As far back as the middle-ages the herb Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has been celebrated for its medicinal properties. You may have heard Lemon balm being recommended as a calming herb to improve sleep, indigestion and bloating and can be taken in a variety of ways including as a tea, tincture, capsule and even topically depending on the complaint being treated.1
Lemon balm comes from the mint family and not surprisingly, has a subtle minty flavour combined with zesty lemon. It makes a delicious evening brew prior to sleep. If you are a fan of herbal teas, you have probably seen many different brands using Lemon balm as a key ingredient. For the more experimental tea aficionados, making your own Lemon balm infused tea is actually really easy, and can be done using either fresh or dry leaves. The rule of thumb is to use three times as many fresh leaves as dried, and simply place in an infuser, add boiled water and steep for one minute or longer if you like your tea stronger. You can even add a little honey for sweetness or a splash of lemon juice to give it a little more punch!
The main medicinal properties or benefits of Lemon balm are generally considered to stem from its essential oil and phenolic compounds content.2 Phenolic compounds are a class of compounds, including things like acids, flavonoids, tannins, coumarins, lignans, quinones, stilbens and curcuminoids.3 Some of those names might sound familiar – curcuminoids for example, come from turmeric. You are hard pressed to pick up a health magazine these days that doesn’t mention turmeric and curcumin. For Lemon balm, flavonoids are the headline compound that provides the most publicised health benefits because these flavonoids give it antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that, at a cellular level, can regulate free radical damage in your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body that can cause damage to healthy cells and need to be regulated by the body.4
Lemon balm also contains rosmarinic acid, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid5 and these acids have been linked to alleviating sleep disturbances. Problems falling asleep and staying asleep is possibly one of the most prevalent health complaints in adults around the world. A recent study suggests that in Europe for example, 16.5% of the population suffers from a sleep disorder of some kind6. Lemon balm can be an ideal herbal alternative to help you manage what can be a frustrating and truly exhausting problem!
Just remember to talk to your health care professional when considering taking a herbal supplement to ensure there are no interactions with other medications and if you have any concerns about your health.