Melissa officinalis


Melissa officinalis


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Chia de Colima, Chia gorda, Erva Cidreira, Toronjil, Melissa, Lemon Balm, Balm, Common Balm, Sweet Balm


Melissa officinalis is a perennial herb of the family Lamiaceae.  Usually growing no more than 1.5m in height, M. officinalis grows from a short, squat rootstock.  The stem is square, as is common in species from the Mint family, and branches heavily.  M. officinalis produces small yet very fragrant leaves, each of which grows from one of the four flat sides of the stem.  Each leaf is roughly  measuring  3cm to 7cm in length and measures 1cm to 4cm wide.  The leaves are ovate in shape, heavily toothed and pubescent on the underside.  When bruised or crushed, the leaves of M. officinalis produce a strong odor, similar to lemon.  During the summer months, it yields small, pale yellow flowers, which are aligned in irregular whorls at the apex of the stem.  Each flower is about measuring 1cm to 1.5cm in diametre.

Origin / Habitat

M. officinalis is native to the Mediterranean area but now grows in Asia and used in gardens in the United States and Europe.  The plant needs full sunlight and fertile and sandy soil to grow and can be found growing in sunlit fields and along streambeds.

Chemical Constituents

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

Plant Part Used

Leaf [3] [4].

Traditional Use

Traditional use of M. officinalis includes treatment for high blood pressure, use as a sedative and for menstrual disorders.  In each instance, the treatment is typically prepared as an infusion.  Other usage reports include topical applications of the crushed leaves for use on insect bites and rashes; treatment for depression, insomnia, hysteria and convulsions.  The tea made from M. officinalis has been used for numerous digestive complaints including nausea [3] [4].



There have been several reports of M. officinalis topical extract (70:1w/v) being useful in the treatment of herpes labialis [5] [6] [7] [8].A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial was carried out with the aim of proving the efficacy of standardised M. officinalis cream for the therapy of herpes simplex labialis [9].  In addition to shortening the healing period, M. officinalis 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 M. officinalis 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 M. officinalis cream treatment. Another study reported virucidal and antiviral effects of M. officinalis extracts with respect to Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) [10]. Of interest is that M. officinalis has also been reported to have anti-HIV-1 activity in vitro [11]M. officinalis also has reported antibacterial and antifungal activity in vitro [12].

M. officinalis was reported to have antioxidant effects in vitro, most likely based on flavonoid content (rosmarinic acid) [13] [14]. M. officinalis traditionally has been used as a nervine, or agent that supports the nervous system, and aids in decreasing stress with sometimes improving sleep [15]. The German Commission E approves the internal use of M. officinalis for nervous sleeping disorders and functional gastrointestinal complaints [1]. Liquid extracts can be purchased either fresh (1:1-1:2 w/v) or dried (1:4w/v).

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 [16].

Freeze-dried extracts (FDE) of Erva Cidreira, as well as products of the oxidation of certain of its constituents, have been reported to exert antithyrotropic activity in laboratory animals [17]. 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.



No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

M. officinalis has been reported safe in recommended dosages.

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


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Medicinal Herbs

  2) Essential Oil


  1. Blumenthal M, Eds, et al. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. MA:Integrative Medicine Communications Newton; 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. Begossi A, Hanazaki N, Tamashiro J. Medicinal Plants in the Atlantic Forest: Brazil. Human Ecol.30 (3).Sept2002.281-298.
  4. Duke JA. Medicinal Plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis. 2009.448.
  5. Wolbling RH, et al. Clinical Therapy for Herpes Simplex - Conception of a New Pharmaceutical Active Substance. Therapiewoche. 1984;34:1193-1200.
  6. Vogt HJ, et al. Melissa Extract for Herpes Simplex. Der Allgemeinarzt. 1991;13:832-841.
  7. Mohrig V. Melissa Extract for Herpes Simplex - The Alternative to Nucleoside Analogues. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung. 1996;50:109-114.
  8. Wolbling RH, et al. Local Therapy of Herpes Simplex with Dried Extract from Melissa Officinalis. Phytomedicine. 1994;1:25-31.
  9. Kovtchev R, et al. Balm mint extract (Lo-701) for topical treatment of recurring herpes labialis. Phytomedicine. Oct1999;6(4):225-230.
  10. Dimitrova Z, et al. Antiherpes effect of Melissa officinalis L. extracts. Acta Microbiol Bulg. 1993;29:65-72.
  11. Yamasake K, et al. Anti-HIV-1 activity of herbs in Labiatae. Biol Pharm Bull. Aug1998;21(8):829-833.
  12. Larrondo JV, et al. Antimicrobial activity of essences from labiates. Microbios. 1995;82(332):171-172.
  13. 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):576-578.
  14. Lamaison JL, et al. Medicinal Lamiaceae with antioxidant properties, a potential source of rosmarinic acid. Pharm Acta Helv. 1991;66(7):185-188.
  15. Soulimani R, et al. Neurotropic action of the hydroalcoholic extract of Melissa officinalis in the mouse. Planta Med. Apr1991;57(2):105-109.
  16. Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM. Antioxidant and Cyclooxygenase Inhibitory Phenolic Compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. Mar2000;7(1):7-13.
  17. 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):1687-1693.