Melissa officinalis

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), not to be confused with bee balmMonarda species, is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southernEurope and the Mediterranean region. In England it may be known simply as “balm”.[2]

It grows to 70–150 cm tall. The leaves have a gentle lemon scent, related to mint. During summer, small white flowers full of nectar appear. These attractbees, hence the genus name Melissa (Greek for ‘honey bee’). Its flavour comes from citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%) and caryophyllene(12%).

Medicinal uses

The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a repellant for mosquitos.[6]

Lemon balm is also used medicinally as a herbal tea, or in extract form. It is claimed to have antibacterial and antiviral properties (it is effective against herpes simplex).[7][8][9]

It is also used as an anxiolytic, mild sedative or calming agent. At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress, although the study’s authors call for further research.[10] Lemon balm extract was identified as a potent inhibitor of GABA transaminase, which explains anxiolytic effects. The major compound responsible for GABA transaminase inhibition activity in lemon balm isrosmarinic acid.[11]

Lemon balm and preparations thereof also have shown to improve mood and mental performance. These effects are believed to involve muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.[12] Positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms.[13]

Its antibacterial properties have also been demonstrated scientifically, although they are markedly weaker than those from a number of other plants studied.[14] The extract of lemon balm was also found to have exceptionally high antioxidant activity.[15]

Lemon balm is mentioned in the scientific journal Endocrinology, where it is explained that Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism.[16]

Lemon balm essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy. The essential oil is commonly co-distilled with lemon oil, citronella oil, or other oils.

Lemon balm is used in some variations of the Colgate Herbal toothpaste for its soothing and aromatic properties.[17]

Lemon balm should be avoided by those on thyroid medication (such as thyroxine), as it is believed the herb inhibits the absorption of this medicine.[18]

Despite extensive traditional medicinal use, melissa oil was initially prohibited by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)’s 43rd amendment,[19] but this restriction appears to have been revisited and relaxed in the 44th amendment.[20]

One traditional use of lemon balm tea was in extending age, although this effect has not been proven.[citation needed] Ob-X, a mixture of three herbs, Morus alba, M. officinalis, and Artemisia capillaris, may help regulate obesity.Ob-X, which has an anti-angiogenic activity, reduces body weight gain and visceral adipose tissue mass in genetically obese mice.[21]


{Information courtesy Wikipedia}