Lemon Balm for Anxiety

Research on the calming effects of Lemon Balm

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A traditional herbal remedy for anxiety and nervousness, Melissa officinalis has been shown to act as a mild sedative. Moreover, unlike numerous pharmaceutical anxiolytics, lemon balm is non-addictive and is a legal, non-controlled substance that can be grown at home or purchased from retailers of herbal and alternative medicines. Although moderation is always the key to successful self-treatment with herbal and botanical extracts, lemon balm’s widespread availability and relative lack of side effects makes it a safe, easy, anxiety drawingand affordable means of decreasing anxiety for short periods of time.

While several studies have investigated the anxiolytic properties of lemon balm, most have examined in combination with other herbs, such as chamomile, valerian, and hops. One in particular, a double-blind, placebo controlled study focusing on individuals with minor sleep disorders, found that 81% of subjects reported better sleep after taking a combination of lemon balm and valerian than did the control group. However, the scope of the study was such that it is not possible to tell whether it was the lemon balm, the valerian, or the combination of the two that produced the desirable outcomes.

In a study done in Finland, a patented lemon balm extract was found to be helpful for both anxiety and insomnia. The study was done on 20 patients that had both symptoms. At the end of the fifteen day study 14 of the 20 patients (70%) with anxiety were in remission and 17 of the 20 patients with insomnia (85%) were better. They propose that the mechanism with which lemon balm works to is by preventing GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, from breaking down.

Although more research is needed, some more evidence for the efficacy of lemon balm in treating anxiety may be found in studies conducted on patients withlemon balm with ladybug mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Since agitation is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s, and the correlation between Alzheimer’s and mood disorders is strong, it is possible to infer from these studies that Melissa officinalis can, in the right dosage, have a positive effect on mood, decreasing nervousness, agitation, and anxiety and increasing feelings of well-being. One particular study looked at the topical use of lemon balm in 71 Alzheimer’s patients, reporting that all subjects experienced reduced levels of anxiety when lemon balm extract was applied to the skin in the form of a topical cream; since olfaction (sense of smell) is often impaired in Alzheimer’s patients, it seems likely that the herb can be absorbed by the skin and that aromatherapy is only one way in which lemon balm can reduce anxiety.

However, while lemon balm may decrease stress and anxiety in the short term, individuals with underlying or chronic anxiety disorders should first consult with their healthcare provider, who in addition to providing a correct diagnosis will be able to work with the patient to manage symptoms and design a course of treatment that will prove most helpful.

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