6 Wonderful Lemon Balm Benefits and Uses
Lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a wonderful lemon-scented plant that comes from the mint family. It may look plain and unassuming in the garden but gives off a fresh, lemon fragrance whenever anything brushes its leaves.
Bees particularly love lemon balm, and like other members of the mint family, it will happily take over the whole garden if not kept in check.
Lemon balm is also much loved by herbalists and has many benefits and uses in herbal medicine. It's pleasant flavor also makes it easy to enjoy and good tasting to children.
Here is more about this lovely plant.
Lemon balm is native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, but it is now grown across the world, including in many gardens.
Once started in the garden, lemon balm can grow quite rapidly and spread. Unlike other members of the mint family which spread mostly by runners, lemon balm spreads itself by seed.
It can be cut back just as it starts to flower to prevent this or allowed to flower (for the benefit of bees) and cut back as soon as the flowers start to fade and before the seeds are set.
Whether lemon balm is grown in your backyard or bought as a dried herb, here are some of the key benefits of lemon balm and uses for it.
Stress Relief and Nervous System Support
Lemon balm is a particularly good herb for the nervous system and has many benefits for relieving stress.
According to herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, it is lemon balm’s rich volatile oils, specifically citral and citronellal, that are responsible for having such a calming effect on the nervous system. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, pg. 157)
A cup of lemon balm tea can work wonders for feelings of stress and tension as well as rejuvenate the nervous system. (1)
A small study done in 2004 found that lemon balm reduced the negative mood effects of induced stress. Participants who received a dose of lemon balm reported “significantly increased self-ratings of calmness” as compare to the placebo. (2)
Helps with Sleep and Can Ease Insomnia
Lemon balm can also function as a mild sedative and has benefits for restlessness and insomnia, especially when combined with other herbs for sleep.
While helpful for adults as well, lemon balm used in a tea or as glycerite (non-alcoholic) tincture can be especially helpful for restlessness and sleep problems in children. (1) Although research is still ongoing, a study done using a lemon balm-valerian preparation showed great symptom improvement in children suffering from sleep disorders. (3)
To aid sleep, Gladstar recommends a cup of lemon balm and chamomile tea or a tea made of lemon balm, passionflower, and a few lavender buds taken an hour or two before bedtime. (Gladstar, pg. 158)
Relieves Anxiety and Depression
Lemon balm may also be very effective at relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. Due to its calming effects on the nervous system, lemon balm can especially be helpful for calming the excitability and nervousness that can come with anxiety.
A 2014 study showed that lemon balm had a positive effect on mood, including reduced anxiety levels, in healthy young adults. (4)
Lemon balm also makes it towards the top of the list of herbs to treat depression, and Gladstar recommends it as an effective remedy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (Gladstar, pg. 158) It can be even more effective when combined with other herbs like St. John’s Wort or hawthorn.
Like other mint family members, lemon balm also has a positive effect on the digestive system and can aid both indigestion and nausea. (5)
The same volatile oils that calm the nervous system also have an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system. Lemon balm and chamomile tea can be an especially effective remedy for stomach upset and indigestion because both herbs have calming and antispasmodic properties.
A cup of lemon balm tea taken at the first symptoms of nausea can also be effective at calming the stomach and digestive tract.
Brain Tonic and Headache Relief
Lemon balm can also have a positive effect on the brain, even improving cognitive function, which is your brain’s ability to perform cognitive tasks.
The 2014 study that indicated improved mood in participants who took lemon balm also indicated improved cognitive function at activities involving memory, multitasking, and mental math, among others. (4)
Lemon balm can also be effective at relieving headaches, especially those associated with stress and tension.
Strong Antiviral Properties
Lemon balm is also rich in something called polyphenols, which gives it strong antiviral properties. (Gladstar, pg. 158)
Taking lemon balm as a tea or tincture may be helpful for recovery from viral infections like a cold, the flu, and even shingles. Its antiviral properties and digestive soothing properties combine to also make it useful for stomach viruses.
Lemon balm tea taken with honey can help to soothe a sore throat, or the herb can consumed on a regular basis to strengthen the body’s natural defenses against viruses.
Although lemon balm is a very safe herb overall and suitable also for children, it is considered a thyroid inhibitor.
If you have hypothyroidism or low thyroid activity, be sure to consult a qualified health practitioner before using, and you may wish to avoid using lemon balm altogether.
Easy Ways to Use Lemon Balm
Now that you know the many benefits of lemon balm, here are some easy uses for it.
The easiest way to consume lemon balm is to use the leaves to make a tea. Add 1 tablespoon of the dried leaves per cup of boiling water and let steep 15-20 minutes before drinking.
For Headaches: A cup of lemon balm tea can help relieve a headache, but for stronger action, try a tea like the Headache Releaf tea that combines lemon balm with other powerful herbs.
For Sleep/Insomnia: Try a cup of plain lemon balm tea or one made with equal parts of lemon balm leaf and chamomile flowers 1-2 hours before bedtime. For a pre-made sleep blend, try the Sweet Slumber tea that has chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, and other soothing herbs.
For Immune Health: To keep your immune system strong against viruses, consider drinking a cup of lemon balm tea every day. Or take it with other immune boosting herbs in the ImmuniTea blend.
Could You Use Some Lemon Balm Benefits?
There is a lot to love about lemon balm as an herb and the benefits it can have for your health. With its pleasant, lemony flavor and stress-relieving effects, this is one herb you should consider adding to your daily health routine!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.