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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration


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An evidence-based systematic review including written and statistical analysis of scientific analysis of scientific literature, expert opinion, folkloric precedent, history, pharmacology, kinetic/dynamics, interactions, adverse effect, toxicology, and dosing.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD, MBA(C), Column Editor
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis L.):
An Evidence-Based Systematic Review
by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration
Thomas Brendler, BA
Joerg Gruenwald, PhD
Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH
David Keifer, MD
Tracee Rae Abrams, PharmD
Jen Woods, BS
Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD
Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood, MPH, CCCJS-MAC
Ethan Basch, MD
Hope J. Lafferty, AM
Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD
Dana A. Hackman, BS
for the Natural Standard Research Collaboration
Thomas Brendler is affiliated with PlantaPhile, Berlin. Joerg Gruenwald is affili
ated with Phytopharm Consulting. Benjamin Kligler is affiliated with Continuum Cen
ter for Health and Healing. David Keifer is affiliated with the University of Arizona.
Tracee Rae Abrams is affiliated with the University of Rhode Island. Jen Woods is
affiliated with Northeastern University. Heather Boon is affiliated with the University
of Toronto. Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood is affiliated with the MD Anderson Cancer
Center. Ethan Basch is affiliated with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Hope J. Lafferty is affiliated with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Catherine Ulbricht is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital. Dana A. Hack
man is affiliated with Northeastern University.
Natural Standard ( Copyright 2005. Reprinted with
Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 5(4) 2005
Available online at
doi:10.1300/J157v05n04_08 71
ABSTRACT. An evidence-based systematic review including written
and statistical analysis of scientific literature, expert opinion, folkloric
precedent, history, pharmacology, kinetics/dynamics, interactions, ad
verse effects, toxicology, and dosing.
KEYWORDS. Citronellae, English balm, Lamiaceae, Melissa officinalis
L., sweet balm
To prepare each Natural Standard review, electronic searches are
conducted in nine databases, including AMED, CANCERLIT, CINAHL,
CISCOM, the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, HerbMed, International
Pharmaceutical Abstracts, MEDLINE, and NAPRALERT. Search terms
include the common name(s), scientific name(s), and all listed syn-
onyms for each topic. Hand searches are conducted of 20 additional
journals (not indexed in common databases), and of bibliographies
from 50 selected secondary references. No restrictions are placed on
language or quality of publications. Researchers in the field of comple-
mentary and alternative medicine (CAM) are consulted for access to ad-
ditional references or ongoing research.
Selection Criteria
All literature is collected pertaining to efficacy in humans (regard-
less of study design, quality, or language), dosing, precautions, ad
verse effects, use in pregnancy/lactation, interactions, alteration of
laboratory assays, and mechanism of action (in vitro, animal research,
human data). Standardized inclusion/exclusion criteria are utilized for
Data Analysis
Data extraction and analysis are performed by health care profes
sionals conducting clinical work and/or research at academic centers,
using standardized instruments that pertain to each review section (de
fining inclusion/exclusion criteria and analytic techniques, including
validated measures of study quality). Data are verified by a second re
Review Process
Blinded review of reviews is conducted by multidisciplinary re
search-clinical faculty at major academic centers with expertise in epi
demiology and biostatistics, pharmacology, toxicology, complementary
and alternative medicine (CAM) research, and clinical practice. In cases
of editorial disagreement, a three-member panel of the Editorial Board
addresses conflicts, and consults experts when applicable. Authors of
studies are contacted when clarification is required.
Update Process
Natural Standard regularly monitors scientific literature and industry
warnings. When clinically relevant new data emerge, best efforts are
made to update content immediately. In addition, regular updates with
renewed searches occur every 3-18 months, variable by topic.
Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances
Balm, balm mint, bee balm, blue balm, Citra, citronellae, citron
melisse, common balm, cure-all, dropsy plant, English balm, folia
citronellae, folia melissae citratae, garden balm, gastrovegetalin,
hjertensfryd, honey plant, kneipp melisse pflanzensaft, Labiatae/
Lamiaceae (family), lemon melissa, lomaherpan, melissa, Melissa
officinalis, Melissa officinalis L., melissae, melissae folium, Melisse
(German and French), melissenblatt, melissengeist, sweet balm,
sweet mary, toronjil (Spanish), valverde boutons de fievre crème.
Natural Standard Review 73
Selected Combination Products
Abdomilon, Abdomilon N, Absimed, Agua del Carmen, Aktiv
Nerven-und Schlaftee, Anevrase, Aponatura Beruhigungs, Aponatura
Einschlaf, Aranidorm-S, Arterosan Plus, Avedorm, Baldracin,
Baldrian-Elixier, Baldrian-Krautertonikum, Baldriparan, Baldriparan
Beruhigungs, Baldriparan stark N, Balsamo Branco, Befelka-Tinktur,
Beruhigungstee, Biocarde, Bio-Garten Tee zur Beruhigung, Bio-
Garten Tropfen zur Beruhigung, Camomila, Canad, Caramelos
Agua del Carmen, Cardalept, Cardiaforce, Colominthe, Cough
Drops, Cura, Digestol Sanatorium, Doppelherz Melissengeist,
Doppelherz Tonikum, Dormarist, Dormiplant, Dragees pour la de-
tente nerveuse, Elixir Bonjean, Emmenoiasi, Especies Calmante,
Euvegal Entspannungs-und Einschlafdragees, Euvegal forte, Euvegal
N, Euviterin, Fargestium, Fluxoten, Gastregan, Gastrol S, Gastrosan,
Gutnacht, Heumann Beruhigungstee Tenerval N, Herz-und Kreisl-
auftonikum Bioflora, Hyperiforce comp, Iberogast, JuDorm, JuNeuron
S, Klosterfrau Melissengeist, Kneipp Krauter Taschenkur Nerven
und Schlaf N, Kneipp Nerven-und Schlaf- Tee, Kneipp Nerven-
und Schlaf-Tee N, Krauterdoktor Beruhigungstropfen, Krauterdoktor
Entspannungs-und Einschlaftropfen, Krauterdoktor Magen-
Darmtropfen, Krauterdoktor Nerven-Tonikum, Krauterdoktor
Rosmarin-Wein, Krauterhaus Mag Kottas Babytee, Krauterhaus
Mag Kottas Magen- und Darmtee, Krauterhaus Mag Kottas Nerven-
und Schlaftee, Krauterhaus Mag Kottas Wechseltee, Krautertee Nr
1, Krautertee Nr 141, Krautertee Nr 16, Krautertee Nr 201, Krautertee
Nr 209, Krautertee Nr 9, Lindofluid N, Lo-701, Luvased-Tropfen
N, Mag Doskar’s Magentonikum, Mag Doskar’s Nerventonikum,
Mag Kottas Beruhigungstee, Mag Kottas Krauterexpress-Nerven-
Schlaf-Tee, Mag Kottas Magen-Darmtee, Mag Kottas Nerven-
Beruhigungstee, Mag Kottas Schlaftee, Mag Kottas Tee fur stillende
Mutter, Mag Kottas Wechseltee, Mariazeller, Mediflor Tisane
Calmante Troubles du Sommeil No 14, Mediflor Tisane Circula
tion du Sang No 12, Mediflor Tisane Pectorale dAlsace, Me
lissa comp., Melissa Specie Composta, Melissa Tonic, Melissengeist,
Melissin, Nervendragees, Nerven-Tee Stada N, Nervifloran,
Nervosana, Nyrene, Oxacnt N, Oxacant-sedativ, Pascosedon,
Passedan, Passelyt, Passiflora Composta, Phytoberidin, Phytogran,
Phytonoctu, Plantival, Plantival novo, Presselin Blahungs K 4 N,
Pronervon Phyto, Relax, Resolutivo Regium, RubieSed, Salus
Nerven-Schlaf-Tee Nr.22, Salusan, Santane D5, Santane N9, Schlaf-
und Nerventee, Sedacur, Seda-Grandelat, Sedantol, Seda-Plantina,
Sedariston, Sedaselect N, Sedasyx, Sedatol, Sedatruw S, Sedinfant
N, Seracalm, Sidroga Herz-Kreislauf-Tee, Sidroga Kindertee, Sidroga
Magen-Darm-Tee, Sidroga Nerven-und Schlaftee, Sirmiosta Nerven
elixier N, Sol Schoum, Songha, Songha Night, Soporin, Species
nervinae, St Radegunder Beruhigungs-und Einschlaftee, St Rade
gunder Fiebertee, St Radegunder Herz-Kreislauf- Tonikum, St
Radegunder Herz- Kreislaufunterstutzender Tee, St Radegunder
Magenberuhigungstee, St Radegunder Nerventee, St Radegunder
Nerven-Tonikum, St Radegunder Reizmildernder Magentee, St
Radegunder Rosmarin-Wein, Stullmaton, STW 5-II (bitter candy
tuft, matricaria flower, peppermint leaves, caraway, licorice root,
and lemon balm), STW-5-S (matricaria flower, peppermint leaves,
caraway, licorice root, and lemon balm), SX Valeriana comp,
Synpharma InstantNerventee, Teekanne Magen-und Darmtee, Teek-
anne Schlaf-und Nerventee, The Brioni, The Chambard-Tee, The
Franklin, Tisana Arnaldi, Tisana Cisbey, Tisana Kelemata, Tisane
antiflatulente pour les enfants, Tisane calmante pour les enfants,
Tisane des Familles, Tisane favorisant l’allaitement, Tisane Grande
Chartreuse, Tisane pour le coeur et la circulation, Tisane pour le
Foie, Tisane pour le sommeil et les nerfs, Tisane pour les enfants,
Tisane pour l’estomac, Tisane Purgative, Tisane relaxante, Tisane
Touraine, Vagostabyl, Valerina Day Time, Valerina Night- Time,
Valverde Dragees pour la détente, Wechseltee.
Brief Background
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb with a lemon scent na
tive to southern Europe. Historically lemon balm has been said to
possess sedative/tranquilizing, anti-gas, fever-reducing, antibacte
rial, spasmolytic, hypotensive, memory-enhancing, menstrual-in
ducing, and thyroid-related effects and has been proposed by some
to be an herbal cure-all.
The plant has been used for centuries in
various cultures internationally.
Lemon balm has been used for its tranquilizing properties in Portu
guese folk medicine and for anticancer properties in Cuban folk
Natural Standard Review 75
Lemon balm is member of the Lamiaceae family.
Other mem
bers of the Lamiaceae family include dittany, mint, sage, siderites,
and sweet marjoram.
In vitro data suggest that lemon balm may contain high concentra
tions of antioxidants.
Lemon balm has been assigned to the FDA Generally Recognized
As Safe (GRAS) list in the United States. No serious side effects
have been reported, although there is limited research of long-term
effects. See Tables 1 and 2.
Evidence of harm is considered separately; the below grades apply
only to evidence of benefit.
