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Meet your herb: Melissa

Updated: Mar 7

Lemon balm is a popular herb used by millions. Scientists call it “Melissa officinalis"—the word “melissa” comes from the Greek word meaning "honey bee"—but it also goes by many other names, such as "nectar of life, "cure-all", "balm mint" or "honey plant".


Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, which is native to Europe and well recognized for its many benefits. It is bright green in color and has small, heart-shaped leaves with clusters of white and yellow flowers similar in shape to mint leaves. It is not only grown in gardens but also for medicinal purposes.

(Gaumond, 2021)


Several studies show that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, ashwagandha, and chamomile) helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Few studies have examined lemon balm by itself, except for topical use. For example, in one study of people with minor sleep problems, 81% of those who took an herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm reported sleeping much better than those who took a placebo.


Anxiety

Lemon Balm contains the active compound "rosmarinic acid" - an enzyme which effectively increases GABA (gamma amino-butyric acid) in the brain. GABA is one of the inhibitory neurotransmitters, used by the brain to prevent over-excitement and attain balance. It is responsible for ensuring that we are not overly stressed and plays a role in sleep cycles. Increasing stimulation of GABA receptors will produce a sedative or calming effect and explains why Lemon Balm works well as an anti-anxiety herb.


The difference between Lemon Balm being an effective anti-anxiety herb and a sleep aid is dosage. It combines extremely well with the herb Valerian, with several studies showing that these two herbs combined can induce a deep and restful night’s sleep.


Digestive Health

Lemon Balm is what's known as a "carminative herb", meaning it can relieve stagnant digestion, ease abdominal cramping, and promote the overall digestive process. The volatile oils in Lemon Balm contain chemicals known as “terpenes” that relax muscles and relieve symptoms such as excess gas.


Lemon Balm contains both “choloretics” and “colagogues”, which may also help with liver and gall bladder problems. Bile is produced in the liver, stored in the gall bladder and then released into the small intestine to digest fats. A choloretic stimulates production of bile whilst a colagogue enhances the expulsion of bile from the gall bladder. The primary Lemon Balm constituents in these categories are; caffeic acid, eugenol, chlorogenic acid and P-coumaric acid, which enhance the content of digestive juices thus improving the digestion of food.



(Gardenia, 2020)


 

Reference list

Gardenia (2020). Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). [online] Gardenia.net. Available at: https://www.gardenia.net/plant/melissa-officinalis [Accessed 27 Jun. 2023].

Gaumond, A. (2021). Ultimate Guide to Lemon Balm Meaning, Types, and Uses. [online] Petal Republic. Available at: https://www.petalrepublic.com/lemon-balm/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2023].

Miraj, S., Rafieian-Kopaei and Kiani, S. (2016). Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, [online] 22(3), pp.385–394. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587216663433.

Mount Sinai (2020). Lemon balm Information | Mount Sinai - New York. [online] Mount Sinai Health System. Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/lemon-balm#:~:text=Lemon%20balm%20(Melissa%20officinalis)%2C.

Tretiak, A. (2021). Can Lemon Balm Help Reduce Stress and Boost Your Health? [online] Verywell Health. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-health-benefits-of-lemon-balm-89388.

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