I always love the smell of lemon balm herb particularly when it gets close to summer. There is some interesting historical information about this aromatic herb!
Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis - has a interesting history since the Greek and Roman times. Homer's Odyssey mentioned about Lemon Balm and so has the Roman scholar Pliny who noted that bees preferred lemon balm to other plants. The Greek physician Dioscorides placed Melissa officinalis on bites, both scorpion and dog, and then would drop some more lemon balm into wine for the patient to drink. Dioscorides wrote about many bite remedies because none of them worked well and alot of herbalist during that time kept experimenting. (Kowalchick, 1987).
The Arabs were also fans of Lemon Balm during the 1st and 2nd centuries. They claimed that it was good for heart disorders as well as for lifting the spirits as an antidepressant medicinal herb. (Houdret, 2002)
Lemon Balm helped colonize the United States and has no doubt lifted the spirits of the colonists who have been dragged down by moving to a strange climate, feeling isolated and distanced from home. In Old Williamsburg, Virginia there are recipes that call for the use of Lemon Balm and Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello. (Kowalchick, 1987).
In the nineteenth century, Lemon Balm continued to be used as a medicine and in the American edition of Pereiara's Materia Medica, balm tea is noted for inducing sweating in fevers and regulating menstruation. For the past centuries Lemon Balm was used like a mild form of Valium. It also seems to inhibit bacteria and viruses which has something to reduce the chance of infection. (Kowalchick, 1987). Lemon Balm is native herb to the southern Europe region but in folk medicine the Portuguese used it for tranquilizing properties and the Cubans used it as a cancer treatment drug. (Natural Medicines 2015)
Currently, there are possibly effectiveness results from research of Lemon Balm for Anxiety, Colic, Dementia, Dyspepsia, Insomnia, Stress and Herpes Simple Virus (HSV). (Natural Medicines 2015). Clinical research shows that a standardized lemon balm extract (Cyracos) reduces anxiety-associated symptoms and anxiety manifestations in patients with anxiety disorders. (Cases 2010). A clinical trial shows that breast-fed infants with colic who are given a specific multi-ingredient product containing fennel 164 mg, lemon balm 97 mg, and German chamomile 178 mg (ColiMil) twice daily for 1 week have reduced crying times compared to placebo. (Savino 2005). Some clinical research shows that taking a standardized extract of lemon balm daily for 4 months, seems to reduce agitation and improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (Akhondzadeh, 2003). A meta-analysis of studies using this combination product (lemon balm plus peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle) suggests that taking 1 mL orally three times daily over a period of 4 weeks significantly reduces severity of acid reflux, epigastric pain, cramping, nausea, and vomiting compared to placebo. (Melzer 2004). Applying a lip balm containing 1% lemon balm extract seems to shorten healing time and reduce symptoms of recurring herpes simplex virus if applied at the early stages of infection. (Wolbling 1994). Research shows that standardized lemon balm extract (Cyracos) reduces insomnia in patients with sleep disorders (Cases 2010). Preliminary evidence suggests that a single dose of lemon balm extract 600 mg increases calmness and alertness in adults during a stress test (Kennedy 2004).
Lemon Balm is still to this day one of the most useful herbs! If you want to purchase lemon balm then click here for more information.
Kowalchick, C., Hylton, W. H. (1987) Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. (United States: Rodale Press, Inc). 350-351
Houdret, J, (2002) Herbs (New York, NY - Hermes House, Anness Publishing Inc.) pp 170-171
Natural Medicines ( 2015 ) Lemon Balm, Therapeutic Research Center https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=437
Cases J. Leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Mediterr J Nutr Metab. 2010;4(3):211-218.
Savino F, Cresi F, Castagno E, et al. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a standardized extract of Matricariae recutita, Foeniculum vulgare and Melissa officinalis (ColiMil) in the treatment of breastfed colicky infants. Phytother Res 2005;19:335-40.
Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, et al. Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2003;74:863-6.
Melzer J, Rosch W, Reichling J, et al. Meta-analysis: phytotherapy of functional dyspepsia with the herbal drug preparation STW 5 (Iberogast). Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2004;20:1279-87
Wolbling RH, Leonhardt K. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:25-31
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;66:607-13