Historical or Theoretical Uses Which Lack Sufficient Evidence
anorexia, anticholinergic,
minic, antihypertensive, antisecretory,
aromatic, atten-
tion deficit and hyperactivity disorder,
bronchitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, colic, coughs, depression,
digestive aid, fever reduction, flatulence, flatulent colic, gastroin-
testinal disorders, Graves’ disease,
heart conditions, high blood
pressure, HIV,
influenza, insect bites, insomnia,
menstrual periods,
irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal relaxant,
memory enhancer,
migraine, nausea, nervous palpitations,
nervous stomach,
neurasthenia, promoting menstrual
promoting sweating, restlessness, sedative,
shingles, skin irritations, sleep disorders,
tension headache,
toothache, tranquilizer, vasodilatation, vomiting, wound healing
TABLE 1. Scientific Evidence for Common/Studied Uses
Indication Evidence Grade
Herpes simplex virus infections B
Agitation in dementia C
Anxiety C
Cognitive performance C
Colitis C
Dyspepsia C
Sleep quality C
Expert Opinion and Folkloric Precedent
In Europe, lemon balm has been widely used as a topical antiviral
treatment for genital and oral herpes, applied at the first sign of a
herpes flare-up or regularly for prevention. In Germany, the essen
tial oil placed on the temples has been used to relieve headaches or
The German Commission E recommends lemon balm for nervous
sleep disorders and functional gastrointestinal complaints. The
European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) rec
ommends its use for tenseness, restlessness, and irritability. Lemon
balm has been placed on the FDA Generally Regarded As Safe
(GRAS) list.
Natural Standard Review 77
TABLE 2. Natural Standard evidence-based validated grading rationale™
Level of Evidence Grade Criteria
A (Strong Scientific Evidence)
Statistically significant evidence of benefit from > 2 properly
randomized trials (RCTs), OR evidence from one properly
conducted RCT AND one properly conducted meta-analysis, OR
evidence from multiple RCTs with a clear majority of the properly
conducted trials showing statistically significant evidence of
benefit AND with supporting evidence in basic science, animal
studies, or theory.
B (Good Scientific Evidence)
Statistically significant evidence of benefit from 1-2 properly
randomized trials, OR evidence of benefit from 1 properly
conducted meta-analysis OR evidence of benefit from > 1
cohort/case-control/non-randomized trials AND with supporting
evidence in basic science, animal studies, or theory.
C (Unclear or conflicting scientific evidence)
Evidence of benefit from 1 small RCT(s) without adequate
size, power, statistical significance, or quality of design by
objective criteria,* OR conflicting evidence from multiple RCTs
without a clear majority of the properly conducted trials showing
evidence of benefit or ineffectiveness, OR evidence of benefit
from 1 cohort/case-control/non-randomized trials AND without
supporting evidence in basic science, animal studies, or theory,
OR evidence of efficacy only from basic science, animal studies,
or theory.
D (Fair Negative Scientific Evidence)
Statistically significant negative evidence (i.e., lack of evidence
of benefit) from cohort/case-control/non-randomized trials, AND
evidence in basic science, animal studies, or theory suggesting
a lack of benefit.
F (Strong Negative Scientific Evidence)
Statistically significant negative evidence (i.e., lack of evidence
of benefit) from 1 properly randomized adequately powered
trial(s) of high-quality design by objective criteria.*
Lack of Evidence
Unable to evaluate efficacy due to lack of adequate available
human data.
* Objective criteria are derived from
validated instruments for evaluating study quality
, including the 5-point scale
developed by Jadad et al., in which a score below 4 is considered to indicate lesser quality methodologically
Jadad AR, Moore RA, Carroll D, Jenkinson C, Reynolds DJ, Gavaghan DJ, McQuay HJ. Assessing the quality of
reports of randomized clinical trials: is blinding necessary? Controlled Clinical Trials 1996; 17[1]:1-12
). See Table 4.
Listed separately in monographs in the “Historical or Theoretical Uses which Lack Sufficient Evidence” section.
Brief Safety Summary
Likely Safe: When used topically or orally in recommended doses
(up to 30 days) in otherwise healthy adults
and when con
sumed in amounts found in foods. Lemon balm has been assigned
Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) status in the United States
with a maximum level of 0.5% in baked goods.
Possibly Unsafe: During pregnancy or lactation or in pediatric pa
tients, and when used in patients with thyroid disorders or in com
bination with sedatives (theoretical).
Recommended doses are based on those most commonly used in
available trials, or on historical practice. However, with natural
products it is often not clear what the optimal doses are to balance
efficacy and safety. Preparation of products may vary from manu-
facturer to manufacturer, and from batch to batch within one man-
ufacturer. Because it is often not clear what the active components
of a product are, standardization may not be possible, and the clini-
cal effects of different brands may not be comparable.
Investigations of lemon balm have suggested that the percentage
of essential oil from the leaves can range from 0.08 to 0.25 mL/100
grams, and 0.06 to 0.167 mL/100 grams in the herb.
The content
and quality of essential oils from lemon balm also may differ de
pending upon the height and location of the harvest cut of a partic
ular plant, the vegetation period of the plant, and also between
different populations of the plant. For example, the oil content in
lemon balm appears to be highest in the top third of the plant, and
the percentage of the constituents may be highest when the plant is
cut in the basipetal direction.
Clinical trial data suggest that
different preparations of lemon balm may result in products, which
exhibit different properties depending on the process used for the
sample preparation.
is a topical lemon balm extract (70:1) sold in Europe
that is standardized by bioassay.
, a topical prepara
tion with equivalent standardization to the European products
(70:1), is sold in the United States. Doses used in other herbal
combinations are variable.
Studies have demonstrated that analysis of the different constitu
ents of lemon balm may be achieved using methods such as gas
chromatography, mass spectroscopy, thin-layer chromatography,
plasma optical emission spectrometry and inductively coupled
plasma-source mass spectrometry, matrix solid-phase dispersion,
UV, 1R, 1H NMR, 13C NMR, and FAB MS.
Several au
thors have presented methods for identification,
of herbicide residues,
and characteristics of adulterations.
study of residue extraction from the whole leaves of lemon balm
by in vitro analysis by an isopropanol apparatus suggested that this
method is not appropriate for lemon balm.
Adult Dosing (18 Years and Older)
Tea: A common dose of lemon balm is one cup of tea taken several
times per day as needed. Anecdotally, others have suggested 1.5 to
4.5 grams of lemon balm herb taken several times per day as a tea.
Tincture: A dosage of 2-6 mL three times per day (1:5 in 45% al-
cohol) has been used historically.
Liquid extract: Lemon balm extract in a dose of 60 drops per day
has been cited in research on patients with Alzheimer’s disease for
improvement in cognition.
Leaves: A dosage of 8-10 grams per day has been used.
Combination products: The product Songha Night
, which in
cludes 120 mg Valeriana officinalis extract and 80 mg lemon balm
extract, has been used as a sleep aid in a dosage of three tablets
taken nightly for 30 days.
For anxiety, Klosterfrau Melissengeist
[each teaspoonful (5 mL) contains essential oils of lemon balm (27
mg), orange peel (36 mg), cinnamon (16 mg), and myristica (4
mg)] has been taken as 0.23 mL/kg body weight, three times per
day for eight weeks.
For dyspepsia, Iberogast
, a standardized
formula containing Matricata recutita, Iberis amara, Angelica
archangelica, Carum carvi, Silybum marianum, lemon balm,
Natural Standard Review 79
Chelidonium majus, Glycyrrhiza glabra, and Mentha piperita,
has been taken in a dosage of 20 drops, three times per day for a
minimum of four to eight weeks.
Cream: Cream containing 1% of a standardized 70:1 extract, topi
cally up to four times per day for 5 to 10 days has been studied for
the treatment of active viral herpes.
Tea: Alternatively, a tea has been applied to herpes lesions with a
saturated cotton ball several times per day. The tea is prepared by
steeping 2-3 teaspoons (2-3 grams) of the finely cut leaf in 150 mL
boiling water for 5-10 min and then straining.
Pediatric Dosing (Younger Than 18 Years)
Insufficient available data.
Lemon balm preparations may contain trace amounts of lead. A
study evaluating metal dispersion in food crops suggested that the
soil in which some plants are grown may be contaminated by lead
from environmental pollution and therefore may cause the plant to
contain trace amounts of the element.
The lack of genotoxic effects of aqueous or alcoholic extracts of
lemon balm on Aspergillus nidulans D-30 using a plate-incorpora
tion assay has been noted.
There are insufficient available data on chronic toxicity.
Individuals with known allergy/hypersensitivity to lemon balm should
avoid its use. Hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, including
contact dermatitis.
Lemon balm extract had a weak sensitizing effect
in guinea pigs.
Adverse Effects/Post Market Surveillance
General: Based on available research, oral forms have been reported
to be relatively well-tolerated when taken for up to 8 weeks.
for topical administration of cream suggested minimal side effects for
up to 10 days of application.
Dermatologic: Contact dermatitis,
local reddening, burning sensa
tion, paresthesia, residual pigmentation,
and dermal irritation
on ap
plication of cream have been reported. One case of irritation and one
case of exacerbation of herpes symptoms were reported when lemon
balm was applied topically.
Neurologic: One clinical study reported the occurrence of head
One study cited that 1200 mg of lemon balm resulted in EEG
One trial reported that 900 mg of lemon balm may reduce
alertness, so caution should be used when driving or operating heavy
In one clinical trial, the use of a Valeriana officinalis/
lemon balm combination was reported to cause mild adverse effects in
28.8% of patients, with sleep disturbances and tiredness cited as the
most common side effects (although sedative properties of Valeriana
officinalis alone are well-described and the additional effects of lemon
balm are not clear in this combination).
A Valeriana officinalis-
Humulus lupulus-lemon balm combination was reported to cause tired-
ness in isolated cases.
Ocular/Otic: Anecdotal reports note the possibility of lemon balm
increasing intraocular pressure.
Cardiovascular: One randomized controlled trial reported the occurence
of palpitations.
Endocrine: A pre-clinical study reported that constituents of lemon
balm may block the binding of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to
its receptor by acting both on the hormone and the receptor itself.
Studies have suggested that patients with thyroid problems such as
Graves’ disease use caution due to the potential for thyroid hormone in
Lemon balm may interfere with thyroid hormone
replacement therapy (theoretical).
Gastrointestinal: Cases of nausea and diarrhea have been reported.
Use cautiously in patients with thyroid problems such as Graves’
disease due to potential for thyroid hormone inhibition.
Natural Standard Review 81
Use cautiously in patients with glaucoma as anecdotal reports have
suggested that lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure.
Use caution when driving or operating heavy machinery. Results
from one clinical study have suggested that lemon balm may re
duce alertness at doses of 900 mg.
Lemon balm preparations may contain trace amounts of lead. A
study evaluating metal dispersion in food crops suggested that the
soil in which some plants are grown may be contaminated by lead
from environmental pollution and therefore may cause the plant to
contain trace amounts of the element.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Not recommended due to lack of sufficient data.
Lemon balm
may elicit emmenagogic, antithyrotropic, and antigonadotropic ef-
fects (anecdotal).
Lemon Balm/Drug Interactions
Alcohol: In theory, alcohol use with lemon balm may augment the
sedative effects of alcohol.
However, no additive effects of al-
cohol were shown when combined with a Valeriana officinalis-
Humulus lupulus-lemon balm combination product.
Barbiturates: Lemon balm has been reported to increase the hyp-
notic effects of barbiturates in animal studies.
