Lemon Balm Health Benefits and Uses

What is Lemon Balm?

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Lemon Balm Uses and Health Benefits

Lemon Balm for Herpes Cold Sores

Lemon Balm for Alzheimers

Lemon Balm for Sleep

Lemon Balm for Anxiety

Lemon Balm for Hyperthyroid

Lemon Balm Side Effects

Lemon Balm Dose

Lemon Balm Supplement Reviews

 

Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis), also known as balm, sweet balm, melissa, and cure-all, is a perennial herb distinguished by its ovate, crenellated leaves, small white flowers and unique fragrance, which is reminiscent of citrus fruit combined with a hint of mint. Indeed, despite its name, lemon balm is actually a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae). Native to central and southern Europe, particularly the Mediterranean region, lemon balm is a favorite of insect pollinators, especially bees (although it is not related to the plant commonly known as “bee balm,” i.e. Monarda or bergamot). Beloved by beekeepers for thousands of years, the botanical name Melissa officinalis refers to its usefulness in honey production: “melissa” is Greek for “honey bee”. Like most varieties of mint, lemon balm grows vigorously and, unless contained, may spread to other areas of the garden. In mild climates, it has the potential to become invasive.lemon balm flower

Lemon balm has many culinary uses. Its leaves are often used, alone and in combination with other herbs, in teas and tisanes. Its strong scent belies its delicate flavor, which can be used to season a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. Lemon balm is as welcome an addition to ice cream as it is to fish, testifying to its versatility.In addition to its role in the kitchen, it has many practical applications. Like citronella (an essential oil derived from lemongrass), the volatile oils present in lemon balm act as an effective insect repellent. Crushing the leaves and rubbing them on one’s skin deters mosquitoes, providing a safe, natural, and inexpensive method of avoiding those pesky bug bites.

Popular in aromatherapy, lemon balm is thought to have a calming effect on those who smell or touch it. Lemon balm has also been used medicinally for millennia, and was a popular remedy through the ancient Mediterranean. The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides recommended the application of leaves to cure a variety of skin conditions; he also advocated adding the herb to wine as an all-purpose healing tonic. Later, the Roman naturalist Pliny held it in high regard as a coagulant, recommending a poultice of its leaves as a means of stopping wounds from bleeding.

In the 11th century, Persian physician, philosopher, and polymath Avicenna extolled lemon balm’s sedative properties, as well as its mood-enhancing effects, claiming that “balm causeth the heart and mind to become merry.” In Europe during the Middle Ages, “eau de Melisse” or “Melissa water” became a popular cure for nervousness. Indeed, medieval physicians viewed lemon balm as a panacea and prescribed it for numerous ailments, including arthritis, toothache, indigestion, and menstrual cramps. For this reason, it gained the nickname “cure-all.” Building on this foundation, 17th-century English herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote extensively about lemon balm, recommending it as lemon balm plant with ladybuga remedy for fainting in particular, as well as for digestive problems. Although early American settlers had little use for lemon balm, the 19th-century forerunners of today’s alternative medical practitioners discovered many practical uses for lemon balm, foremost of which were stomach ailments, anxiety, menstrual and reproductive difficulties, and as a topical treatment for cuts and abrasions.

Today, Lemon balm has increasingly become the focus of scientific research to determine its antiviral and anxiolytic properties, as well as other potential medicinal uses. Much of the herb’s efficacy in alleviating, managing, or curing ailments is due to the organic compounds found in its leaves. Although the extent of lemon balm’s antibiotic properties have yet to be fully determined, the plant is known to contain polyphenols, which play a role in fighting infection -- particularly against streptococcus bacteria and mycobacteria. It also contains tannins, which are thought to contribute to its antiviral effects, and terpenes, which are believed to be responsible for its sedative effects. Furthermore, lemon balm contains a substance called eugenol, which is a natural anesthetic.

For these reasons and more, lemon balm is of interest to researchers, who see it as a potential method of treatment for conditions as diverse as herpes, Alzheimer’s disease, insomnia, anxiety, and hyperthyroidism. Although more research is required, studies so far have shown that lemon balm extract is effective in reducing both the symptoms and spread of cold sores, improving cognitive function (including memory), enhancing mood, alleviating stress, promoting relaxation and sleep, and regulating thyroid function, both when taken by itself and in combination with other herbs and supplements.

One of the attractions of lemon balm as an herbal remedy, aside from its low cost (it can be obtained at virtually any plant nursery and easily grown in the home garden) and availability is its comparative lack of side effects. Unlike many over-the-counter and prescription medicines, which may have side effects ranging from inconvenient to life-threatening, Melissa officinalis has (for the majority of users, at least) few if any side effects. It also tends not to interact adversely with other herbal remedies, and is safe and non-habit-forming.

Though uncommon, possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath or wheezing. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking lemon balm. Furthermore, lemon balm should not be taken with certain prescription medicines, including sedatives, anxiolytics, antidepressants, or thyroid medications. Other possible adverse drug interactions include analgesics such as acetaminophen. Lemon balm may also interfere with the absorption of some medications, particularly those used to treat anemia caused by iron deficiency. It is also not advised for HIV patients, as lemon balm may interfere with antiretroviral agents. And, of course, overconsumption of any herb can lead to unpleasant effects, so it is best to take lemon balm in moderate doses, and ideally in consultation with one’s medical provider.

As mentioned previously, although lemon balm is easy to obtain and even easier to cultivate, those without access to fresh or dried lemon balm can purchase supplements derived from the plant, which come in forms such as capsules, teas, essential oils, and topical creams. Such supplements are often found in health food stores and organic supermarkets, and are also available through numerous online retailers.

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