Lemon balm is a perennial herb, part of the mint family, that is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. Its leaves, which have a mild aroma similar to that of lemons, contain compounds that have a soothing effect.
Lemon balm has been used medicinally for centuries to address sleep disturbances, including restlessness and insomnia; reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm; and alleviate digestive upset. It is widely known for its ability to promote sleep: lemon balm extract, especially when combined with valerian root extract, can improve the quality of sleep in adults and children. It also has a calming effect: one study showed an oral dose taken daily for four months appeared to help reduce agitation and improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It may be of benefit in relieving other mental health concerns as well, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although more research is needed.
Extract of lemon balm has significant antioxidant activity, and for people with cold sores, lemon balm in the form of a lip balm may shorten the healing time, prevent the spread of the infection, and reduce symptoms associated with cold sores. In addition, it may be beneficial for addressing headaches, cramps and toothaches; and as an insect repellant and to treat insect bites.
As a culinary herb, the extract and oil of lemon balm are used to flavor beverages and foods.
Herb / drug interactions:
Lemon balm should be used cautiously in combination with sedative drugs to avoid excessive sedation.
Other safety concerns:
Avoid taking alcohol and lemon balm together to minimize sleepiness, and exercise caution when operating heavy machinery or driving a motor vehicle while taking lemon balm.
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