Sedative agents: Based on preclinical studies
and initial human
combination use of lemon balm with sedatives may re
sult in additive effects.
Glaucoma medications: Based on anecdotal accounts, lemon balm
may increase intraocular pressure, thereby diminishing effects of
glaucoma medications.
Thyroid agents: In euthyroid rats, the administration of freeze-
dried extracts of lemon balm was reported to reduce pituitary and
serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations.
One study suggested that constituents of lemon balm may block
the binding of TSH to its receptor by acting on both the hormone
and the receptor itself.
Lemon balm may interfere with thyroid
hormone replacement therapy (theoretical).
Nicotine and scopolamine: Lemon balm may displace drugs bound
to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, as demonstrated in clinical
trials with the displacement of nicotine and scopolamine from
these receptors.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): As demonstrated
in in vitro studies, lemon balm may inhibit concentrations of sero
tonin and therefore may interact with drugs which affect concen
trations of serotonin in vivo.
Lemon Balm/Herb/Supplement Interactions
Sedative herbs and supplements: A study examining efficacy and
safety of herbal sedatives suggested that combination use of sed
ative herbs with lemon balm may result in additive effects.
Such herbs include ashwaganda root, calamus, calendula, Cali-
fornia poppy, capsicum, catnip, celery, cough grass, elecampane,
Siberian ginseng, German chamomile, goldenseal, gotu kola,
hops (Humulus lupulus), Jamaican dogwood, kava, sage, St.
John’s wort, sassafras, skullcap, shepherd’s purse, stinging net-
tle, valerian (Valeriana officinalis), wild carrot, wild lettuce, and
yerba mansa.
Herbs and supplements used for glaucoma: Anecdotal accounts
suggest that lemon balm may increase intraocular pressure, thereby
diminishing effects of glaucoma treatments.
Herbs that affect thyroid hormone: In euthyroid rats, the adminis-
tration of freeze-dried extracts of lemon balm was reported to re-
duce pituitary and serum TSH concentrations.
One study
suggested that constituents of lemon balm may block the binding
of TSH to its receptor by acting both on the hormone and the
receptor itself.
Lemon Balm/Lab Interactions
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: In euthyroid rats, the administra
tion of freeze-dried extracts of lemon balm was reported to re
duce pituitary and serum TSH concentrations.
One study
reported that constituents of lemon balm may block the binding
of TSH to its receptor by acting on both the hormone and the
receptor itself.
Prolactin: In rats, prolactin serum levels and hypophyseal stores were
reduced by 40 mg/100 grams of a freeze-dried extract of lemon balm.
Natural Standard Review 83
Constituents: The known major components of lemon balm are re
ported to include hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, particularly
rosmarinic acid, caffeic acids, chlorogenic acid, and metrilic
flavonoids, including luteolin,
luteolin 7-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, apigenin 7-O-beta-D-gluco
pyranoside, and luteolin 3-O-beta-D-glucuronopyranoside;
monoterpene glycosides;
sesquiterpenes, including
β-caryophyllene and germacrene;
and volatile oils,
including citronellal, citral a (geranial), citral b (neral), methyl
citronellate, ocimene, citronellol, geraniol, nerol, β-caryophyllene,
β-caryophyllene oxide, linalool, and ethric oil.
The vola-
tile oil comprises 0.5-0.1% of the plant by weight, and citronellal,
geranial, and neral constitute about 50-70% of this oil.
ylglycoside has been isolated from lemon balm leaves.
chemical composition of lemon balm tea yielded 10 mg/L of es-
sential oil (74% citral) and large amounts of polyphenol com-
Steam distillates of lemon balm callus cultures yielded
dehydroabietane and another diterpene hydrocarbon, with the rela-
tive proportion of those two compounds varying considerably dur-
ing cultivation passage.
Antiviral effects: Studies have reported that aqueous extracts of
lemon balm exhibit antiviral effects against Newcastle disease vi-
rus, Semliki forest virus, influenza virus, myxoviruses, vaccinia,
and herpes simplex virus.
Lemon balm extract and
rosmarinic acid have demonstrated antiviral properties against
Studies conducted to assess the antiviral effects of lemon
balm on Herpes simplex virus 1 have suggested that different ex
tracts of the herb (M1, M2, M3, and M4) exhibit different effects
on the virus.
Studies conducted to assess the antiviral effects of
lemon balm on Herpes simplex virus 2 suggest that the volatile oil
components of lemon balm inhibit replication of HSV-2.
balm’s antiviral effects are attributed to the tannin and polyphenol
constituents. Tannins are reported to possess antiviral proper
as are rosmarinic, caffeic, and ferulic acids.
Antibacterial/antifungal effects: The lemon balm constituent
rosmarinic acid was reported to impair in vivo activation of mouse
macrophages by heat-killed Corynebacterium parvum, as mea
sured by the decreased capacity of the activated macrophages to
undergo the oxidative burst.
In vitro analyses of the antimicr
obial properties of lemon balm suggested that at a concentration of
500 microg/mL, the herb completely inhibits the growth of all
yeast species including, Torulaspora delbrueckii, Zygosaccharomyces
bailii, Pichia membranifaciens, Dekkera anomala, and Yarrowia
Data from in vitro analyses have suggested that
lemon balm may be effective as an antibiotic against anaerobic
and facultative aerobic periodontal bacteria including, Porphyromonas
gingivalis, Prevotella spp., Fusobacterium nucleatum, Capnocyto
phaga gingivalis, Veilonella parvula, Eikenella corrodens, Pepto
streptococcus micros, and Actinomyces odontolyticus.
balm oils have been reported to demonstrate highest activity against
S. enterica (BA50 range, 0.0044-0.011%).
Antibacterial activity
was reported to be expressed on a multiresistant strain of Shigella
Antiinflammatory effects: The paucity of clinical evidence makes
the assessment of the antiinflammatory effect of lemon balm diffi-
cult to verify.
Rosmarinic acid has been reported to reduce paw
edema induced by cobra venom factor in rats and to inhibit passive
cutaneous anaphylaxis in rats at doses of 1-100 mg/kg by mouth.
Rosmarinic acid has been reported not to inhibit t-butyl
hydroperoxide-induced paw edema in the rat, indicating selectiv-
ity for complement-dependent processes.
Antioxidant effects: In vitro data suggest that lemon balm contains
high concentrations of antioxidants (greater than 75 mmol/100
Lemon balm has been reported to demonstrate high
phenolics content and antioxidant properties (TEAC 4.06+/0.31
mM/QE 1370.09+/41.38 microM).
Lemon balm extracts and
rosmarinic acid have both been reported to demonstrate antioxi
dant properties in vitro,
and rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid
have demonstrated significant antioxidant and immune modulat
ing activities.
10, 11, 72,73,93
During linoleic acid autoxidation and its
EDTA-mediated oxidation, lemon balm showed antioxidant activ
An in-vitro cytotoxicity assay demonstrated that lemon balm
oil was very effective against a series of human cancer cell lines
(A549, MCF-7, Caco-2, HL-60, K562) and one mouse cell line
(B16F10). Further antioxidant activity of lemon balm has been
reported as evidenced by the reduction of 1,1-diphenyl-2- picryl-
hydrazyl (DPPH).
Studies have demonstrated that the cytopro
tective effect of lemon balm extracts seen in rats was due in part to
Natural Standard Review 85
free-radical scavenging properties.
Immunostimulating effects
of a lemon balm extract were also demonstrated.
Inhibitory ef
fects of rosmarinic acid from lemon balm on porcine pancreatic
amylase were reported in vitro.
Antiprotozoal effects: Essential oils, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes
from lemon balm were tested on bloodstream forms of Leishmania
major and Trypanosoma major. These constituents were reported
to be about 50- to 80-fold more toxic to T. major than were human
HL-60 cells. None of the essential oils or terpenes were reported to
be more toxic to L. major than HL-60.
Monoterpene and sesquiter
penes may possess antiprotozoal effects (anecdotal).
Antithrombotic effects: Rosmarinic acid has been reported to dem-
onstrate inhibitory effects on both the classical pathway convertase
and the alternative pathway convertase. One study reported that
rosmarinic acid inhibited 70% of the immunohemolysis of anti-
body-coated sheep erythrocytes by guinea pig serum via possible
inhibition of the C3 convertase of the classical complement path-
way. However, higher concentrations of rosmarinic acid were less
Rosmarinic acid was also reported to inhibit C5 con-
vertase in the classical pathway.
Antithyroid effects: Studies have shown that freeze-dried extracts
of lemon balm were reported to inhibit the binding of bovine TSH
to human thyroid plasma membranes and adenylate cyclase. In rat
liver microsomes, lemon balm aqueous extract was reported to in-
hibit the extrathyroidal enzymatic T4-5-deiodination to both T3-
and T4-5-deiodination.
The thyroid-stimulating immuno-
globulin G (IgG) found in patients with Graves’ disease has been
reported to resemble TSH in its ability to bind to the thyroid
plasma membrane and to activate the thyroid gland. Freeze-dried
extracts of lemon balm were reported to exhibit antithyrotropic ac
tivity by forming adducts with TSH that bound weakly, if at all, to
the TSH receptor. When IgG was incubated with extracts of lemon
balm, a dose-dependent decrease was reported in the TSH-binding
inhibitory activity. As a result of this reported decrease, adenylate
cyclase activity was stimulated (thyroid-stimulating immunoglob
ulin activity) and thyroid iodine release was enhanced in the
McKenzie assay system. Cinnamic acid has been reported to in
hibit the binding of TSH to human thyroid membranes.
euthyroid rats, the administration of freeze-dried extracts of lemon
balm was reported to reduce pituitary and serum TSH concentra
Emmenagogic effects: One study suggested that freeze-dried ex
tracts of lemon balm inhibited binding of 125I hCG to rat testis
In rats, prolactin serum levels and hypophyseal
stores were reported to be reduced by 40 mg/100 grams of a
freeze-dried extract of lemon balm.
Spasmolytic effects: Due to lack of clinical data, lemon balm has
not been recommended for use as a spasmolytic agent.
histamine and acetylcholine as spasmogens in guinea pig ileum, no
significant antispasmodic activity resulting from lemon balm ex
tracts were reported.
Studies on isolated duodenum of rat have
reported antispasmodic effects of lemon balm in vitro.
Sedative effects: In mice, an aqueous alcoholic extract of lemon
balm was reported to produce dose-dependent sedation, inducing
sleep and potentiating sub-hypnotic and hypnotic doses of pento-
barbital. On the other hand, in the same study the essential oil of
lemon balm was reported to have no sedative effect.
With high
doses, a peripheral analgesic effect was noted.
In tests on Wistar
strain rats and on laboratory mice, lemon balm dried extract was re-
ported to exert influence on CNS in evoking antiaggressive activity.
CNS studies of rat reported sedative, hypnotic, and analgesic effects
of lemon balm in vivo.
An ethanolic extract of lemon balm was
tested for affinity to the GABA(A)-benzodiazepine site, and moder-
ate activity was reported.
However, a study of a volatile oil-free
hydroalcoholic extract reported sedative activity in mice.
Cardiovascular effects: One study demonstrated that aqueous ex-
tracts of lemon balm provoked a significant reduction in the car-
diac rate in isolated rat hearts, while the contractile force remained
unchanged. This was reported to be caused by the stimulation of
cardiac muscarinic receptors.
