Lemon balm tea’s citrus scent is enough on its own to brighten your day. However, this herbal remedy, which is, in fact, a member of the mint family, has many more reasons behind its growth in popularity in Australia.
Lemon balm tea possesses mood-lifting benefits that go far beyond simply smelling wonderful, making it increasingly popular in Australia. These include effects against insomnia, PMS and depression, including post-partum depression or the “baby blues”.
Let’s take a look at how lemon balm tea may not only improve our mental health but also relieve inflammation and even have certain antiviral benefits.
Lemon balm tea may relieve depression
If you have experienced depression, you will know that it is far more than just being sad, as it leaves you feeling trapped and in despair. And it certainly brings hope that lemon balm tea may relieve depression.
Lemon balm can be effective for depression because it increases levels of serotonin, a mood-lifting, stress-relieving neurotransmitter. These properties also make it potentially beneficial for anxiety.
Research shows that lemon balm extract may be as effective as conventional treatment in relieving depression without harmful side effects. Its benefits hold up in mild to moderate depression, but we don’t yet know if it may work for severe cases.
A clinical trial of 45 people compared the benefits of lemon balm to lavender, as well as the antidepressant medication fluoxetine, for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Lemon balm extract almost halved depression scores from an average of around 18 points to just over 10, a decrease of 7.8 points. Like lavender, it did not have the side effects of fluoxetine; neither caused anxiety or sexual dysfunction.
You can combine lemon balm with Valerian Root for even stronger anxiety relief.
Lemon balm extract may be equal to antidepressants in efficacy, but without the side effects. However, this only applies to mild and moderate cases, so seek professional help if you cannot find relief.
Sleep better at night with lemon balm tea
Adding to the benefits of lemon balm tea for mental health is its ability to relieve insomnia.
Many women experience insomnia for the first time during menopause, which adds to the negative effects of losing the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, on our health and longevity.
Poor sleep further worsens these hormonal imbalances, so it is both a cause and a symptom of age-related issues that appear during this time.
Lemon balm appeared to work by increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA, while preventing the breakdown of mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This may partially restore levels of these neurotransmitters, which fall in menopause because of the loss of oestrogen.
Another study, this time on 100 women in their 50s, found that combining lemon balm and valerian extracts significantly improved sleep quality.
Almost one-third of women taking the herbal remedies had sleep quality scores of four or less on a 21-point scale, compared to 10% of the placebo group. No one taking the lemon balm and Valerian combination had insomnia scores of 15 or over.
A second study tested lemon balm and Persian lavender together for their benefits in insomnia for people with anxiety and depression.
Insomnia scores fell almost one-third, from 16.69 to 11.3 in the herbal medicine group, while they barely changed in the placebo group. Anxiety and depression scores improved too.
To learn more about ways to solve your sleeping problems naturally, check out this article.
Through its ability to restore levels of calming neurotransmitters, lemon balm extract can soothe insomnia in situations including insomnia and depression.
Lemon balm tea for stress relief
Did you know that over 80% of doctors’ visits in the USA are for chronic illnesses related to stress? Lemon balm tea for stress relief may be an important preventive strategy we can use for our long-term health.
Cortisol is a stress hormone essential for healthy energy production and sleep-wake cycles, but it can cause tissue damage at high levels.
Thankfully, lemon balm tea can reduce levels of cortisol, assisting in stress relief. However, the other ingredients you combine it with can make all the difference, especially what you decide to sweeten your tea with.
A clinical trial tested lemon balm on its own, as part of either an iced tea or as an extract mixed with yoghurt, for its benefits in anxiety and cognition.
Both the iced tea and yoghurt reduced cortisol levels while improving anxiety and cognitive function. These results only held up without the addition of artificial sweeteners, which prevented the improvements in cognition and made anxiety worse than before.
For additional stress relief, check out this blog on blue lotus tea.
Lemon balm tea may be effective in relieving anxiety and boosting cognition, but only when it is prepared without artificial sweeteners.
Lemon balm can be a helping hand for memory and focus
Our memories make up a large part of who we are as people, while focus helps us build our future; a lack of one or both can be debilitating as a result. Thankfully, lemon balm may support memory and focus regardless of your age.
As children and teenagers, we may notice that we have trouble focusing on some things – or anything, even subjects we’re passionate about. When we get older, our poor memories may start to worry us.
Lemon balm tea may be helpful in relieving poor concentration and hyperactivity in children with signs of ADD and ADHD, as well as improving memory and focus in older adults at risk of cognitive decline.
Lemon balm for ADD and ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) aren’t just about an inability to sit still, with symptoms including a lack of motivation and poor organisation. Although ADD and ADHD can prevent children and adults from achieving their dreams, remedies such as lemon balm may help.
Lemon balm can increase levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is indispensable for cognition. What’s more, it has relaxing effects too, providing the right combination of benefits to calm hyperactivity and improve focus in mild ADD and ADHD.
Even when symptoms of ADD and ADHD are not severe enough for a clinical diagnosis, they can have detrimental impacts on our daily lives.
For this reason, a clinical study tested lemon balm and valerian extracts, taken together for seven weeks, on a group of 169 children. The rate of hyperactivity fell from 61% to 13%, and inability to focus fell from 75% to 14%, all without negative side effects.
