With the words “The lemon balm is warm. The person who eats them likes to laugh, because their warmth touches the spleen and therefore the heart is happy.” The polymath Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179) is said to have described the value of lemon balm.
In this article, we look into the origins of lemon balm, deal with its healing effects, possible side effects and their limits.
the essentials in brief
- Lemon balm is a medicinal plant with a long tradition. Their valuable essential oils have a sleep-promoting and calming effect.
- Due to its lemony scent and taste, lemon balm is also very popular in the kitchen.
- Even phytomedicine has its limits! If symptoms persist, a doctor should always be consulted.
Lemon balm and its effects: What you should know
What is lemon balm?
Lemon balm is a herb with the botanical name Melissa officinalis L. It comes from the genus Melissa (Melissa) and belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae).
The name "melissa" is of Greek origin and means "honey bee". The name is very appropriate, because bees like to visit lemon balm. Lemon balm is also often called lemon balm, which is due to its characteristic citrus scent.
The plant has opposite leaves that are ovate and serrated at the edges. There are fine hairs on the leaves that exude a citrus scent. The square stem grows upright and can also have a hairy surface.
A vegetative feature of lemon balm is its persistence. As a herb, it can grow up to 30 years old and, depending on the culture, up to 80 to 120 cm high.
Lemon balm leaves are characterized by their fine hairs and their serrated leaf edge. (Image source: Philipp Larking / unsplash)
Where does lemon balm grow?
The original home of lemon balm is in former Asia Minor to southwest Siberia.
Today it is also cultivated in western, eastern and central Europe, where it also occasionally occurs in the wild. A warm and dry environment with fertile loamy or loamy sandy soil is ideal for natural occurrence.
Lemon balm is also suitable for the herb garden at home planted in a tub on the balcony or in the garden.
What are the ingredients of lemon balm?
The list of ingredients in Melissa officinalis is long, including bitter substances, tannins, resins, and rosemary and caffeic acid.
In addition, its leaves contain essential oils with the substances geranial, neral, citral and citronellal. The latter two are the main components of the oils, which are responsible for the citrus scent and also have medicinal properties (1).
What is the effect of lemon balm?
Lemon balm was used as a natural aid centuries ago. The areas of application used to be the nervous heart, the nervous stomach and problems falling asleep.
To date, the psychotropic phytopharmaceuticals have proven themselves and the medical indications have remained similar. The medicinal plant is considered to be sedative (calming), spasmolytic (antispasmodic) and bacteriostatic and virostatic (inhibiting the growth of bacteria and viruses).
- Anxiolytic : Lemon balm can have a calming and anxiolytic effect on nervous and anxious people (2,3,4)
- Sleep-promoting : Thanks to its calming and anxiolytic effect, Melissa can also help with problems falling asleep (2,3,4)
- antispasmodic : lemon balm can relax the muscles in the intestines, which counteracts flatulence and a feeling of fullness (5,6)
- antiviral : lemon balm can be used to treat herpes simplex viruses (7,8)
In addition, there are studies that have found the effectiveness of Melissa officinalis in areas beyond traditional uses.
On the one hand, lemon balm has a positive effect on depression and mood in general (2,3,9,10">. A temporary increase in cognitive performance was also observed (10).
In addition to psychological changes, there were also physical changes, such as the alleviation of acute menopause symptoms and menstrual cramps (11,12">. Furthermore, an improvement in the fat profile and relevant values in chronically stable angina could be determined (13).
In addition, there are research results according to which Melissa officinalis reduces thyroid function by reducing the release of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) (14.15">. This effect can be beneficial in the case of increased thyroid function, but medical support is required if hyperthyroidism is diagnosed essential.
Lemon balm can provide some well-deserved calm and relaxation. (Image Source: Ben White / unsplash)
How can lemon balm be taken?
Lemon balm can be taken in different forms that offer different benefits. The most common forms are melissa tea, melissa bath and melissa preparations.
The lemon balm tea
The lemon balm bath
Is lemon balm also available in combination with other medicinal plants?
Just like lemon balm, hops, valerian and lavender are among the most proven herbal remedies. They are often used in combination.
|Lemon balm and lavender, for example dragées||Vitamins B1, B2, B5, B12, pantothenic acid||Reduction of fatigue and tiredness|
|Lemon balm and lavender eg capsules||Vitamins B2, B6, B12||calming effect and support of the nervous system|
|Lemon balm, valerian and hops, for example, tablets||no other active ingredients||Anxiolytic, calming, sleep-inducing, relieving nervousness and states of tension|
Can lemon balm be taken during pregnancy?
Unless otherwise instructed by the doctor, natural lemon balm products such as lemon balm tea may be taken during pregnancy. This should have a calming and antispasmodic effect.
The same applies to a relaxing lemon balm bath. There are still a few points to consider here, although these relate more to bathing during pregnancy in general (e.g. water temperature not too high, do not have help and drinking water ready, etc.). However, not all essential oils are suitable for pregnant women.
If a bath additive is used, attention must therefore be paid to the composition. It is known that cloves, cinnamon, ginger and almonds in particular promote labour, which can be more or less beneficial depending on the week of pregnancy.
Melissa preparations are often mixed with other vitamins as well as nutrients and minerals. It is therefore not possible to make a general statement about suitability during pregnancy. Depending on the product, we recommend doing your own brief research.