Insufficient available data.
Lemon balm is a delicate, low-growing (1-2 foot) perennial herb
with lemon-smelling, pointed, heart-shaped or oval leaves, and
small white or yellow flowers. The leaves are used medicinally.
Natural Standard Review 87
Lemon balm is native to the Mediterranean region, and now is also
grown in western Asia, the United States, and Europe.
Lemon balm is commonly planted in gardens to attract bees. The
name comes from the Greek word “melissa” which means “bee,”
and “balm,” a short form of “balsam.” The medicinal use of lemon
balm has been documented since Ancient Greek and Roman times.
Refers to the medical condition or disease targeted by a therapy.
Study Design
Common types include:
Randomized controlled trial (RCT): An experimental trial in which
participants are assigned randomly to receive either an interven-
tion being tested or placebo. Note that Natural Standard defines
RCTs as being placebo-controlled, while studies using active con-
trols are classified as equivalence trials (see below). In RCTs, par-
ticipants and researchers are often blinded (i.e., unaware of group
assignments), although unblinded and quasi-blinded RCTs are
also often performed. True random allocation to trial arms, proper
blinding, and sufficient sample size are the basis for an adequate
Equivalence trial: An RCT which compares two active agents.
Equivalence trials often compare new treatments to usual (stan-
dard) care, and may not include a placebo arm.
Before and after comparison: A study that reports only the change
in outcome in each group of a study, and does not report be
tween-group comparisons. This is a common error in studies that
claim to be RCTs.
Case series: A description of a group of patients with a condition,
treatment, or outcome (e.g., 20 patients with migraine headache
underwent acupuncture and 17 reported feeling better afterwards).
Case series are considered weak evidence of efficacy.
Case-control study: A study in which patients with a certain out
come are selected and compared to similar patients (without the
outcome) to see if certain risk factors/predictors are more common
in patients with that outcome. This study design is not common in
the complementary & alternative medicine literature.
Cohort study: A study which assembles a group of patients with
certain baseline characteristics (for example, use of a drug), and fol
lows them forward in time for outcomes. This study design is not
common in the complementary & alternative medicine literature.
Meta-analysis: A pooling of multiple trials to increase statistical
power (often used to pool data from a number of RCTs with small
sample sizes, none which demonstrates significance alone but in
aggregate can achieve significance). Multiple difficulties are en
countered when designing/reviewing these analyses; in particular,
outcomes measures or therapies may differ from study to study,
hindering direct comparison.
Review: An author’s description of his or her opinion based on per-
sonal, non-systematic review of the evidence.
Systematic review: A review conducted according to pre-specified
criteria in an attempt to limit bias from the investigators. System-
atic reviews often include a meta-analysis of data from the in-
cluded studies.
Author, Year
Identifies the study being described in a row of the table.
The total number of subjects included in a study (treatment group
plus placebo group). Some studies recruit a larger number of subjects
initially, but do not use them all because they do not meet the study’s en-
try criteria. In this case, it is the second, smaller number that qualifies as
N. N includes all subjects that are part of a study at the start date, even if
they drop out, are lost to follow-up, or are deemed unsuitable for analy
sis by the authors. Trials with a large number of drop-outs that are not
included in the analysis are considered to be weaker evidence for effi
cacy. (For systematic reviews the number of studies included is re
ported. For meta-analyses, the number of total subjects included in the
analysis or the number of studies may be reported.)
Statistically Significant?
Results are noted as being statistically significant if a study’s authors
report statistical significance, or if quantitative evidence of significance
is present (such as p values).
Natural Standard Review 89
Quality of Study
A numerical score between 0-5 is assigned as a rough measure of
study design/reporting quality (0 being weakest and 5 being strongest).
This number is based on a well-established, validated scale developed
by Jadad et al. (Jadad AR, Moore RA, Carroll D, et al. Assessing the
quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: Is blinding necessary?
Controlled Clinical Trials 1996;17[1]:1-12). This calculation does not
account for all study elements that may be used to assess quality (other
aspects of study design/reporting are addressed in the “Evidence Discus
sion” sections of reviews).
A Jadad score is calculated using the seven items in the table be-
low. The first five items are indications of good quality, and
each counts as one point towards an overall quality score. The
final two items indicate poor quality, and a point is subtracted
for each if its criteria are met. The range of possible scores is 0
to 5.
Magnitude of Benefit
This summarizes how strong a benefit is: small, medium, large, or
none. If results are not statistically significant “NA” for “not applica
ble” is entered. In order to be consistent in defining small, medium, and
large benefits across different studies and reviews, Natural Standard de
fines the magnitude of benefit in terms of the standard deviation (SD) of
the outcome measure. Specifically, the benefit is considered:
Jadad Score Calculation
Item Score
Was the study described as randomized (this includes words such as randomly, random, and
Was the method used to generate the sequence of randomization described and appropriate (table of
random numbers, computer-generated, etc)?
Was the study described as double blind? 0/1
Was the method of double blinding described and appropriate (identical placebo, active placebo, dummy,
Was there a description of withdrawals and dropouts? 0/1
Deduct one point if the method used to generate the sequence of randomization was described and it was
inappropriate (patients were allocated alternately, or according to date of birth, hospital number, etc).
Deduct one point if the study was described as double blind but the method of blinding was inappropriate
(e.g., comparison of tablet vs. injection with no double dummy).
Large: if > 1 SD;
Medium: if 0.5 to 0.9 SD;
Small: if 0.2 to 0.4 SD.
In many cases, studies do not report the standard deviation of change
of the outcome measure. However, the change in the standard deviation
of the outcome measure (also known as effect size) can be calculated,
and is derived by subtracting the mean (or mean difference) in the pla
cebo/control group from the mean (or mean difference) in the treatment
group, and dividing that quantity by the pooled standard deviation (Ef
fect size = [Mean Treatment Mean Placebo]/SDp).
Absolute Risk Reduction
This describes the difference between the percent of people in the
control/placebo group experiencing a specific outcome (control event
rate), and the percent of people in the experimental/therapy group expe-
riencing that same outcome (experimental event rate). Mathematically,
absolute risk reduction (ARR) equals experimental event rate minus
control event rate. ARR is better able to discriminate between large and
small treatment effects than relative risk reduction (RRR), a calculation
that is often cited in studies [(control event rate experimental event
rate/control event rate)]. Many studies do not include adequate data to
calculate the ARR, in which cases “NA” is entered into this column.
Number Needed to Treat
This is the number of patients who would need to use the therapy un-
der investigation, for the period of time described in the study, in order
for one person to experience the specified benefit. It is calculated by di
viding the absolute risk reduction into 1 (1/ARR).
When appropriate, this brief section may comment on design flaws
(inadequately described subjects, lack of blinding, brief follow-up, not
intention-to treat, etc.), notable study design elements (crossover, etc.),
dosing, and/or specifics of study group/sub-groups (age, gender, etc.).
More detailed description of studies is found in the “Evidence Discus
sion” section that follows the “Evidence Table” in Natural Standard
Natural Standard Review 91
Herpes Simplex Virus Infections
Summary: Rigorous clinical data are lacking. Preliminary clinical
studies demonstrate promising effects. See Tables 3 and 4.
Evidence: Vogt et al. investigated the efficacy of a cream contain
ing lemon balm extract in a randomized, placebo controlled, dou
ble-blind trial in 116 patients with Herpes simplex infections.
Patients were treated with either Lomaherpan Creme or placebo
two to four times per day over a period of up to 10 days. Symptoms
were documented after day two and at the end of the treatment pe
riod (average five days). Symptoms investigated were reddening,
swelling, blisters, erosions, scab, pain, and healing. Severity of
symptoms was expressed in a score from one to four. Overall eval-
uation used a score from one to five. Regression of reddening and
reduction of swelling were reported as statistically significant vs.
placebo. Overall evaluation of efficacy was reported as signifi-
cantly positive vs. placebo both by patients and doctors. The au-
thors suggested that Lomaherpan proved effective in the treatment
of Herpes simplex infections. Efficacy was greater, the earlier treat-
ment commenced.
A placebo controlled, double-blind trial was conducted to evaluate
the efficacy of lemon balm in the treatment of herpes simplex skin
or mucosa infections in 116 patients.
To be included into the trial,
patients must have had symptoms for no more than 72 hours, could
have either skin or transitional mucosa infections, and could not be
on any antiviral treatment. Patients could apply placebo or topical
(1% dried lemon balm extract) 2-4 times per day for
5-10 days. Outcome measures assessed redness, swelling, scabs,
pain, healing, and vesicles on a one to four point symptom scale,
lesion size, and efficacy (globally assessed by patients and physi
cians). Results reported that at day two, redness and swelling were
significantly improved in the lemon balm group (p = 0.0055 and
p = 0.25, respectively) compared to the placebo group. Global as
sessment of efficacy by patients (“very good” rating 24 times in
the treatment group vs. 11 times in the placebo group, p = 0.022)
and physicians (“very good” rating in 25 times in the treatment
group and 10 times in the placebo group, p = 0.031) were reported
as significantly higher in the lemon balm group vs. the placebo
group. Reported side effects included irritation in one patient tak
ing lemon balm and in two patients taking placebo. Two patients
taking placebo also reported a burning sensation. Subgroup analy
sis of 67 patients demonstrated a quicker decrease in lesion area in
the lemon balm group, which was not significant on day two but
was significant on day five (p = 0.012). One limitation of this trial
is the flexibility in dosing regimen.
Koytchev et al. conducted a randomized, placebo controlled, dou
ble-blind trial to examine the effects of lemon balm in 66 patients
with a history of recurrent herpes labialis.
Patients must have ex
perienced at least four episodes per year to be included in the
study. Patients received either placebo or Lomaherpan
(1% cream
of freeze-dried lemon balm extract) and were treated topically on
the affected area four times per day for five days. The patients
were instructed to start the application within four hours of symp-
toms and return for a physician visit within 24 hours. Symptoms
including bother, number of blisters, and size of affected area were
scored on a scale developed for acyclovir trials. The primary out-
come measure was a symptom score on day two, and secondary
endpoints included total scores of symptoms over five days of
treatment. Results revealed a symptom score on day two of 4.03 in
the lemon balm group vs. 4.94 in the placebo group (p = 0.042).
According to the authors, the difference between total scores was
not significant (p = 0.16). Physician assessment was also reported
as not significant. Limitations include lack of reporting of side ef-
fects and tolerance of treatment.
A case series was conducted to study the efficacy of lemon balm in
the treatment of 115 patients with cold sores. To be included on the
study, patients experienced symptoms for less than 72 hours.
Cream containing 1% dried lemon balm extract was applied to ar
eas of herpes simplex infection as needed up to five times per day,
up to 14 days.
The primary endpoint was the complete healing
of the lesion. Healing was completed in 60% of the patients by day
four, 87% by day six, and 96% by day eight. According to the au
thors, these results suggested that the benefit from using lemon
balm was dubious. The effect attributed to lemon balm was re
ported as no shorter than that of the natural course of the disease.
