Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, has been used therapeutically since ancient Greek times.
The Greeks hung it on the front door to ward off evil spirits. They used the crushed leaves for scorpion stings and dog bites.
They drank wine mixed with lemon balm to reduce fevers. It became especially popular for melancholy, and also to strengthen memory.
Today, lemon balm is widely used in herbal therapy everywhere. It’s important in crops for cosmetics and household cleaners, and is grown to attract bees (good news for beekeepers).
The volatile oils from lemon balm are largely responsible for its therapeutic activity. Lemon balm has an important role in aromatherapy, and most people like its sweet but tart scent.
Lemon balm oil stimulates your senses, making it excellent in natural body washes, aromatherapy oils, and lotions.
The leaves contain terpenes, known for antiviral benefits and nervous system relaxation. Tannins in lemon balm are also antiviral.
Eugenol in the herb calms muscle spasms (a notorious insomnia trigger), and kills bacteria.
Like other members of the mint family, lemon balm supports healthy digestion. It is especially good taken before meals to help stimulate gastric activity and ease indigestion and gas.
Lemon balm is a powerful antibacterial herb. Research finds it can fight Listeria and Staphylococcus.
Still, lemon balm is probably best known as an antiviral against herpes. It’s regularly used in natural ointments and creams for cold sores.
Research shows polyphenols in lemon balm can reduce the severity and duration of herpes and shingles outbreaks. In some cases, lemon balm may even reduce outbreak frequency.
Topical preparations help relieve symptoms like itchiness and redness, too.
Lemon balm is also used internally for anti-stress benefits. In one study, 81% of people who took valerian and lemon balm together reported sleeping much better than those who took a placebo.
Studies with anxiety reveal similar tension relief benefits.
For students and other people who require calm, mental focus for work, lemon balm can be a godsend.
A study in England found students did significantly better on tests after taking lemon balm and continued to improve their scores for up to six hours after using the herb. Researchers noted the students were also calmer and less stressed during their tests.
Preliminary research reveals lemon balm may improve cognition and reduce agitation in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, too.
As these herbal extracts absorb quickly, you can expect fast results for relief of day-to-day stress. As a bonus, lemon balm nourishes the nervous system, so over time, your body is less likely to go into stress reactions and you’ll feel better overall.