In the case of common preparations, recommendations for taking them during pregnancy should be recorded, so that a quick look on the Internet is often enough.
The following applies to all variants: It is better to be safe than sorry. If you are unsure, you should go to your doctor's office or pharmacy.
Can lemon balm be taken by children?
The essential oils of lemon balm can also have a healing effect on mental and physical functions in children. Here, too, a distinction must be made between lemon balm as a home remedy and as a (medicinal) preparation.
While the recommended daily dose for adults is 3 to 5 grams of leaves, the dose of lemon balm tea for children depends on their age. A non-binding recommendation is:
|children from the age of ten||1.5 to 4.5 grams|
|Children four to nine years||1.5 to 3 grams|
|children one to three years||0.5 to 1.5 grams|
|children under one year||0.2 to 0.5 grams|
Alternatively, children can also take a relaxing lemon balm bath, for which there are no specific recommendations. With regard to the (medicinal) lemon balm preparations, as explained above, no general statements can be made.
What side effects can lemon balm have?
Lemon balm is generally considered to be very well tolerated. If lemon balm is taken as intended, no side effects or interactions are to be expected.
With regard to the potential for addiction, the opinion is divided that lemon balm is not addictive. On the other hand, there are individual findings that provide indications of withdrawal symptoms when abruptly abstaining from lemon balm tea (16). However, these are isolated cases and the results have not yet been replicated.
The findings on the influence of lemon balm on thyroid function also raise the question of how lemon balm affects an already reduced thyroid function (14.15">. If there is a suspicion or diagnosis of hypothyroidism, it is advisable to have regular Intake of lemon balm to be clarified by a doctor.
Is lemon balm also suitable for animals?
Animals can also suffer from sensory overload and restlessness, just watch a dog at the annual New Year's Eve fireworks display.
Treatments with Melissa officinalis are particularly common in horses and dogs. Here, too, lemon balm is said to strengthen the natural function of the stomach. It is also said to have a calming effect on the animals.
For this purpose, dried lemon balm leaves are added to the animal feed. The leaves can be dried separately or can be bought pre-packaged in stores or online.
Is lemon balm also suitable for cooking?
Lemon balm is very popular in the kitchen. Its lemony and fresh taste is suitable for both savory dishes and sweet dishes and drinks.
- Cream and quark dishes
- ice cream and sorbet
- cakes and pies
- fruit salads
- fish and meat seasoning
- sauces and pesto
- hearty salads
- Aperitifs and soft drinks and much more
Not only beautiful, but also tastes good! - A summery soft drink with lemon and lemon balm. (Image source: Francesca Hotchin / unsplash)
What alternatives are there to lemon balm?
At this point, you should already be familiar with lemon balm. In the following we would like to give you some alternatives that achieve a similar effectiveness.
Other medicinal plants
Even if the Melissa officinalis has proven itself to this day, there are also other medicinal plants with essential oils that have a similar effect.
- Hops : In Europe, hops are considered a traditional medicinal plant whose importance was already recognized in Islamic medicine. It has a calming and sleep-inducing effect. Hops are usually taken in the form of a tea mixture (17).
- Valerian : Real valerian is also used as a medicinal plant. Thanks to its essential oils, it is also said to help with sleep disorders and also has an anxiolytic effect (18.19">. Valerian is usually taken in the form of tea or drops.
- Lavender : The medicinal plant lavender also has a long tradition. Lavender is also said to have a sleep-inducing (20) and relaxing effect (21). The application is very diverse, ranging from lavender bags and pillows, to oil, capsules and tea.
- Passion flower : The passion flower not only has a symbolic meaning for Christianity, but is also valued as a herbal medicine. Similar to other medicinal plants, it has a calming and anxiolytic effect and can also be used against irritability (22.23">.
movement and sport
Regular exercise not only improves the cardiovascular system, but is also said to be associated with improved sleep quality.
The time, intensity and type of physical activity play a role here. Intensive physical exertion in the afternoon causes tiredness in the evening.
This applies in particular to endurance sports such as jogging, walking, cycling or swimming (24). Similar effects can also be found for light physical activity (25.26">.
In addition, it is generally accepted that sporting activities have a positive effect on mental well-being. This has been proven in a large number of studies.
It has been shown that regular physical activity in the form of yoga, exercises and walks can alleviate anxiety, depression and inner restlessness (27.28">.
Below is a video of a 10 minute guided yoga session for beginners. Integrate them into your personal morning routine!
It is important to distinguish between occasional sleep difficulties and an overt sleep disorder. The latter leads to a sharp reduction in the quality of life and can significantly limit the ability to cope with everyday life.
It's the same with fears. While fear and anxiety are temporary for many people, for others they can escalate into pathological anxiety disorders.
It is very important to draw this distinction. If there is a serious limitation in your ability to cope with everyday life and your quality of life, you should consult a doctor.
Lemon balm can inspire in many areas. It is a natural aid to induce sleep and to reduce anxiety and anxiety. Lemon balm can be used in many ways, individually or combined with other herbs. In addition, no reliable side effects or interactions are known to date.
Nevertheless, the limits of medicinal plants must always be considered in phytomedicine. Anyone who has persistent symptoms should therefore always seek medical treatment.