Lemon balm promotes a sweet calming effect that may help waft away your sleeping woes
Lemon balm is a perennial plant from the mint family and correspondingly exudes a soft lemon scent. Its leaves have been employed as a soothing agent for an array of reasons and may potentially aid sleep by:
- Sweeping away stress. Lemon balm is reported to clear stress by reducing symptoms of anxiety and minimizing agitation.
- Reducing insomnia. Limited data suggests that extracts of the leaf may minimize the effects of insomnia.
- Calming the senses. Above all, lemon balm is considered by many to be a plesant calmative.
Original to south-central Europe, Iran, and Central Asia, but now readily grown everywhere, lemon balm is a prized mint with nectar-filled flowers and fresh-smelling leaves. Its scientific name, Melissa officinalis, alludes to its age-old use attracting unsuspecting honey bees (Melissa means “honey bee” in Greek).
While an alluring ornamental plant in its own right, it has also long been applied to a broad range of practical purposes: its oil is drawn for use in perfumes, its leaf extracts are included in some toothpastes, and its flavor adds a complementing splash of lemon to other herbs, mints, and even ice cream.
The frequent consumption of lemon balm as a tea eventually spurned its use in traditional medicine for ameliorating complications linked to the stomach and brain. Leaf extracts seem to be especially useful in soothing upset stomachs, cramping, and indigestion.1 Some parties also view it as a nootropic due to its capacity to improve the quality of memory recollection.
Lemon balm research in recent years have zoned in on its knack for inducing calm, which in theory, should reinforce sleep. Relaxing the mind, diminishing stress and anxiety, and maintaining a general sense of tranquility all highlight the likelihood of the “honey bee” plant as a pleasant bedtime buddy.
How Lemon Balm May Help With Sleep
Calming the Body
Lemon balm is widely used as a mild sedative and sleep aid specifically for its flair as an overall relaxant. Research findings have identified that the standout mood effect was an elevated calmness at all doses from 300 mg to 1600 mg, although increasingly higher amounts produce greater calm.2
Taking lemon balm extracts may be an ideal way to cut back anxiety-related issues using natural ingredients. Studies have demonstrated that it may have anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects on animals3 and may significantly reduce nervousness, anxiety, and excitability in humans.4
The value of lemon balm for sleep may even potentially extend to mitigating sleep disorders like insomnia, although only a limited number of studies concerning the topic have actually been conducted. One in particular illustrates the strength of lemon balm (when mixed with a pinch of valerian) to dramatically reduce restlessness, nervousness, and dyssomnia in children.5
Lemon Balm Benefits & Uses for Sleep
The competence of lemon balm in calming the human body is oft exploited in aromatherapy. Extracts of the leaf may be used to offer both physical and mental reflief as well as soothe any related pains and worries. Wiping away anxiety and stress is an ideal way to lay the framework for a successful night of sleep.
In some cases, the sedative influence of lemon balm may not on its own be enough to directly improve sleep quality. Fortunately, as a natural plant with few toxic side effects, lemon balm may be safely combined with other herbs to facilitate effective sleep.
Lemon balm may facilitate sleep as illustrated by such effects on animals as:
- Inducing sleep. Lemon balm extracts induced sleep in mice along with other sedative results.8
- Inhibiting anxiety. Lemon balm extracts significantly reduced anxiety-like reactivity in mice performing a maze task.9
Studies highlight the capacity of lemon balm to stimulate calm by attenuating stress and anxiety. Research also shows that lemon balm may help manage sleep related disorders, such as insomia, but extensive corroboration is wanting.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 18 healthy volunteers were given either a placebo, 300 mg of lemon balm, or 600 mg of lemon balm. Only the 600 mg dose seemed to improve mood after the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS) battery test.
- The study concluded that a “600-mg dose of Melissa ameliorated the negative mood effects of the DISS, with significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness.”10
In this cohort investigation, 20 adults experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and sleeping complications were given 600 mg daily (300 mg at breakfast + 300 mg at dinner) for a 15-day period. A standardized lemon balm extract known as Cyracos® cut anxiety by 18%, mitigated other related symptoms by 15%, and decreased insomnia by 42%.
