefits listed on the product, as well as the quality of the product itself, may or may not be accurate.
The FDA recommends purchasing products that have been tested for quality by third parties from organizations such as consumerLab.com, NSF International, and US Pharmacopeia.
Can you take too much lemon balm?
There is no standard dosage for lemon balm, so the limit to how much lemon balm you can safely have isn’t clear.
Consuming the amount of lemon balm you like as a food ingredient should be safe.
Concentrated forms of lemon balm, such as a tincture, extract or capsule, have much higher doses than the herb. When taking these forms of lemon balm, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage.
Stop taking a supplement if side effects occur.
Side effects of lemon balm
Most people experience no side effects when consuming lemon balm.
Research has found that consuming lemon balm at the manufacturer’s recommended doses topically or orally for up to 30 days usually produces no side effects. The same is true when you consume it as food.
Side effects such as headache, increased body heat and burning when urinating have been rarely reported. Oral use of lemon balm can also increase appetite.
A quick review
Lemon balm is a popular food and beverage ingredient, as well as an herbal supplement. There is some evidence that the plant may help improve mental health, sleep, digestion, PMS, and cold sores. Melissa is generally considered safe, especially when consumed as a tea or food. However, more information is needed about safely taking higher doses and how lemon balm can interact with other medications. It is always best to contact your doctor before starting an herbal supplement like lemon balm.
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Read the original article in Salute.
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