Articles

Lemon Balm

Plant Part Used

Leaf

Active Constituents

Allantoin; volatile oils (including citronellal, citral a and b); flavonoids (including quercetin, luteolin), phenolic acids (including rosmarinic acid), triterpenes.(1),(2)

[span class=alert]This section is a list of chemical entities identified in this dietary supplement to possess pharmacological activity. This list does not imply that other, yet unidentified, constituents do not influence the pharmacological activity of this dietary supplement nor does it imply that any one constituent possesses greater influence on the overall pharmacological effect of this dietary supplement.[/span]

Introduction

Melissa, or lemon balm, is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which includes thyme (Thymus vulgaris), mint (Mentha sp.) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Melissa is commonly used in Europe as a tea, liquid extract, and a topical preparation. Traditionally, melissa preparations were used as a carminative, diaphoretic, febrifuge, and as a calming agent for children. Ancient Greeks and Romans used melissa in surgical dressings for wounds and in preparations to treat venomous bites and stings such as with dogs and scorpions, as described in the writings of Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder. Old European medicinal herbal texts list melissa as an agent for memory-improvement, which was recently supported by the findings that melissa reportedly has cholinergic activity.(3),(4),(5)

Interactions and Depletions

Interactions

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

Topically: Apply 2 to 4 times daily or as often as desired during an outbreak. For best results, apply at the first signs (burning, tingling, itching) of a cold sore or fever blister. If condition worsens or does not improve in 7 days, consult a physician.

Liquid extract: Mix and take 30-60 drops in favorite beverage 2-3 times a day. For teething, mix and administer 2-5 drops of a liquid extract diluted in beverage 3-4 times a day as needed. Liquid extracts can be purchased either fresh (1:1-1:2 w/v) or dried (1:4w/v).

Most Common Dosage

Topically: Apply 3 times daily or as often as desired during an outbreak. For best results, apply at the first signs (burning, tingling, itching) of a cold sore or fever blister. If condition worsens or does not improve in 7 days, consult a physician.

Liquid extract: Mix and take 30 drops in favorite beverage 3 times a day as needed. For teething, mix and administer 3 drops of a liquid extract diluted in beverage 3 times a day as needed. Liquid extracts can be purchased either fresh (1:1-1:2 w/v) or dried (1:4w/v).

Standardization

[span class=doc]Standardization represents the complete body of information and controls that serve to enhance the batch to batch consistency of a botanical product, including but not limited to the presence of a marker compound at a defined level or within a defined range.[/span]

The most current available medical and scientific literature indicates that this dietary supplement should be to 5% rosmarinic acid in a topical preparation of 70:1w/w dried extract.

Uses

Frequently Reported Uses

  • Anti-Herpetic, Antiviral
  • Anti-Anxiety
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

Other Reported Uses

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antioxidant
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Insomnia, Especially Due To Stress

Toxicities & Precautions

General

Melissa has been reported safe in recommended dosages.

If used topically and condition worsens or does not improve in 7 days, consult a physician.

Pharmacology

Anti-Viral

There have been several reports of melissa topical extract (70:1w/v) being useful in the treatment of herpes labialis.(6),(7),(8),(9) A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was carried out with the aim of proving the efficacy of standardized melissa cream for the therapy of herpes simplex labialis.(10) In addition to shortening the healing period, melissa extract aided in the prevention of spreading the infection and had an effect on typical symptoms of herpes like itching, tingling, burning, stabbing, swelling, tautness, and erythema. The authors concluded that the different mechanism of antiviral action of melissa extract rules out the development of resistance of the herpes virus. Some indication exists that the intervals between periods with herpes might be prolonged with melissa cream treatment. Another study reported virucidal and antiviral effects of melissa extracts with respect to Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).(11) Of interest is that melissa has also been reported to have anti-HIV-1 activity in vitro.(12),(20)

Anti-Anxiety

Melissa traditionally has been used as a nervine, or agent that supports the nervous system and aids in decreasing stress along with improving sleep.(16) The German Commission E approves the internal use of melissa for nervous sleeping disorders and functional gastrointestinal complaints.(17) Mechanism of anti-anxiety activity includes binding to GABA receptors.(21)

Several human studies report that combinations of Melissa and other sedating herbs (such as valerian and hops) are effective in decreasing stress and anxiety in children and adults.(22)

Other Uses

Melissa is traditionally used to support cognitive function. Laboratory and human studies support this use, with acute administration of Melissa being found to improve memory performance in healthy young and elderly cohorts and also decreasing cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.(23) Melissa has been reported to bind directly to both nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in human brain tissue.(24)