- The study concluded that “chronic administration of Melissa officinalis L. relieves stress-related effects.”11
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 16 healthy adults were given a lozenge containing lemon balm, lavender oil, hops, and oat, after which they had the electrical activity of their brain measured using mode technology (Laplacian estimates). Increases in beta 1 activity was noted, which is seen in the presence of anxiolytic drugs including major and minor tranquilizers.
- The study concluded that “the changes as observed after the application of this herbal composition are therefore in line with the idea of having induced a state of relaxation and regeneration…to better cope with psychological and emotional stress.”12
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 20 young adults were given either a placebo or 300 mg, 600 mg, or 900 mg of lemon balm extract over the course of a week. Calmness appeared to increase as alertness decreased.
- The study concluded that “self-rated ‘calmness,’ as assessed by Bond-Lader mood scales, was elevated at the earliest time points by the lowest dose, whilst “alertness” was significantly reduced at all time points following the highest dose.”13
Dosage for Sleep
Lemon balm may be taken as:
- As a supplemental capsule, 300 – 1500 mg, 3 – 5 times daily
- An extract, standardized to 5% rosmarinic acid
- Crude lemon balm, 1.5 – 4.5 g
- An ointment, 1% of a 70:1 extract, for cold sores
- A drink, especially tea
Use of the plant is generally safe and is best taken 3 – 5 times daily between meals.
Supplements in Review Recommendation
- Lemon Balm, 500 mg
Lemon balm has first-rate calming effects for aiding sleep. While the workings behind lemon balm may not necessarily trigger sleep itself, we recommend using it as a way to facilitate the sleeping process through its ability to foster calmness. Supplementation with the plant may farther soothe the body by reducing anxiety, stress, and particular instances of sleeping disorders.
500 mg lemon balm seems like a good, low-end starter dose. For sound sleeping and help with stress, start with 500 mg of lemon balm capsules, 3 times daily between meals.
- Savino F, Cresi F, et al. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a standardized extract of Matricariae recutita, Foeniculum vulgare and Melissa officinalis (ColiMil) in the treatment of breastfed colicky infants. Phytother Res. 2005 Apr;19(4):335-40. ↩
- Kennedy DO, Wake G, et al. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28:1871-81. ↩
- Taiwo AE, Leite FB, et al. Anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) extract in rats: Influence of administration and gender. Indian J Pharmacol. 2012 Mar;44(2):189-92. ↩
- Buchner KH, Hellings H, et al. Double blind study as evidence of the therapeutic effect of Melissengeist on psycho-vegetative syndromes. Med Klin. 1974 Jun 7;69(23):1032-6. ↩
- Muller SF, Klement S. A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children. Phytomedicine. 2006 Jun;13(6):383-7. ↩
- Kennedy DO, et al. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. 2006 Feb;20:96-102. ↩
- Sanchez-Medina A, Etheridge CJ, et al. Comparison of rosmarinic acid content in commercial tinctures produced from fresh and dried lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2007;10(4):455-63. ↩
- Soulimani R, Fleurentin J, et al. Neurotropic action of the hydroalcoholic extract of Melissa officinalis in the mouse. Planta Med. 1991;57(2):105-9. ↩
- Ibarra A, Feuillere N, et al. Effects of chronic administration of Melissa officinalis L. extract on anxiety-like reactivity and on circadian and exploratory activities in mice. Phytomedicine. 2010 May;17(6):397-403. ↩
- Kennedy DO, Little W, et al. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosom Med . 2004;66(4):607-13. ↩
- Cases J, Ibarra A, et al. Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011 Dec;4(3):211-8. ↩
- Dimpfel W, Pischel I, et al. Effects of lozenge containing lavender oil, extracts from hops, lemon balm and oat on electrical brain activity of volunteers. Eur J Med Res. 2004 Sep 29;9(9):423-31. ↩
- Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Jul;72(4):953-64. ↩