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Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) is a herb/tea traditionally said to induce calmness and improve cognition. It does appear effective at inducing calmness and reducing anxiety, but the cognitive enhancing properties are variable (appears to benefit if stressed, but otherwise it is merely sedative).

Our evidence-based analysis on melissa officinalis features 42 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Melissa officinalis

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) is a herb that has traditionally been used for a variety of cognitive purposes, most of which are centered around improving cognition and reducing stress and anxiety. It is said to calm the nerves and to relax the body.

In regards to its subjective cognitive effects, it appears to be effective in inducing calmness. This may also manifest itself in a negative manner as healthy persons who take Lemon Balm prior to a cognitive test appear to score worse than placebo on reaction time and memory formation (possibly related to sedation) while improving the quality of memories (amount of correct memories formed, rather than 'remembering' something that didn't happen). Only one study looked at contentment, but found no influence.

Theoretically, calmness inducing agents should also help in sleep. We currently have one study suggesting that the anxiety-reducing properties can help people who have anxiety-related insomnia but beyond that most sleep research is confounded with Valerian as the two are theoretically (not yet demonstrated) additive or synergistic.

Overall, the cognitive enhancing properties of Lemon Balm appear to be somewhat overhyped. It has been shown to enhance the memory quality yet (possibly due to its sedative effects) it reduces quantititatively how many memories are formed and the rate thereof.

Currently, Lemon Balm appears to be supported for inducing calmness and relaxation but other claims may need more research.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

The lowest active supplemental dose appears to be 300mg, and supplementation above this dose appears to confer dose-dependent effects although it is not very reliable (ie. one study says that 1200mg gives thrice as much benefit as 300mg while another suggests 1.4x benefit)

Lemon Balm bioactives may also be consumed via tea or acquired via aromatherapy, although it is much harder to quantify 'the right dose' via these two methods.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Melissa officinalis has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Minor High See all 3 studies
Mixed influences on memory, with one study noting a decrease in 'total' memory formation and two studies noting improvements in 'quality' of memories formed. There is likely a modulatory effect associated with lemon balm.
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
A decrease in alertness appears to occur alongside lemon balm ingestion (with or without sedation)
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
An increase in self-reported ratings of 'calmness' appears to exist following ingestion of lemon balm single doses
grade-c Notable Very High See all 4 studies
Studies are supportive a notable improvement in symptoms, largely psychological but even physical. However, the current research is of fairly low quality and largely conducted by many of the same authors, thus more research is needed.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
A decrease in anxiety has been noted with lemon balm extract, although not to a remarkable degree
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in processing speed appears to occur following lemon balm ingestion, which may be related to the sedation effects
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in self-reported stress has been reported with lemon balm
grade-c - - See study
Despite the decrease in alertness seen with lemon balm, there does not appear to be any alterations in intentional attention
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on self-ratings of contentment despite the increase in calmness
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No significant influence appears to exist on working memory associated with lemon balm
grade-d Minor - See study
A reduction in agitation has been noted with lemon balm in stressed and anxious subjects, perhaps secondary to alleviating anxiety
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found a small improvement from 1 g of an ethanolic extract compared with placebo. Much more research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
A reduction in DNA damage has been noted with lemon balm tea in persons exposed to high levels of radiation
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in fatigue associated with anxiety has been noted, no research looking at the per se influence of lemon balm on fatigue
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in general oxidation occurs following lemon balm ingestion
grade-d Minor - See study
A decrease in insomnia has been noted to be to quite a large degree in one open-label trial, but may be secondary to anxiety reduction
grade-d Minor - See study
A slight decrease in biomarkers of lipid peroxidation occurs following ingestion of lemon balm
grade-d Minor - See study
An increase in self-reports of relaxation occur, which may be related to the increased calmness and sedation ratings also seen
grade-d - - See study
One study found somewhat lower depression scores during the premenstrual period as compared with placebo, but it's unclear what the levels were at baseline.

Studies Excluded from Consideration

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Things to Note

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Lemon Balm, Melissengeist, Bee balm, Garden Balm, Melissa, Erva-cidreira

Do Not Confuse With

Limonene (sometimes called Lemon extract)

  • Although ethanolic extracts have more of the bioactives, a tea of Lemon Balm may also confer some bioactive properties

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Click here to see all 42 references.