Lemon balm is also known as Balm Mint, Bee Balm, Blue balm, Cure-all, Garden Balm, Honey plant, Sweet Balm, and Sweet Mary. It is a perennial bush that can grow to heights of 3 - 5 feet. It has tiny white flowers and many bright green leaves with serrated edges. Lemon Balm resembles mint, as it is within the same botanical family. Lemon balm is native to the East Mediterranean, southern Europe, and Western Asia. Today, it is cultivated all over the world; typically being grown from seed or cut parts. 
Lemon Balm has a long history, with its use as a medicinal tonic dating back to the 16th century. It commonly used during this time period to raise the spirits (enhance sense of well-being), promote longevity, assist in wound healing, relax the heart, and treat pains associate with toothache. Today, Lemon Balm is primarily used for its sedative action, and as an antiviral agent against Herpes Simplex Virus. Lemon Balm is also purported to possess anti-thyroid actions.
The main constituents of Lemon Balm are; volatile oils (citral, citronellal, and linalool), flavonoids, triterpenes, polyphenols, and tannins. The volatile oils give Lemon Balm its calming action and are also credited for Lemon Balm’s antispasmodic properties. The polyphenols are thought to be the main constituent responsible for the antiviral activity against HSV. 
Uses ascribed to Lemon Balm include:
- diaphoretic (causes sweating)
- nervous system tonic
The aerial parts, or those located above ground, are harvested for their medicinal actions. This includes the stem, leaves, and flowers of the plant. The majority of Lemon Balm used in nutritional supplements is harvested just before the flowers bloom, when the volatile oil content is the greatest. The herb can be used in its dry or fresh form. The essential oil may also be extracted from the leaves and/or flowering buds.
Lemon Balm Uses
Lemon Balm is a well-known sedative herb. It causes relaxation and calming of the central nervous system (CNS). It can be used for individuals suffering from mild anxiety and depression; as well as in persons suffering from stress.
- Lemon Balm has been proven to ameliorate negative mood associated with increased stress. It can cause an overall increase in calm feelings in response to stress, as well as positively effecting performance during stressful activities. 
- Lemon Balm can improve cognitive performance and enhance learning.  Lemon Balm may be an effective treatment for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease because it binds to the cholinergic receptors. Cholinergic receptors have decreased activity in certain parts of the brain in Alzheimer’s patients.
- In one particular study, Lemon Balm increased cognitive function and decreased agitation in individuals suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.  It is also considered an effective treatment for those who suffer from severe dementia. The essential oils found in Lemon Balm have proven to calm agitation associated with dementia. 
- Lemon Balm has also been shown to be an effective treatment for upset stomach or dyspepsia.  It also may be equally effective for diarrhea. The main mechanism of action may be Lemon Balm’s anti-spasmodic property, as it affects cholinoreceptors.
- Lemon Balm possesses antiviral activity, particularly useful against Herpes Simplex Virus. It has proven effective against both HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 causes cold sores. Lemon Balm can decrease the time to healing, decrease adverse symptoms, and prevent the spread of HSV-1.  The volatile oil has shown some activity against HSV-2, the virus responsible for genital herpes; but clinical trials have not yet been concluded. 
- Lemon Balm is anti-thyroid. It may be an effective adjunctive treatment for Grave’s disease sufferers.  Graves disease is an autoimmune condition characterized by excess thyroid hormone release. Lemon Balm decreases the production of thyroid hormone, thyroxine.
- Lemon Balm may also be an effective adjunctive treatment for some types of cancer. It has shown anti-cancer action against several types of human cancer cell lines in vitro.  However, further clinical studies on human subjects are needed to fully understand the action that Lemon Balm may possess against specific cancers common to human physiology.
Lemon Balm can be taken internally in several forms; as a tea, tincture, capsule, or as an essential oil. It can also be applied topically in the form of a salve, cream, or as an essential oil. The following are dosage guidelines for each form of administration:
- Tea - 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb, steep in boiled water for 10 minutes. Drink 2 - 4 times daily, or as needed.
- Tincture - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon four times daily of a 1:4 or 1:5 tincture.
- Capsule - 300 - 600 milligrams, twice a day
- Salve - apply to area as needed for symptomatic relief until lesion (cold sore) disappears.
- Essential Oil - add 5 - 10 drops to 1 teaspoon of olive oil, rub into painful area (e.g. shingles). Do not ingest essential oil alone, as it can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and possible central nervous system depression.
There are no known side effects or toxicity associated with the proper use of Lemon Balm. However, it remains contraindicated in individuals with hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormone, due to Lemon Balm’s ability to suppress the production of thyroid hormone.
1. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 2nd Ed., 2000. Dorling Kindersley, New York: 115.
2. Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB. Attenuation of laboratory induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug; 66(4): 607-613.
3. Kennedy DO et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single dose of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) with human central nervous system nicotinic and muscarinic receptor binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct; 28(10): 1871-1881.
4. Akhondzadeh S et al. Melissa officinalis in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003 Jul; 74(7): 863-868.
5. Ballard CG, O’Brian JT, Reichect K, Perry EK. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double blind placebo controlled trial with Melissa. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002 Jul; 63(7): 553-558.
6. Madison A, Holtmann G, Mayr G, Vinson B, Hotz J. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with an herbal preparation. A double blind randomized placebo controlled multicenter trial. Digestion. 2004; 69(1): 45-52.
7. Koytchev R, Alken RG, Dundarov S. Balm mint extract (LO-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labials. Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct; 6(4): 225-230.
8. Allahrerdiyer A, Duran N, Ozguven M, Koltas S. Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against herpes simplex virus type 2. Phytomedicine. 2004 Nov; 11(7-8): 657-661.
9. Auf’mkolk M et al. Extract and auto oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor binding and the biological activity of Grave’s immunoglobulin. Endocrinology. 1985 May; 116(5): 1687-1693.
10. Melissa officinalis L. essential oil: anti-tumoral and antioxidant activities. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004 May; 56(5): 677-681.