Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and is considered a calming herb. This herb is also known as Melissa officinalis, and it has been used for centuries to reduce anxiety, promote sleep and improve symptoms of indigestion. Lemon balm has been researched by experts and found to offer many great health benefits
Lemon balm is native to Europe but is commonly grown all over the world. It is often grown in herb gardens to attract bees which help pollinate the rest of the garden. The plant grows up to two feet and has light yellow flowers that grow where the leaves meet the stem. The leaves are similar in shape to mint leaves and have a tart and sweet smell like lemons.
This herb has been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to treat insect bites and stings. The leaves give off a strong tart smell that insects do not like. The insect-repellant essential oils it contains include citronella and monoterpenaldehydes citral A and B. The essential oils that are released from the leaves are also used to treat insomnia, nervousness and anxiety.
Lemon balm is rich in antioxidants:
Lemon balm is rich in caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are powerful antioxidants that neutralize reactive oxygen species. It also contains eugenol, which acts like a natural anti-inflammatory that helps soothe painful conditions. These compounds offer profound antibacterial and antiviral properties and protect the lipid membrane of cells.
A 2010 study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health looked at lemon balm and its ability to reduce oxidative stress in radiology staff members who are constantly dealing with radiation-induced stress. The study showed that taking a lemon balm infusion of 1.5 grams in a 100 mL drink for 30 days had a positive effect on reducing lipid peroxidation and DNA damage. It was shown to improve intracellular antioxidant (catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) status and reduce DNA damage in these radiology staff members.
Lemon balm and immune system:
The caffeic and rosmarinic acids in lemon balm offer profound antibacterial and antiviral properties when taken in both oral and topical forms. Topical lemon balm has been shown to reduce redness and itching from infections and eczema. These acids are particularly effective against strep throat, mumps and herpes among other things.
A 2008 study published in Phytomedicine showed that lemon balm was highly effective at reducing the herpes simplex virus on the skin. Another 2008 study showed that lemon balm was highly effective at reducing viruses, gram-positive bacteria and Candida albicans. It does not have a great effect with gram-negative bacteria.
This would indicate that viruses, yeasts, streptococcus and staphylococcus would be highly sensitive to lemon balm extract. This is thought to be one of the reasons why lemon balm is so effective at helping individuals improve from chronic digestive complaints. However, gram negative bacterial infections such as E. coli, Salmonella and Shigella would not be as sensitive to lemon balm.
A large German study showed that lemon balm was extremely effective at treating herpes simplex infections. In the study, which included three hospitals and one dermatology clinic, the lemon balm treated group did not have a single recurrence of the infection. Other studies have found that lemon balm reduces the healing time of both genital and oral herpes.
Proper dosages for lemon balm:
Lemon balm is most commonly used for digestive issues, insomnia, anxiety and immunity. It can be taken in the form of infused teas in the range of 1.5 to 4.5 grams of lemon balm taken two to four times daily. It can also be taken in a tincture of 2-3 mL (roughly 20 drops) three times daily. Many others choose to steep 2 to 4 tablespoons of the crushed leaf in a cup of boiling water.
You can also find lemon balm in a capsule-based formula, and the recommended dosage is 300-500 mg taken three times daily or as needed. When using a topical form, try applying it three to five times daily to maintain its powerful anti-microbial activity on the region.
Contraindications for lemon balm:
Lemon balm is not to be used in high amounts (trace amounts are ok) in pregnant women and individuals taking the thyroid medication thyroxine. Also, caution should be used when giving oral treatments to infants and children. Breastfeeding women should also avoid taking large clinical doses of lemon balm as well.
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About the author:
Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Ga. He is a Maximized Living doctor. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition & exercise, & structural corrective chiropractic care. For more information go to www.drjockers.com To find a Maximized Living doctor near you go to www.maximizedliving.com Dr. Jockers is also available for long distance phone consultations to help you beat disease and reach your health goals