The rate of adverse effects was 2.6% (three patients) and included
reddening of the skin, burning sensation, paresthesia, and in one
case, residual pigmentation. This study is limited by its lack of a
placebo control group.
Natural Standard Review 93
TABLE 3. Evidence Table
Condition Study
N Statistically
Quality of
0-2 = poor
3-4 = good
5 = excellent
of Benefit
ARR NNT Comments
116 Yes 4 Medium 26% 4 Cream with
1% lemon
balm (70:1)
used bid to
qid x 10
days. Side
effects less
than 1%;
116 Yes 3 Small 24.9% 4 Cream with
1% lemon
balm (70:1)
used bid to
qid x 5-10
66 No 2 NA NA NA Cream with
1% lemon
balm (70:1)
applied within
4 hours of
then qid x 5
Case series Wölbling,
115 No 1 NA NA NA Cream with
1% lemon
balm used 5
times per day
x 14 days.
No placebo
control group.
Agitation in
Ballard, 2002 72 Yes 3 Small Reduction
in Cohen-
(CMAI): 24%
4 Lotion with
lemon balm
applied to
patients’ face
and arms bid.
Anxiety Randomized,
102 Yes 4 NA NA NA Combination
product used
at 0.23 mL/kg
body weight.
Anxiety Case series Lagoni,
92 NA 2 NA NA NA Combination
product used.
Anxiety Case series Schmidt,
1599 NA 2 NA NA NA Combination
product used.
1395 patients
42 Yes 3 Small NA NA Lemon balm
extract used
at 60 drops/
48 Yes 2 Small NA NC 2 tablets of
product used.
Natural Standard Review 95
Condition Study
Author, Year N Statistically
Quality of
0-2 = poor
3-4 = good
5 = excellent
of Benefit
ARR NNT Comments
and mood
20 NA 2 NA NA NA 300, 600, and
900mg of
extract used
20 NA 2 NA NA NA 600, 1000,
and 1600mg
dried leaf
used at 7-
day intervals
by healthy
Dyspepsia Multicenter,
120 Yes 3 Medium Relief from
2.5 Combination
Dyspepsia Double-blind,
60 Yes 3 Medium NA NA Combination
Dyspepsia Multicenter
case series
152 NA 1 NA NA NA Combination
product used.
Sleep quality,
98 No 4 NA 23.9% 4 Healthy
three tablets
qd, half-hour
Sleep quality Randomized,
68 Yes 3 Medium 40% overall
3 Combination
Sleep quality Randomized,
27 Yes 2 Small NA NA Combination
used, short
Sleep quality,
mild to
50 Yes 2 Medium NA NA Combination
Sleep quality Controlled,
20 Yes 1 NA NA NA Healthy
product; not
Sleep quality Case series Orth-Wagner,
225 Yes 1 NA NA NA Combination
Agitation in Dementia
Summary: Limited data are available supporting the use of lemon
balm as a treatment of agitation in dementia patients. Additional
study is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn. See Table 3.
Evidence: Ballard et al. conducted a randomized, placebo con-
trolled, double-blind trial to determine the value of aromatherapy
with essential oil of lemon balm for agitation in 72 patients with
severe dementia.
Patients with clinically significant agitation in
the context of severe dementia were included in the study. Lotion
enriched with either lemon balm essential oil or placebo oil was
applied to patients’ faces and arms twice per day. Measurements of
effectiveness included agitation [Cohen-Mansfield Agitation In-
ventory (CMAI)] and quality of life indices (percentage of time
spent socially withdrawn and percentage of time engaged in con-
structive activities, measured with Dementia Care Mapping). Sixty
percent of the active treatment group and 14% of the placebo-
treated group reported a 30% reduction of CMAI score, with an
overall improvement in agitation (mean reduction in CMAI score)
of 35% in patients receiving lemon balm essential oil and 11% in
those treated with placebo. Quality of life indices were also re
ported to improve significantly more in patients receiving the ac
tive treatment. No significant side effects were reported. Although
the results of this trial are promising, this trial is limited due to a
small sample size.
Summary: Preliminary human evidence has been published that
supports the use of lemon balm for anxiety, commonly referred to
in the literature as psycho-vegetative disturbances. Further re
search is needed to confirm these results. See Table 3.
TABLE 4. Explanation of Columns in Natural Standard Evidence Table
12345 6 78910
Condition Study
N Statistically
Quality of
0-2 = poor
3-4 = good
5 = excellent
of Benefit
Needed to
Evidence: Büchner et al. conducted a randomized, placebo con
trolled, double-blind trial to examine the efficacy of lemon balm in
102 patients with anxiety and somatic complaints.
Subjects were
assigned to take either placebo or Klosterfrau Melissengeist
at a
dose of 0.23 mL/kg body weight three times per day for eight
weeks. Outcome measures included psychological tests, which
were taken before and during the eight-week trial. Results reported
a significant improvement of the clinical state, including improve
ments in symptoms of “vegetative disturbances,” including “inner
restlessness,” blushing, palpitation, and headache (p < 0.05). The
PF 16 Cattell test demonstrated a significant difference for dimen
sion C = Ego Strength vs. Ego Weakness (p < 0.05). Significant
differences between the experimental and the control groups were
also reported in the FPI test for the dimensions of nervousness (p <
0.01) and excitability (p < 0.02). The FPI dimension of emotional
lability also demonstrated significant differences between the two
groups (p < 0.05). Pronounced effects were reported in female sub-
jects (p < 0.01). Eight patients in the treatment group reported side
effects including slight nausea, diarrhea, headache, and palpita-
tions, and five patients in the placebo group reported nausea, diar-
rhea, and headache. The major limitation of this trial is that it
assessed the efficacy of a combination product. Further random-
ized, controlled trials assessing lemon balm monotherapy are war-
In a multicenter, four-week study involving 92 patients, the herbal
compound Seda-Plantinag was tested as an alternative to prescrip-
tion sedatives.
According to the study results, Seda-Plantinag did
not lead to any signs of fatigue during the day. Patients reported a
clear decrease in the degree of their states of agitation or excite-
ment, as well as improvements with regard to their power of con
centration and social efficiency. The authors suggested that a
combination of single herbal agents with sedative, psychotropic
effects proved to be well tolerated and may serve as an alternative
for synthetic tranquillizers, even if prescribed regularly in the
In a large case series, 1599 patients with symptoms of anxiety
were treated with Euvegal coated tablets (a combination product
with Valeriana officinalis and lemon balm).
Patients reporting
nervousness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances were included in the
study. Patients were given one to two tablets of Euvegal twice per
day over a four-week period. After week two and week four, sever
Natural Standard Review 97
ity of symptoms and possible adverse effects were documented. A
total of 1395 patients completed the observation. In two-thirds an
almost complete regression of symptoms was observed. Over 90%
of patients reported an improvement. Mild adverse effects were re
ported in 32 cases. Limitations of this study are that it assessed the
efficacy of a combination product and that it was not a random
ized, controlled trial.
Cognitive Performance
Summary: Clinical data suggest that the use of standardized lemon
balm extract has some effect on particular self-reported measures
of mood and cognition through cholinergic activities.
rigorous studies need to be conducted using patient-relevant out-
comes to better assess the validity of these results as they apply to
patient care. See Table 3.
Evidence: Akhondzadeh et al. conducted a randomized, controlled
trial to assess the efficacy and safety of lemon balm extract in 42
patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The study included patients
with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Patients were given a
fixed dose of 60 drops/day of lemon balm extract. The primary
outcome measures were changes in the cognitive subscale of an
Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale and on the clinical dementia
rating. At four months, the results demonstrated that lemon balm
extract produced a significantly better outcome on cognitive func-
tion than placebo. No significant differences in the two groups in
terms of observed side effects were reported, except agitation,
which was more common in the placebo group. The authors sug-
gested that from these results lemon balm may be beneficial in the
treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Further research is needed to confirm these results.
In a randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind trial, Herberg et
al. investigated the everyday safety of a Valeriana officinalis-
Humulus lupulus-lemon balm combination in 48 adults aged 30 to
60 years old. Subjects received two tablets (95 mg Valeriana officinalis,
15 mg Humulus lupulus, and 85 mg lemon balm per tablet) or pla
cebo three times per day for two weeks. Cognitive performance
was assessed using a computerized test battery. The combination
with alcohol (mean 0.5%) was also investigated. No inhibition of
cognitive performance was reported. According to the authors,
statistically significant differences vs. placebo concerned improve
ment of general well-being and cognitive skills only. No signifi
cant side effects were reported. The authors reported that the
Valeriana officinalis-Humulus lupulus-lemon balm combination
did not affect the effect of alcohol consumption.
Kennedy et al. conducted a randomized, placebo controlled, dou
ble-blind, crossover trial to examine effects of three doses of
lemon balm on cognition and mood in 20 participants.
pants received either 300 mg, 600 mg, or 900 mg of a standardized
extract of lemon balm or placebo, on different days, each separated
by a seven-day washout period. Outcome measures included the
cognitive performance as assessed by Cognitive Drug Research
(CDR) computerized test battery and subjective mood rating as as-
sessed by Bond-Lader visual analogue scales. The results demon-
strated a sustained increase in “accuracy of attention” after
ingesting 600 mg and reductions in “secondary memory” and
“working memory” that were time- and dose-dependent. Patients
reported reductions in “alertness” after the administration of 900
mg and reported that “calmness” was elevated after the adminis-
tration of 300 mg. A limitation of this study is the small sample of
young, healthy subjects not representative of the population of pa-
tients with dementia who may benefit from lemon balm.
Kennedy et al. conducted a randomized, placebo controlled, dou-
ble-blind, crossover study which investigated the acute effects on
cognition and mood of a standardized extract of lemon balm in 20
healthy adults.
Participants received single doses of 600 mg, 1000
mg, and 1600 mg of lemon balm (Pharmaton) or a matching pla
cebo at seven-day intervals. Cognitive performance was assessed
using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerized test bat
tery and two serial subtraction tasks. A sustained improvement in
“accuracy of attention” following 600 mg of lemon balm and time-
and dose-specific reductions in both “secondary memory” and
“working memory” factors were demonstrated in the treatment
group. Self-rated “calmness,” as assessed by Bond-Lader mood
scales, was reported to be elevated at the earliest time points by the
lowest dose, and “alertness” was reported to be significantly re
duced at all time points after the highest dose. A limitation of this
study is the small sample of young, healthy subjects not represen
tative of the population of patients with dementia who may benefit
from lemon balm.
Natural Standard Review 99
Summary: Limited clinical evidence is available supporting the
use of lemon balm for the treatment of chronic colitis. See Table 3.
Evidence: In a case series, 24 patients with chronic non-specific
colitis were treated with a combination of Taraxacum officinale,
Hypericum perforatum, lemon balm, Calendula officinalis, and
Foeniculum vulgare.
Primary outcome measures included de
crease in symptoms. Results demonstrated the disappearance of
spontaneous and palpable pains along the large intestine in 95.83%
of the patients by day 15 of treatment, and daily bowel movements
in the patients with obstipation syndrome. Although these results
are promising, lack of randomized, controlled trials with an ade
quate sample population prevents meaningful extrapolation of
these results to clinical practice.
Summary: Clinical evidence of varying quality suggests that lemon
balm may help reduce dyspepsia as a component of combination
products. However, further research is necessary before a conclu-
sion can be drawn.
