Melissa officinalis is a plant from the mint family, which is why it is also known as balm mint. More often however it is referred to as lemon balm, sweet balm, or common balm.
Lemon balm may alleviate stress and anxiety and increase calmness, while improving mood and cognitive performance. In addition to being an anti-oxidant, lemon balm may have antidepressant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antitumoral, antiviral, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, and febrifuge properties. It may even be used as a cardiac and hepatic remedy.
However, my main interest in lemon balm is as a sleep herb.
Lemon Balm as a Sleep Herb
Lemon balm is a nervine and a mild sedative and can be used as sleep aid. Research has shown that it improves sleep quality and reduces levels of insomnia.
I recommend lemon balm for insomnia associated with tension or stress. It may also be helpful for people suffering from nightmares.
Research shows that when it is combined with valerian may also be useful for menopausal women who suffer from sleep disruption with hot flushes by reducing symptoms of sleep disorder.
Moreover, 8-week supplementation with 3 grams of lemon balm can decrease sleep disorder in patients with chronic stable angina.
Lemon balm may also be used in homeopathy to treat sleep bruxism in children.
Other possible benefits of lemon balm include
- increasing calmness and alertness during stress,
- reduction of anxiety and improvement of memory and alertness during mental testing,
- and improvement of mental performance.
Is Lemon Balm Psychoactive?
Some people claim that Melissa officinalis can be smoked as a psychoactive herb. And lemon balm is an ingredient in the psychoactive drink absinthe.
While lemon balm contains trace amounts of harmine, that it induces beyond just mild calming, relaxing, and anxiety-relieving properties psychoactive effect is questionable.
When smoked, lemon balm is said to cause lightheadedness and a calming effect.
I was able to find some reports on Erowid.org which suggest that even though it is quite mild, it is most certainly psychoactive and may even potentiate other herbs, such as cannabis (making it a great smoking mix alternative for tobacco).
Let’s take a look at a few excerpts from the Erowid experience reports:
One person made a crude extract of lemon balm from 6 grams of fresh leaves. He vaped some, and reported:
After a few hits, I could feel myself becoming slightly dizzy, and once I finished it, I felt like I was about to fall over. At this point however, I was in a land of bliss. I felt as if the world were perfectly at peace, very similarly to MDMA.
Someone else wrote:
Being an experienced user of benzodiazepines (esp. alprazolam and etizolam) and other ‘downers’/GABA agonists, I can safely say that there was a definite anxiolytic effect from this brew. I felt less annoyed and anxious about a stressful domestic situation within twenty minutes. I felt less annoyed and anxious about a stressful domestic situation within twenty minutes. I went bowling and felt quite loose and relaxed, even though we were on a lousy lane with sticky pins. I would compare the effect to a small dose (say, .5 mg) of alprazolam combined with a very small dose (say, one tiny puff) of marijuana, but much more clear-headed. They lasted about three hours.
Apparently, the herb may also bring about a boost of energy and stamina for some people. As one person who had been taking 500-2500 mg lemon balm daily for a while reported:
one day I took 1500mg of Lemon Balm and went biking about an hour later. […] After smoking I realized how much energy I had, at least double the energy than I’d normally experience. And directly alongside it was this feeling of euphoria and giddiness. […] My sense of smell even seemed to be a lot better than normal. A really good time basically! […] If I take it before bed I’ll typically wake up veiny (anti-inflammatory) and feel really warm, and just feel good all day. If I take in the morning before work the effects are similar but way more pronounced, lots of euphoria and energy and very low anxiety. I experience an overall desire to do work and to do it at my best potential! I basically take it every other day, and haven’t experienced any major withdrawal effects.
How to Use Lemon Balm?
The part of the plant used is the fresh or dried leaves and other aerial parts.
Tea (a hot water extract) can be made out of them, but cover your cup during steeping (10-15 minutes) to avoid losing essential oils. Use 2-3 teaspoons dried leaf (1.5-4.5 grams) or 4-6 grams fresh herb per 1 cup of boiling water.
Tincture dosage is 2-6 ml (1:5 in 40%/45%) or 2-4 ml for liquid extract (1:1 in 45%).
It is also possible, and perhaps easiest, to take Melissa officinalis capsules.
For a relaxing, calming, sleep inducing, anxiety-reducing, and tension-easing effect, it’s best to combine lemon balm with other plants, such as:
- Passiflora incarnata
- Valerian roots (Valeriana officinalis)
- Hop cons (Humulus lupulus)
The smoke is lemony, smooth, and pleasant.
Lemon balm can also be inhaled using a vaporizer.
Warnings & Precautions
Side effects may include increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and wheezing.
Ask your doctor before taking lemon balm for medicinal purposes if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, if you have diabetes, or if you are taking any medications, especially sedatives such as clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), and zolpidem (Ambien).
Avoid lemon balm if you have thyroid disease as it may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones.
Procuring Lemon Balm
It is very easy to cultivate lemon balm in your own herb garden or in a pot from seeds. Otherwise, get yourself some capsules, a tincture, or the dried herb. (Specific product reviews below.)
Specific Product Reviews
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) Organic Dried Leaf Liquid Extract by Hawaii Pharm
This product by Hawaii Pharm is non-GMO, organic, and gluten free. Made in Hawaii, USA in an FDA registered facility. This extract is produced using a cold maceration method of extraction to ensure that the broad spectrum of therapeutic plant compounds are fully extracted.
Concentration: 1:3. 1 ml of extract is equal to about 270-330 mg of dried leaves.
Contains: Alcohol, vegetable palm glycerin.
Also available as a non-alcoholic product, which includes purified water instead.
Also available as a 32 oz (!) jar filled with unfiltered extract containing plant material.
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Swanson Full Spectrum Lemon Balm Capsules (500 mg)
Contains gelatin from a vegetarian source. May also contain microcrystalline cellulose (plant fiber), magnesium stearate, and silica.
I heard lemon balm helps with sleep and anxiety and this definitely made a difference. I feel calmer and less awake at night, when my anxiety is at its worst.
Works well for me. I take one 30 – 60 minutes before bed as needed to help with anxiety.
This helps me feel relaxed enough to sleep at bedtime.
Includes Reusable Click & Grow Smart Garden with Lamp – White as well as Lemon Balm Herb Garden Refill. This is a smartpot, which uses sensors, software, and a nutrient system to optimally grow your herbs. Perfect for forgetful gardeners, busy city-dwellers, or constant travelers. Requires filling the water tank every 3-6 weeks.