Melissa officinalis – Lemon Balm
Humble Melissa officinalis is commonly known as lemon balm and belongs to the Lamiaceae family along with many other common culinary herbs including rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender. It is a perennial aromatic herb with a lemony scent and taste. Native to Eurasia and naturalised all over the world, it grows prolifically in gardens and will take over entire patches if it is let run wild (Fisher, 2018).
Some of the medicinal actions of M. officinalis (Lemon Balm) include carminative, spasmolytic, mild-sedative and anxiolytic. Some of the constituents responsible for these actions include volatile oils (mainly citral) and phenolics including rosmarinic acid (Fisher, 2018).
Focussing on the mild-sedative and anxiolytic actions of this herb, there has been some interesting research done on Lemon Balm / M. officinalis and its use in anxiety and depression by Ghazizadeh et al., (2021). Their recent meta-analysis and systematic review of current evidence suggests its effectiveness in improving common symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to placebo. This research also suggests the safety of M. officinalis, having no serious adverse effects.
Another double-blind randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial suggests success in combining Lemon Balm / M. officinalis with Nepeta menthoides for supporting those with insomnia and associated anxiety and depression. Results from this research showed improvements in symptoms of anxiety and depression which can commonly be a result of long-term insomnia (Ranjbar et al., 2018).
These promising studies show potential for this herb in a range of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression, and we know from traditional herbal knowledge that Lemon Balm / M. officinalis has been used for centuries to support a variety of conditions that affect the nervous system (Fisher, 2018). Lemon Balm / M. officinalis makes a lovely tea which is a wonderful way to take advantage of its active constituents as it can be a whole nourishing ritual in itself. Taking ten minutes out of a busy day to enjoy a herbal tea quietly and mindfully can be a wholesome way to care for yourself.
By – Patrice Kelly, Naturopathy Tutor Wellpark College – Bachelor of Naturopathic and Herbal Medicine
Fisher, C. (2018). Materia medica of Western herbs. London, England: Aeon Books Ltd.
Ghazizadeh, J., Sadigh-Eteghad, S., Marx, W., Fakhari, A., Hamedeyazdan, S., Torbati, M., Taheri-Tarighi, S., Araj-Khodaei, M., & Mirghafourvand, M. (2021). The effects of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) on depression and anxiety in clinical trials: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytotherapy research: PTR, 35(12), 6690–6705. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.7252
Ranjbar, M., Firoozabadi, A., Salehi, A., Ghorbanifar, Z., Zarshenas, M. M., Sadeghniiat-Haghighi, K., & Rezaeizadeh, H. (2018). Effects of herbal combination (Melissa officinalis L. and Nepeta menthoides Boiss. & Buhse) on insomnia severity, anxiety and depression in insomniacs: Randomized placebo controlled trial. Integrative medicine research, 7(4), 328–332. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2018.08.001