The constituent rosmarinic acid (also found in oregano and other herbs such as Holy basil and rosemary) has been reported in vitro to have cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) inhibiting properties comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin at 10-, 100-, and 1000-microM concentrations, respectively.(18)

Melissa also has reported antibacterial and antifungal activity in vitro.(13) Melissa was reported to have antioxidant effects in vitro, most likely based on flavonoid content (rosmarinic acid).(14),(15)

Freeze-dried extracts (FDE) of melissa as well as products of the oxidation of certain of its constituents, have been reported to exert antithyrotropic activity in laboratory animals.(19) The authors suggest that the active principles in those FDE and their oxidized constituents with antithyrotropic activity could potentially interact with the pathogenically important components of Graves-IgG to inhibit their ability to bind to the TSH receptor and activate the thyroid, as they do with TSH.

References

  1. Blumenthal M, eds, et al. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Integrative Medicine Communications Newton, MA; 2000:230-232.
  2. Heitz A, Carnat A, Fraisse D, et al. Luteolin 3'-glucuronide, the Major Flavonoid from Melissa officinalis subsp. officinalis. Fitoterapia. Apr2000;71(2):201-202.
  3. Perry EK, et al. Medicinal plants and Alzheimer's disease: from ethnobotany to phytotherapy. J Pharm Pharmacol. May1999;51(5):527-34.
  4. View Abstract: Wake G, et al. CNS acetylcholine receptor activity in European medicinal plants traditionally used to improve failing memory. J Ethnopharmacol. Feb2000;69(2):105-14.
  5. View Abstract: Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Jul2002;72(4):953-64.
  6. Wolbling RH, et al. Clinical Therapy for Herpes Simplex - Conception of a New Pharmaceutical Active Substance. Therapiewoche. 1984;34:1193-1200.
  7. Vogt HJ, et al. Melissa Extract for Herpes Simplex. Der Allgemeinarzt. 1991;13:832-841.
  8. Mohrig V. Melissa Extract for Herpes Simplex - The Alternative to Nucleoside Analogues. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung. 1996;50:109-114.
  9. Wolbling RH, et al. Local Therapy of Herpes Simplex with Dried Extract from Melissa Officinalis. Phytomedicine. 1994;1:25-31.
  10. Kovtchev R, et al. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis. Phytomedicine. Oct1999;6(4):225-30.
  11. View Abstract: Dimitrova Z, et al. Antiherpes effect of Melissa officinalis L. extracts. Acta Microbiol Bulg. 1993;29:65-72.
  12. View Abstract: Yamasake K, et al. Anti-HIV-1 activity of herbs in Labiatae. Biol Pharm Bull. Aug1998;21(8):829-33.
  13. View Abstract: Larrondo JV, et al. Antimicrobial activity of essences from labiates. Microbios. 1995;82(332):171-2.
  14. View Abstract: Hohmann J, et al. Protective effects of the aerial parts of Salvia officinalis, Melissa Officinalis and Lavandula angustifolia and their constituents against enzyme-dependent and enzyme-independent lipid peroxidation. Planta Med. Aug1999;65(6):576-8.
  15. View Abstract: Lamaison JL, et al. Medicinal Lamiaceae with antioxidant properties, a potential source of rosmarinic acid. Pharm Acta Helv. 1991;66(7):185-8.
  16. View Abstract: Soulimani R, et al. Neurotropic action of the hydroalcoholic extract of Melissa officinalis in the mouse. Planta Med. Apr1991;57(2):105-9.
  17. Blumenthal M, eds, et al. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Integrative Medicine Communications Newton, MA; 2000:230-232.
  18. View Abstract: Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM. Antioxidant and Cyclooxygenase Inhibitory Phenolic Compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. Mar2000;7(1):7-13.
  19. Auf’mkolk M, et al. Extracts and auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and the biological activity of Graves' immunoglobulins. Endocrinology. May1985;116(5):1687-93.
  20. Geuenich S, Goffinet C, Venzke S, Nolkemper S, Baumann I, Plinkert P, Reichling J, Keppler OT. Aqueous extracts from peppermint, sage and lemon balm leaves display potent anti-HIV-1 activity by increasing the virion density. Retrovirology. 20 Mar 2008;5:27.
  21. Weeks BS. Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian. Med Sci Monit. Nov 2009;15(11):RA256-262. Review.
  22. Kennedy DO, Little W, Haskell CF, Scholey AB. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. Feb 2006;20(2):96-102.
  23. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. The psychopharmacology of European herbs with cognition-enhancing properties. Curr Pharm Des. 2006;12(35):4613-4623.
  24. Müller SF, Klement S. A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children. Phytomedicine. Jun2006;13(6):383-387. Epub 2006 Feb 17.