Natural Health Products
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Lemon balm is a perennial, lemon-scented herb with pointed, heart-shaped or oval leaves and small white or yellow flowers. It is from the same family as mint and sage. It is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia but is now grown in Europe, Asia, and North America. It is also known as melissa, which is a Greek word for “bee.” The active ingredients of lemon balm that give its medicinal properties come from the aerial parts (above ground) of the plant.
Historically, lemon balm was said to have sedating/tranquilizing, anti-gas, blood-pressure-lowering, memory-enhancing, fever-reducing, menstruation-inducing, and thyroid-related effects. People have been using lemon balm medicinally since the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
How is this product usually used?
Lemon balm can either be taken orally or used topically. The leaves of lemon balm are used to make oral supplements, including tea, tincture, and liquid extract. People have also used creams and teas containing lemon balm to apply to the skin.
Lemon balm is also commonly combined with other herbs and supplements, such as valerian extract, orange peel, and cinnamon.
The usual adult oral dose ranges from 0.4 g to 13.5 g per day of the dried aerial parts (leaves, flowers, stems).
Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What is this product used for?
Lemon balm is used in traditional herbal medicine as a sleep aid, especially in cases of difficulty sleeping or restlessness due to mental stress. It has also been used traditionally to help with digestive problems such as stomach upset and heartburn or indigestion.
People have also used it to treat agitation in dementia, anxiety, infant colic, irritable bowel syndrome, and restlessness, and to improve mental performance. However, there is insufficient data to confirm the effectiveness of lemon balm for these conditions and more research is needed to confirm its benefits.
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
Taken by mouth, lemon balm is usually well tolerated in recommended doses up to 30 days in otherwise healthy adults. Side effects can include drowsiness, sedation, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, sleep disturbances, and wheezing. When it is applied to the skin, it can cause local skin reddening, irritation, pigmentation, tingling, and a burning sensation.
Lemon balm can cause drowsiness. Do not drive or engage in other activities requiring alertness if the product affects you in this way.
Do not take lemon balm with alcohol or other medications or health products with sleep-inducing properties (e.g., antidepressants, lorazepam). Using these products together can cause excessive drowsiness and sleepiness. Due to its sleep-inducing properties, lemon balm may strengthen the effects of anesthesia and other medications used during surgery. Stop taking lemon balm at least 2 weeks before surgery.
Lemon balm may also interact with thyroid replacement therapy (e.g., levothyroxine).
Do not use lemon balm if you are allergic to it. If you experience a severe allergic reaction (swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing), stop using the supplement and seek medical attention.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, contact your heath care provider.
If you are taking lemon balm to help sleep, consult your health care provider if you still have trouble sleeping after using lemon balm for more than 4 weeks.
It is not known whether lemon balm is safe for in pregnant and breast-feeding women to use. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding before using this supplement.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- Health Canada. Drug & Health Products. Monograph – Lemon balm. https://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=lemon.balm&lang=eng.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Lemon Balm.
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