Evidence: Madisch et al. conducted a multicenter, placebo con-
trolled, double-blind trial using the commercially available, herbal
combination preparation Iberogast
, which contains lemon balm,
with and without the ingredient bitter candy tuft in 60 patients with
functional dyspepsia.
Patients discontinued all medications for
seven days and then received either of the Iberogast
or a placebo for four weeks. Gastrointestinal symptom (GIS) score
and total scores consisting of ten dyspeptic symptoms rated on a
Likert scale measured at baseline, at week two, and at week four
were reported as statistically significant compared to baseline at p <
0.001. Although the results from this study are promising, it is lim
ited due to the fact that the preparation studied was a combination
product and the contribution of the lemon balm component to the
effects is not discernable without direct comparisons of each indi
vidual component.
Madisch et al. conducted a multicenter, randomized, placebo con
trolled, double-blind trial to assess the efficacy and safety of an
herbal combination product STW 5-II, which contains extracts
from bitter candy tuft, matricaria flower, peppermint leaves, cara
way, licorice root, and lemon balm, for the treatment of patients
with functional dyspepsia.
One hundred twenty patients with
functional dyspepsia were randomly assigned to one of four treat
ment groups. The primary outcome measure was the improvement
of a standardized gastrointestinal symptom (GIS) score. During
the first four weeks, the GIS score was reported to significantly de
crease in subjects on active treatment compared to those on pla
cebo. After eight weeks 43.3% on active treatment and 3.3% on
placebo reported complete relief of symptoms. Although the re
sults from this study are promising, it is limited due to the fact that
the preparation studied was a combination product, and the contri
bution of the lemon balm component to the effects is not discern-
able without direct comparisons of each individual component.
In a multicenter, open case series, the efficacy of Gastrol S (a com
bination product containing lemon balm) in the treatment of ner-
vous irritable stomach and dyspepsia was tested in 152 patients.
A majority (58.5%) of the patients participated in the study for
more than eight weeks. In 65.5% a dosage of 20-25 drops three
times per day was recommended. Tolerance was reported as “good”
by 93.4% of the patients, and the therapy was assessed as “very
good” by 75.5%. In 82.2% of all documented cases, a distinct im-
provement of symptoms was reported. This study is limited due to
the fact that the preparation studied was a combination product and
the contribution of the lemon balm component to the effects is not
discernable without direct comparisons of each individual compo-
Sleep Quality
Summary: High-quality clinical evidence supporting the use of
lemon balm as a sedative/hypnotic is lacking.
The available evi
dence is conflicting, of low quality, or derived from early-phase
trials in humans. A systematic review published in 1998 concluded
that the paucity of evidence made the sedative effect of lemon
balm difficult to assess given that studies usually employed com
bination products, most often with Valeriana officinalis, which it
self possesses sedative properties.
Rigorous clinical studies are
required to better support use of lemon balm as a sedative/hyp
notic. See Table 3.
Evidence: Cerny et al. conducted a multicenter, randomized, pla
cebo controlled, double-blind study to assess tolerance and effi
Natural Standard Review 101
cacy of a Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm combination product in
the treatment of minor sleep disorders in 98 healthy volunteers.
Subjects were randomly assigned to receive placebo or three tab
lets of a combination product (120 mg Valeriana officinalis, 80 mg
lemon balm) one half-hour before bedtime for 30 days. Outcome
measures included rating scales for tolerability, sleep quality, and
well-being, as well as laboratory and physical parameters. Results
reported a rating of good overall tolerability by 93% of subjects in
the Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm group vs. 91% of subjects in
the placebo group. Incidence of mild adverse effects reported was
28.8% in the Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm group vs. 28.1% in
the placebo group. Among those taking Valeriana officinalis/
lemon balm, 33.3% of patients reported an improvement in sleep
quality vs. 9.4% in the placebo group (p = 0.04). No significant
changes were reported in regard to laboratory tests, physical exam-
ination, or rating of well-being, even though the Valeriana officinalis/
lemon balm group reported a higher quality of sleep compared to
the placebo group. From these results, the authors reported safety
of the Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm combination product and
possible efficacy in improving sleep quality. Though results may
appear to be promising, it is important to note that results reflect
efficacy and safety of a combination product. Further randomized,
controlled trials assessing monotherapy of lemon balm in improv-
ing sleep quality are warranted.
A multi-center, placebo controlled, double-blind trial studied the
therapeutic effect of a high dose standardized Valeriana officinalis-
lemon balm combination (Euvegal forte) on mild insomnia in 68
Patients with mild insomnia as defined by the DSM-
3-R and the ICD10 were included in the study. Outcome measures
included quality of sleep, general health, and overall clinical im
pression. Patients received two tablets twice per day of Euvegal
and were examined after two weeks of treatment. All criteria were
reported as significantly improved vs. placebo. No hangover or re
bound phenomena were reported.
Lindahl et al. conducted a randomized, double-blind, crossover
trial with 27 subjects with sleep difficulties to assess the effects of
a combination product containing Valeriana officinalis, Flores
humuli, and lemon balm on sleep quality.
Subjects received the
combination product (400 mg of Valeriana officinalis, 375 mg of
Flores humuli, and 160 mg of lemon balm) or placebo for the first
night and then received the opposite treatment the following night.
Outcome measures including sleep quality were recorded on a pa
tient questionnaire that was completed on the second morning.
From the results, the authors reported that 21 out of 27 patients
rated the combination product better than placebo. The difference
between ratings of the two preparations was reported as statisti
cally significant (p < 0.001). In terms of sleep quality, 24 out of 27
subjects reported an improvement, and 12 reported “perfect” sleep.
No side effects were noted. Short study duration limits the clinical
utility of these results. Long-term trials may be more helpful in
evaluating efficacy of a product in sleep disturbances. Longer,
well-designed, randomized, controlled trials assessing the mono
therapy of lemon balm are warranted.
In a randomized, placebo controlled trial, the sedative effects of
a Valeriana officinalis-Humulus lupulus-lemon balm-Leonurus
cardiaca combination product were examined in 50 male alcohol
abusers with sleep disturbances and other withdrawal symptoms.
From their evaluation of the results, the authors reported signifi-
cant improvement in sleep quality and significant decrease in sleep
interruption and bad dreams. Morning sleepiness was observed as
a side effect.
Dressing et al. conducted a controlled, double-blind study to as-
sess effects of a Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm preparation on
sleep in 20 healthy volunteers.
Subjects were divided into
good and poor sleepers. Subjects received either a Valeriana
officinalis/lemon balm preparation (Euvegal Forte
: 160 mg Valeriana
officinalis, 80 mg lemon balm), triazolam (125 mg), or placebo at
bedtime. Outcome measures included sleep efficiency, length,
time in sleep stages, and delta sleep. From the results, the authors
suggested that the use of the Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm
combination product on the poor sleepers induced a significant in
crease in sleep efficiency and in sleep stages three and four. A sig
nificant increase in delta sleep in the group of poor sleepers was
also reported. Rebound effects were not reported for groups taking
the Valeriana officinalis/lemon balm preparation or the triazolam.
Limitations to this study include lack of randomization and the use
of a combination product.
In an open, multicenter study of sleep quality, the efficacy and toler
ance of Novo-Baldriparan, containing Valeriana officinalis, Humulus
lupulus, and lemon balm, was investigated in 225 patients.
study included patients that reported difficulties falling asleep and
Natural Standard Review 103
sleeping through the night and/or states of nervous agitation. The
two-week therapy with this product was reported to yield a signifi
cant improvement in the severity and frequency of the principal
symptoms. According to the reported results, both the nervous agi
tation, which was identified as the underlying cause of the sleep
disorders, as well as the sleep disorders themselves were signifi
cantly reduced. Specifically, the authors reported that the difficul
ties falling asleep improved in 89% of the patients, the difficulties
sleeping through the night improved in 80%, and the states of ner
vous agitation improved in 82% of the patients. The quantity of
sleep was reported to increase markedly, while external stressors
were reported as being less distressing. A similar improvement in
the somatic symptoms, like headache, dizziness, cardiovascular,
or gastrointestinal discomfort, was reported. The reduction in
heart rate and blood pressure under therapy was reported to be ac-
companied as a whole by a noticeable improvement in the pa-
tients’ well being. The tolerability of Novo-Baldriparan was rated
positively by both physicians and patients: 96.9% of the physi-
cians and 96.4% of the patients gave the rating “very good” or
“good.” The primary limitation of this study includes the use of a
combination product.
Brands Used in Clinical Trials
Euvegal Forte
(Spitzner, Germany)
(Phyto Pharmica, Germany)
Klosterfrau Melissengeist
(Klosterfrau, Germany)
Songha Night
(Pharmaton Natural Health Products, Bioggio/
Lugano, Switzerland)
Baldriparan Stark N Beruhigungs-Dragees
Gastrol S
United States Patents
6,881,776 Gel compositions
6,831,103 Composition comprising theanine
6,827,944 Percutaneous administration preparations
6,797,284 Phytopharmaceutical food products or integrators
6,780,825 Cleansing compositions with milk protein and aroma
6,703,022 Composition and method useful for treating colic
6,664,225 Single-dose quick-dissolving cleansing agent with me
dicinal properties
6,641,801 Gargle method to reduce the duration of common cold
6,629,835 Combinations of diterpene triepoxide lactones and ditepene
lactones or triterpenes for synergistic inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2
6,589,566 Composition comprising theanine
6,509,042 Antiviral composition
6,444,253 Flavor delivery system
6,423,336 Chewing gums and method of manufacturing the same
6,416,769 Cosmetic compositions comprising exfoliating enzymes
and uses thereof
6,405,948 Liberating intracellular matter from biological material
6,346,250 Composition and method useful for treating colic
6,342,208 Oil-in-water emulsion containing C10-C24 fatty acid
derivatives for treating skin of mammals
6,210,738 Freeze-dried ginseng berry tea
6,165,964 Aqueous solution of essential oil, and antimicrobial
agents, microbicides and antimicrobial finishes for washing
6,060,061 Method for preventing or treating disorders involving
an inflammatory process
6,024,998 Process for the removal of undesired lipophilic contam
inations and/or residues, which are contained in beverages or in
vegetable preparations
5,958,499 Fluidized fat
5,906,848 Process for the removal of undesired contaminations
and/or residues contained in beverages or in vegetable preparation
5,869,340 Plant clones containing elevated secondary metabolite
5,720,962 Analgesic lotion for hemorrhoids and method of mak
ing such lotion
Natural Standard Review 105
5,472,699 Composition and method for visibly reducing the size
of skin pores
5,415,861 Composition and method for visibly reducing the size
of skin pores
5,399,353 Preparations for covering undamaged and/or damaged
areas of human or animal skin
5,318,503 Method and apparatus for auditory and olfactory relax
5,176,913 Process for preparing a partial extract containing the
volatile in steam components and further lipophilic components of
medical plants and/or spice plants
5,064,675 Herbal extract composition
4,933,177 Cosmetic compositions for the treatment of the hair
and skin contain in the form of powder particles resulting from
the pulverization of at least one plant substance and a cohesion
4,767,618 Cosmetic compositions for the treatment of the hair and
skin in the form of powder particles resulting from the pulveriza-
tion of at least one plant substance and a cohesion agent
4,569,839 Cosmetic compositions for the treatment of the hair and
skin in the form of powder particles resulting from the pulveriza-
tion of at least one plant substance and a cohesion agent
4,358,442 Rosmarinic acid-phospholipide-complex
4,354,035 Process for isolating rosmarinic acid from plants
4,329,361 Use of rosmarinic acid in the treatment of inflamma-
tions and pharmaceutical products used therein
Last Updated: August 2005.
