Herb Library: Natural Herbs and Herbal Supplements Directory: Lemon Balm


Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm


This fact sheet provides basic information about Lemon Balm. Lemon balm is a low-growing perennial herb with ovate- or heart-shaped leaves that emit a lemon odor when bruised. The small yellow or white flowers are attractive to bees and other insects. It is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and western Asia, and widely naturalized in Europe, Asia, and North America. The leaves are harvested before flowering and used medicinally.

Lemon balm has been used in herbal medicine since the times of Pliny (Roman, AD 23-79), Dioscorides (Greek, AD 40-90), Paracelsus (Austrian 1493-1541), and John Gerard (English, 1545-1612). The name Melissa corresponds to the Greek word for bee, while balm is a contraction of balsam . The plant has culinary and medicinal uses, with principal historical medicinal uses being carminative, diaphoretic, and antipyretic.

Common Names

Lemon Balm, Balm, Melissa, Sweet Balm

Latin Names

Melissa officinalis

What It Is Used For

  • Primary interest in lemon balm surrounds its effects on the central nervous system.
  • One small study demonstrated decreased stress and agitation in patients with dementia and Alzheimer disease.
  • Lemon balm cream has shown some efficacy in herpes virus lesions in a few small placebo-controlled trials.

How It Is Used

For difficulty sleeping or to reduce stomach complaints, flatulence, or bloating, choose from the following:

  • Tea, using 1.5 to 4.5 g herb, several times daily
  • 2 to 3 mL tincture three times daily, or the equivalent in fluid extract or encapsulated form

For cold sores or herpes sores, steep 2 to 4 tsp of crushed leaf in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool. Apply with cotton balls to the sores throughout the day.

For children, lemon balm may be used topically on cold sores. The dosage would be the same as the recommendations for this use in adults. For internal use, adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 to 25 kg), the appropriate dose of lemon balm for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.

What the Science Says

  • Placebo-controlled trials have shown symptomatic improvement for herpes virus lesions after application of a standardized lemon balm cream applied 2 to 4 times daily for 5 to 10 days.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • None well documented. Most clinical trials report no adverse reactions.


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