Melissa officinalis, more commonly known as “lemon balm”, is grown and consumed worldwide. It comes from the same family as mint, has a sharp, citrus taste, and is prized for its purported health benefits.
It has been cultivated for more than 500 years, during which time it has been added to everything from yogurts to perfumes, but the main method of consumption is as a tea, either on its own or as part of a herbal tea blend.
The Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
In many ways, lemon balm is similar to lemon verbena, which we have written about extensively (click here for our guide) and also include in our CatNap relaxation tea blend. It has a strong lemon fragrance and taste, is said to provide many digestive-related health benefits, and is often added to herbal tea blends. Additional benefits of lemon balm include:
1. It Can Help with Indigestion
Lemon balm is often consumed for its apparent digestive benefits, and most of the studies concerning its health benefits actually focus on this area. WebMD currently lists this herb as “possibly effective” for the treatment of dyspepsia and reflux and points to medications that contain lemon balm (in combination with several other herbs) that have shown to be very effective at treating these conditions.
It is also thought to be effective at treating colic in breastfeeding infants and is a key ingredient in a German herbal remedy (alongside camomile) prescribed for this purpose.
2. It Can Alleviate Nausea
Lemon balm seems to be beneficial in the treatment for nausea, especially when used in combination with other herbs and spices. It could be as helpful as ginger, suggesting that these two natural remedies could commune to create a potent anti-sickness tea.
3. It Seems to Help with Skin Health
Lemon balm has been praised for anti-ageing properties. There have been a few positive studies concerning its effect on skin health, including one where it was singled out from more than 680 plants because of its ability to reduce skin damage associated with aging and certain skin diseases. (1) This study used lemon balm tea as opposed to a topical extract.
4. It May Help with Stress
There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence out there concerning lemon balm’s apparent stress-reducing effects. But once you discount possible placebo effects and look at the actual studies, there isn’t a great deal of evidence.
One of the most commonly cited studies concerning lemon balm’s effects on stress was conducted in 2004 and drew fairly positive conclusions. (2) It reported a marked reduction in participant stress levels following a 600mg dose, with reduced alertness and increased calmness.
However, the sample size was very small—just 18 participants in total—and none had reported any issues with chronic stress or anxiety prior to it taking place. Not to mention, all of the results were based on conclusions made by the participants themselves. It was double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomised, which certainly lends a lot of credibility to the study, but more needs to done before any concrete claims can be made.
For herbal teas that may have a bigger impact on stress levels, click here our page on lavender tea here.
5. It May Help Improve Brain Function
We are only now discovering that many beneficial herbs could have a positive impact on brain health and may even slow degeneration. We’ve already spoken at length about the exciting studies being conducted on sideritis scardica (read our guide here), but there have been similar findings regarding lemon balm.
It is being used to treat mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and the anti-stress study linked above also found a number of positive effects with regards to memory and concentration.
It would be unwise to make any concrete claims, and it’s highly unlikely it can prevent or cure any serious neurodegenerative diseases, but it’s certainly an area that requires more research and one that may even lead to notable breakthroughs in the future.
6. It May Help Reduce Anxiety and Sleep Disorders
Anxiety and stress are closely related, and it’s fair to assume that a substance that can reduce one could have an impact on the other. But while there isn’t a great deal of conclusive research concerning lemon balm’s ability to lower stress, there is a lot more regarding its ability to reduce anxiety.
A study conducted in 2014 gave lemon balm–containing foods to a small group of participants and noted an improvement in mood and a reduction in anxiety, while another found it to be an effective sleep aid when used in combination with Valerian. (3) Lemon balm is also used in the German herbal supplement Klosterfrau Melissengeist, which has shown to have a positive effect on mood, levels of anxiety, and sleep patterns.
Side Effects of Lemon Balm Tea
It is possible to be allergic to lemon balm, and anyone with known allergy to plants in the mint family should avoid this herb. It can also produce side effects in rare cases or following excessive consumption, so caution is advised. If you are consuming lemon balm for the first time then it is best to start slow, limiting your dose to small amounts to gauge your reaction before increasing them to recommended, therapeutic levels.
Some of the side effects of lemon balm consumption include wheezing, headaches, stomach pains, and nausea. If you are taking any medications, have a preexisting medical condition, or are pregnant, speak with your doctor before consuming lemon balm tea or taking any other products containing this herb. You should also consult a doctor if you are planning on giving this herb to a child, because while some of the benefits mentioned above do relate to infants and children, the medications we referred to are prescribed under medical supervision.
Side effects are rare and, for the majority of users, they are nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution where your health is concerned.
Should You Drink Lemon Balm Tea?
There are certainly many reasons why you would consider drinking this tea, and ultimately the choice is yours. If you like the taste and believe that you may benefit from some of the aforementioned effects, then give it a try. We do not stock it in the Shelgo Tea store because we believe better alternatives are available (including lemon verbena) but that doesn’t mean that it’s not effective and shouldn’t be considered as a herbal remedy.