Authors/Editors: Thomas Brendler, BA (PlantaPhile, Berlin);
Joerg Gruenwald, PhD (Phytopharm Consulting); Benjamin
Kligler, MD, MPH (Continuum Center for Health and Heal
ing); David Keifer, MD (University of Arizona); Tracee Rae
Abrams, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Jen Woods,
BS (Northeastern University); Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD
(University of Toronto); Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood, MPH,
CCCJS-MAC (MD Anderson Cancer Center); Ethan Basch,
MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center); Hope J. Lafferty,
AM (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center); Catherine
Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital), Dana A.
Hackman, BS (c) (Northeastern University).
Blinded Peer-Review: Natural Standard Editorial Board.
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... Melissa officinalis L. is a plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family and a cultivated perennial lemon-scented herb known as the common lemon balm. Lemon balm is one of the most popular and widely used medicinal plants in central and southern Europe, the Mediterranean region, and west Asia (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Lemon balm has been widely used in Asian traditional medicine to treat many psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, anxiety-induced palpitation, and stress (Shakeri et al., 2016). ...
... Lemon balm has been widely used in Asian traditional medicine to treat many psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, anxiety-induced palpitation, and stress (Shakeri et al., 2016). In clinical studies on the CNS system, lemon balm has shown anxiolytic, anti-depressant, anti-insomnia, and neuroprotective effects (Lopez et al., 2009), and its effects on improving mood, cognitive performance, and memory function have been investigated (Shakeri et al., 2016;Ulbricht et al., 2005). ...
... In contrast, a single dose of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis showed an increase in anxiety symptoms in stress-induced volunteers (David O. Kennedy et al., 2006). The FDA has reported lemon balm to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) (Ulbricht et al., 2005); nevertheless, headache, reduced alertness, and sleep disturbances are some of the neuropsychiatric side effects of lemon balm that have been reported (Buechner et al., 1974;Cerny & Schmid, 1999;D. O. Kennedy et al., 2002). ...
A systematic review and a meta-analytic approach were considered to investigate the effects of lemon balm as a medicinal herb on anxiety and depression in clinical trials and its side effects. All randomized clinical trials published up to October 30, 2020 that examined lemon balm in patients with symptoms of depression or anxiety , with acute or chronic manifestations, were searched in 12 online databases. Statistical analysis was performed using RevMan software. Continuous data were analyzed using standardized mean differences. Statistical heterogeneity was assessed using Chi 2 , I 2 , and p value tests. Based on meta-analysis results, lemon balm significantly improved mean anxiety and depression scores compared with the placebo (SMD:-0.98; 95% CI: À1.63 to À0.33; p = 0.003), (SMD:-0.47; 95% CI: À0.73 to À0.21; p = 0.0005) respectively, without serious side effects. Current evidence suggests that lemon balm may be effective in improving anxiety and depressive symptoms , particularly in the acute setting. Due to the high level of heterogeneity between studies, results should be interpreted with caution. The small number of clinical trials and differences between their methods were the limitations of the present study. Further high-quality studies are needed to firmly establish the clinical efficacy of the lemon balm. K E Y W O R D S anxiety, depression, lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, systematic review
... Also, it is found that MOE can reduce agitation, as well as muscle tone in patients with Alzheimer disease (Soulimani et al., 1991). Traditionally, use of lemon balm in mentally ill patients results in significant improvement in irritability, insomnia, headaches, and heart disease (Ulbricht et al., 2005). All of these beneficial effects can be attributed to the presence of significant amounts of rosmarinic, oleanolic, ursolic acid, and triterpenoids in the herb, assuming that all of these active principles can inhibit γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transport activity and increase the level of this neurotransmitter in the brain (Awad et al., 2007;Ibarra et al., 2010). ...
... Per os usage of MO has been reported to be well tolerated, with no adverse events when taken at less than 8 weeks. To date, sporadic minor side effects have been reported such as electroencephalographic changes in doses of 1,200 mg, reduced alertness with caution to driving in dose of 900 mg, possible increase of intraocular pressure, thyroid hormone inhibition, palpitations, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Increased appetite was also reported as a side effect in a clinical trial investigating MO effects on heart palpitations (Alijaniha et al., 2015). ...
... This is because there is a possibility that MO potentiates the depressing effect on the central nervous system. Theoretically, MO may also interact with thyroid hormone therapy in the conditions of hypothyroidism, because of its ability to inhibit the thyroid hormone receptors (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Identification of MO interactions with cardiovascular drugs is of great significance as few years ago, a descriptive study employing cardiopathy patients on anticoagulation therapy, well known to be prone to dangerous drug and/or herb interactions, reported that high percentage of these patients selfused herbal medications, with MO being on the third place by frequency (Leite et al., 2016). ...
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This review aimed to provide a summary on the traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological activities in the cardiovascular system and cardiotoxicity of Melissa officinalis (MO), with the special emphasis on the protective mechanisms in different cardiovascular pathologies. MO is a perennial aromatic herb commonly known as lemon balm, honey balm, or bee balm, which belongs to Lamiaceae family. Active components are mainly located in the leaves or essential oil and include volatile compounds, terpenoid (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, triterpenes), and polyphenolic compounds [rosmarinic acid (RA), caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, quercitrin, rhamnocitrin, luteolin]. For centuries, MO has been traditionally used as a remedy for memory, cognition, anxiety, depression, and heart palpitations. Up until now, several beneficial cardiovascular effects of MO, in the form of extracts (aqueous, alcoholic, and hydroalcoholic), essential oil, and isolated compounds, have been confirmed in preclinical animal studies, such as antiarrhythmogenic, negative chronotropic and dromotropic, hypotensive, vasorelaxant, and infarct size–reducing effects. Nonetheless, MO effects on heart palpitations are the only ones confirmed in human subjects. The main mechanisms proposed for the cardiovascular effects of this plant are antioxidant free radical–scavenging properties of MO polyphenols, amelioration of oxidative stress, anti-inflammatory effects, activation of M2 and antagonism of β1 receptors in the heart, blockage of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels, stimulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthesis, prevention of fibrotic changes, etc. Additionally, the main active ingredient of MO-RA, per se, has shown substantial cardiovascular effects. Because of the vastness of encouraging data from animal studies, this plant, as well as the main ingredient RA, should be considered and investigated further as a tool for cardioprotection and adjuvant therapy in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
... The most frequently applied form of plant preparations, i.e. extracts, are obtained through specific physicochemical processes (solvent extraction, (hydro)distillation, pressing, etc.). Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., Lamiaceae) is a widely distributed plant species throughout Europe and is valued in the traditional medicines of Balkan peoples due to its sedative, antispasmodic, digestive, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Besides the mentioned activities, M. officinalis is claimed to possess numerous other beneficial properties, but that lack sufficient scientific evidence, which include the treatment of serious gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) disorders, as well as malignancies (Ulbricht et al., 2005). ...
... Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., Lamiaceae) is a widely distributed plant species throughout Europe and is valued in the traditional medicines of Balkan peoples due to its sedative, antispasmodic, digestive, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Besides the mentioned activities, M. officinalis is claimed to possess numerous other beneficial properties, but that lack sufficient scientific evidence, which include the treatment of serious gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) disorders, as well as malignancies (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Sometimes, it is even proposed to be an herbal cure-all (Ulbricht et al., 2005). ...
... Besides the mentioned activities, M. officinalis is claimed to possess numerous other beneficial properties, but that lack sufficient scientific evidence, which include the treatment of serious gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) disorders, as well as malignancies (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Sometimes, it is even proposed to be an herbal cure-all (Ulbricht et al., 2005). Commercially available dry extracts of M. officinalis or other herbal products containing this taxon together with other species are documented to be utilized by psychiatric patients suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders, as well as from insomnia . ...
Despite being renowned for its volatiles, the data on the toxicity of the essential oil of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., Lamiaceae) is rather limited compared to its solvent/water-soluble extractibles. In this study, the aerial parts essential oil of M. officinalis, with over 130 constituents identified herein, 26 of which detected for the first time, was investigated for acute oral toxicity in BALB/c mice. The oil, composed of predominantly monoterpene aldehydes, citronellal (21.2-21.8%), neral (17.8-18.4%), and geranial (22.9-23.5%), which were assayed in parallel with the oil in some tests, induced significant changes in animal behavior, as well as altered biochemical parameters reflecting liver and kidney functions. Different pathological changes in the stomach, duodenum, liver, and kidneys were detected when the oil was administered in doses higher than 1 g kg-1. A depletion in the liver/kidney antioxidant capacities and an increased rate of lipid peroxidation was noted for animals treated with lemon balm oil. The calculated value of the oral LD50 in BALB/c mice (2.57 g kg-1) infers that the essential oil is only moderately toxic.
... Lemon balm is a well-known and highly consumed medicinal herb in central and southern Europe, the Mediterranean region, and west Asia. 9 According to manuscripts originating from Greece that were conceptualized 2000 years ago, lemon balm was utilized as a medicinal plant and used as an exhilarator, anti-depressant, anxiolytic, hypnotic, and sedative. 10,11 In the last two decades, clinical trials have evaluated the effects of lemon balm on various central nervous system functions, continuing to demonstrate anxiolytic and anti-depressive properties, in addition to reducing insomnia, elevating neuroprotection, and enhancing cognitive and memory function. ...
... 10,11 In the last two decades, clinical trials have evaluated the effects of lemon balm on various central nervous system functions, continuing to demonstrate anxiolytic and anti-depressive properties, in addition to reducing insomnia, elevating neuroprotection, and enhancing cognitive and memory function. 9,11,12 With medieval translation movements beginning in the 7 th and 8 th centuries, the scientific literature relating to the lemon balm that followed these centuries was translated into Arabic, 13, 14 the common language of the scientific literature in vast areas of Asia, Africa, and certain parts of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Indexed in ISI and Scopus) Europe during this time. ...
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Affective disorders have become prevalent and costly worldwide chronic conditions. Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis L.) is a medicinal plant with beneficial effects on neuropsychiatric disorders. Its potential to specifically treat conditions such as depression and anxiety has been investigated for over 20 centuries. Given the lack of a historical overview of lemon balm in mood disorders, the present review aimed to introduce the historical course of the neuro-psychiatric applications of lemon balm across the centuries. We investigated several viable medieval Arabic sources up to the 15th century, to distinguish the neuropsychiatric applications, especially anxiolytic and anti-depressive effects of lemon balm. In the early centuries, lemon balm was mainly prescribed to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Over time, physicians identified the efficient use of lemon balm in sadness, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, ischemic stroke, amnesia, sciatalgia, and radicular neuropathy. Importantly, it was established that the therapeutic effects of lemon balm in the field of neuro-psychiatric diseases were emphasized by physicians during the Middle Ages. These findings have since been validated in human clinical trials. Lemon balm has also demonstrated the ability to be utilized in epilepsy, amnesia and ischemic stroke. Based on the extensive history of lemon balm in neuropsychiatry, future investigations could use this knowledge to extensively investigate the potential of lemon balm in neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, and possibly develop an efficient neuropsychiatric remedy.
... In addition to having soothing and carminative effects, MO acts as an anxiolytic and hypnotic (16). Immunostimulating effects of MO extract have also been demonstrated (17,18). The aqueous extract of MO is enriched in phenolic compounds: rosmarinic, protocatechuic, caftaric, caffeic, ferulic, cichoric acids and flavonoid luteolin (19). ...
... Moreover, MO demonstrated antioxidant activity via prevention of linoleic acid autoxidation (54). Finally, others have demonstrated that the cytoprotective effect of MO extracts in rats was, in particular, due to its freeradical scavenging properties (18,44). Furthermore, it has been shown that MO is active at the acetylcholine receptors in the central nervous system, modulating both ionotropic and metabotropic receptors, and following acute administration modulates mood and cognitive performance (3,55). ...
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Introduction: Melissa officinalis (MO) or lemon balm is traditionally used as a sedative and anti-spasm herbal medicine. There is also evidence that this plant has effects on learning and memory. This study examined the effect of a hydro-alcoholic extract of MO on passive avoidance learning (PAL) and memory in male rats. Methods: A total of 40 adult male Wistar rats were randomly distributed into four groups (200 to 220 g; n = 10 per group); three dose groups (50, 100, and 200 mg/kg of the hydro-alcoholic extract of MO) and vehicle control (saline) group. Saline or doses of extract were administered daily for 14 days by oral gavage. The rats were trained to enter the shuttle box to record their behavior in the PAL task. A retrieval test was performed 24 hours following training. Results: A significant difference was seen in performance among MO groups and the control. MO administered animals had a decreased number of acquisition trials (P< 0.05). In the retention task, MO administered animals had an increased step-through latency (SLT) (P< 0.01), and a decreased latency in the dark compartment (P< 0.001) compared to the control group. Conclusion: The results of the study show that MO can improve learning and memory in the PAL task. Further investigation is needed to enhance our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms of the MO extract and its effects on learning and memory.
... On the other hand, a randomized controlled trial using a single dose of M. officinalis extract comprising 500 mg rosmarinic acid, showed to be harmless and well tolerable in healthy humans [111]. This is confirmed by randomized clinical trials where different treatment regimens of M. officinalis extracts also showed no adverse effects in humans [83,93,94,112]. Overall, though M. officinalis toxicity data are scarce and have been poorly investigated despite the variety of practical applications in medical science, available data point out its putative safety in human beings. ...
Full-text available
Melissa officinalis L. is a plant of the Lamiaceae family known in numerous countries for its medicinal activities. This plant has been used since ancient times to treat different disorders, including gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, psychological conditions. M. offic-inalis contains several phytochemicals such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, terpenoids, and many others at the basis of its pharmacological activities. Indeed, the plant can have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, nephroprotective, antinociceptive effects. Given its consolidated use, M. officinalis has also been experimented with clinical settings, demonstrating interesting properties against different human diseases, such as anxiety, sleeping difficulties, palpitation, hypertension, depression, dementia, infantile colic, bruxism, metabolic problems, Alzheimer's disease, and sexual disorders. As for any natural compound, drug, or plant extract, also M. officinalis can have adverse effects, even though the reported events are very rare and the plant can be considered substantially safe. This review has been prepared with a specific research strategy, interrogating different databases with the keyword M. officinalis. Moreover, this work analyzes the properties of this plant updating currently available literature, with a special emphasis on human studies.
... Some plant essential oils, including Melissa officinalis, were classified as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA being included in its food additive list (Food and Drug Administration, 2019). Nonetheless, the long-term effects on human health are not yet clear, but no serious side effects have been reported (Brendler et al., 2006), which makes them a valuable option to be added to food for preservation purposes. ...
Melissa officinalis, a Lamiaceae plant, is a source of biologically active compounds and it is widely used in traditional medicine, cosmetic and culinary. Due to consumers demand for more natural and safer alternatives for food preservation, as well as considering Melissa officinalis antimicrobial effects, it could be seen as a potential natural food preservative. This work reviews Melissa officinalis' antimicrobial activity, focusing on its potential application as a food preservative. The studies on the plant showed antimicrobial effects on a wide range of microorganisms, including important foodborne pathogens. The antimicrobial effect has also been demonstrated in different food matrices, showing the plant's potential to be used as a food preservative in the future.
... The positive effect of fennel on the sexual satisfaction of postmenopausal women has been reported previously (12). of metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia, and depression in postmenopausal women (14,15). There are many studies on Melissa officinalis, which have shown its antimicrobial, antioxidant (16), anti-anxiety (17), and anti-depression (18,19) properties, besides its effects on improving cognitive function and mood (20). ...
Background: Menopause is a critical period with frequent sexual disorders. Objectives: The current study assessed the therapeutic effect of a combination of the aerial part of Melissa officinalis, fennel fruit extract, and Nigella sativa seed powder on the sexual dysfunction of postmenopausal women. Methods: This randomized clinical trial was performed on 48 menopausal women from April 2015 to October 2017. The participants included the menopausal women referring to the clinic of Gorgan health centers aged between 41 and 54 years with natural menopause (amenorrhea for at least 12 months) and discomfort in sexual activity. They were randomized into two treatment groups. Group 1 (n = 27) received 1000 mg capsules (Melissa officinalis, fennel extract, and Nigella sativa powder), and group 2 (n = 21) received a placebo (1000 mg starch capsules (in an eight-week course of treatment (one capsule per day for each group). The variables in the female sexual function index (FSFI) questionnaire were compared in the two groups before and after the intervention. Results: The results showed that the mean scores of sexual dysfunction in the domains of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain were not significantly different between the two groups (P > 0.05). Conclusions: Despite many studies on the effectiveness of Melissa, Foenculum, and Nigella, this study showed that a combination of Foeniculum vulgare, Melissa officinalis extract, and Nigella sativa seed powder does not improve the sexual function of postmenopausal women with sexual dysfunction, and it might be the synergism effect of this combination.
... MO has been assigned to the FDA 'Generally Recognized as Safe' (GRAS) list in the USA. No serious side effects have been reported (Ulbricht et al., 2005). According to the literature, MO contains different classes of phytochemicals such as essential oils, terpenoids and polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids, rosmarinic acid (RA) and tannins (Dastmalchi et al., 2008;De Sousa et al., 2004). ...
New findings: What is the central question of this study? Prolonged stress exposure induces detrimental changes in the brain structure, and increases the vulnerability to develop psychiatric disorders. The central question of this study is how Melissa officinalis L. ameliorates anxiety- and depressive-like behavior of mice. What is the main finding and its importance? Melissa officinalis L. possessed anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects, which could mainly mediate through its antioxidant and anti-apoptotic properties. Abstract: Objective This study evaluated the effects of hydro-alcoholic extract of Melissa officinalis (HAEMO) on anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors, oxidative stress, and apoptosis markers in the restraint-stress exposed mice. Methods In order to induce depression-like model, mice were subjected to restraint-stress (3 h day-1 for 14 days) and received normal saline or HAEMO (50, 75, and 150 mg kg-1 day-1 ) for 14 days. The administered doses of HAEMO were designated based on one the main phenolic compounds present in the extract, rosmarinic acid (RA), concentration (2.55 mg kg-1 at lowest dose), other phytochemical analysis including assays for antioxidant activity, total phenols, and flavonoids contents were also carried out. The behavioral changes in the open field task, elevated plus maze, tail suspension, and forced swimming tests were evaluated. Also, malondialdehyde (MDA) levels and enzyme activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and total antioxidant capacity were assessed in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus (HIP). Moreover, levels of Bcl-2, Bax, and caspase 3, in the brain as well as serum concentration of corticosterone (CORT), were evaluated. Results HAEMO (75 and 150 mg kg-1 ) significantly reversed anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. Also, the HAEMO reduced MDA levels, enhanced enzymatic antioxidant activities, and restored serum levels of CORT. The immunoblotting analysis also demonstrated that HAEMO decreased levels of pro-apoptotic markers and increased anti-apoptotic protein levels in the PFC and HIP of restraint-stress exposed mice. Conclusion Our findings suggested that HAEMO reduced inflammation and had anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in mice. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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The musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, muscles, joints, cartilage and connective tissues. These areas can cause pain and stiffness due to stress and overuse through strenuous physical activity or injuries. More serious and potentially immobilizing, chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, and tendinitis can cause severe musculoskeletal pain. Research suggests that many species of the Lamiaceae (mint) family have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, nervine, antispasmodic, rubefacient, and circulatory benefits; particularly useful for musculoskeletal pain. The Lamiaceae family is one of the largest and most distinguished families of flowering plants with over 3,500 species, this study only investigates 10 of those species most suitable for relief of musculoskeletal dysfunction; catnip (Nepeta cataria), horehound (Marrubium vulgare), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), peppermint (Mentha piperita), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are investigated. These species of the Lamiaceae family offer symptomatic relief from temporary and chronic musculoskeletal pain. While these herbs have been listed as safe for consumption, using members of this family should be avoided during pregnancy. Essential oils of these herbs should be used topically, while herbal forms such as infusions, capsules, and teas should be used internally. These species should be avoided during pregnancy.
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Studies were carried out on the virucidal and antiviral effects of Melissa officinalis L. extracts (M1, M2, M3 and M4) with respect to herpes simplex virus type-1(HSV-1). Virucidal effect was registered within 3 and 6 hours of treatment using M4 administered in maximum tolerable concentrations (MTC). The remaining extracts inactivate the virus at the 12th and 24th hour. No significant values of inhibiting activity of M1, M2 and M3 on the same virus in vitro or in vivo were demonstrated. The presence of caffeic, rosmarinic and ferulic acids was demonstrated by thin-layer chromatography (TLC). Their role in the antiviral activity of Melissa officinalis L. is discussed.
The anti-HIV-1 activity of aromatic herbs in Labiatae was evaluated in vitro. Forty five extract from among 51 samples obtained from 46 herb species showed significant inhibitory effects against HIV-1 induced cytopathogenicity in MT-4 cells. In particular, the aqueous extracts of Melissa officinalis, a family of Mentha x piperita "grapefruit mint," Mentha x piperita var. crispa, Ocinum basilicum cv "cinnamon," Perilla frutescens var. crispa. f. viridis, Prunella vulgaris subsp. asiatica and Satureja montana showed potent anti-HIV-1 activity (with an ED of 16 mu g/ml). The active components in the extract samples were found to be water-soluble polar substances, not nonpolar compounds such as essential oils. In addition, these aqueous extracts inhibited giant cell formation in co-culture of Molt-4 cells with and without HIV-1 infection and showed inhibitory activity against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase.
Enantioselective capillary gas chromatography, as well as isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), online coupled with capillary gas chromatography are used in the origin specific analysis and authenticity control of balm oil compounds. Scope and limitations of the methods are discussed.