Age-related cognitive dysfunction and lemon balm
As for older adults, lemon balm tea may improve memory and focus in those at risk for dementia.
Lemon balm’s benefits seem to be from its ability to increase the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. This is a key neurotransmitter for the communication between brain cells, and therefore cognition. Low levels are seen in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Immediate memory is short-term memory, for example, something you’ve only just seen. Working memory is like your mental “bandwidth” and involves how much you can remember at one time.
Another clinical study, this time on 70 people aged between 60 and 74 years, compared lemon balm and frankincense extracts to a placebo. After just one month, working and immediate memory significantly improved, including auditory and visual memory.
Lemon balm’s effects on our neurotransmitters can improve memory and focus regardless of age, from ADD to people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lemon balm tea and period pain
Period pain is no joke and is a major reason why menstruation has been referred to as the “curse” for so long. But even though the vast majority of women are expected to have period pain at some point, lemon balm tea may be an effective remedy.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of lemon balm involve a reduction in prostaglandins, the specific type of inflammatory signalling chemicals that trigger uterine contractions. This means it may help relieve dysmenorrhoea or period pain in teenage girls and women who are otherwise healthy.
A study involving 90 teenage girls tested the benefits of lemon balm extract against overall menstrual symptoms, which include period pain.
Lemon balm significantly relieved fatigue and mood swings, making period pain feel much worse and can keep women and girls stuck at homesick, even if pain medication is working.
A second clinical trial studied lemon balm in combination with sage in young women.
Average levels of period pain fell from 6.3 to 3.94 out of 10 during the first month, and they fell a little further to 3.24 during the second month. Only one-quarter of women needed medication instead of just over half before treatment, and the duration of pain fell too.
Need extra support with relieving period pain? Rose tea may lend a second helping hand on its own or be blended with lemon balm.
Menstruation does not have to be a curse, as the anti-inflammatory benefits of lemon balm reduce the severity and duration of period pain.
Lemon balm and irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an unfortunately common condition that can involve diarrhoea, constipation, or both. It seems to be difficult to treat holistically, but lemon balm tea may be helpful in calming the digestive system.
If your IBS flares up when you are stressed or eat the wrong foods, you may have inflammation to blame. This causes over-sensitivity of the nervous system, otherwise known as visceral hypersensitivity. Here, you perceive pain and irritation where there is really no issue.
Lemon balm tea has shown early benefits in treating irritable bowel syndrome in laboratory research. This is because IBS may have inflammation as an underlying cause.
A lab study on lemon balm for visceral hypersensitivity and bowel issues found that lemon balm’s anti-inflammatory abilities significantly relieved visceral hypersensitivity. Rats with a model of IBS had reduced symptoms such as diarrhoea in response to irritation, which was related to relief of inflammation.
For additional digestive health support, read this article on the best teas for digestion in Australia.
Irritable bowel syndrome can have an oversensitive nervous system as its underlying cause. Lemon balm may thankfully calm this response.
Other amazing benefits of lemon balm
Lemon balm has other amazing benefits too, in women’s health and the relief of cold sores.
Topical lemon balm for cold sores
Cold sores are annoying, unsightly lesions that appear when we are stressed out and our immune systems are down as a result. Lemon balm may have antiviral properties, which can compensate for this when our immunity is low.
A clinical trial of a topical lemon balm treatment for cold sores significantly reduced their severity in two days. All volunteers had at least four flare-ups of cold sores in a year, putting them in the worst 10% in terms of cold sore frequency.
In this study of 66 people, a cream containing 1% lemon balm dry leaf extract decreased the severity of cold sores by 20% after only two days of treatment. Burning, itching and stabbing pain were also significantly less severe.
Additional research showed how lemon balm’s phytochemicals have antiviral effects against the herpes virus family. This includes the type that causes cold sores.
According to the research, components of lemon balm extract block the herpes virus from entering human cells. Viruses can only reproduce and cause illness if they are able to enter cells and take over the function of DNA, forcing the cell to make copies of them. The immune system has an easier task of wiping out the virus if it cannot reproduce.
Lemon balm may support post-partum recovery
Post-partum recovery can be further complicated by the “baby blues”, which may only last for a few days – or become a chronic condition. Lemon balm may support post-partum recovery by helping to prevent this form of depression.
Lemon balm tea could help prevent short-term sadness from developing into long-term depression. Like its benefits for insomnia, lemon balm may work by increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA.
In a clinical trial, 60 women took either three daily 500mg doses of lemon balm extract or a placebo to see its effect on their emotional state. Only one woman, 3.3% of the treated group, had post-partum blues, which disappeared within two weeks. Half of the placebo group developed the complaint, and one-third still had it after two weeks.
Post-partum blues is more likely to turn into chronic post-partum depression if it remains beyond two weeks, so it is important to actively seek relief in the short-term stage.
To match the above study where lemon balm was effective in preventing post-partum blues from becoming chronic, drink three cups of strong tea each day.
Lemon balm’s other benefits include the ability to speed up the clearance of cold sores through its antiviral effects and relief of post-partum blues by the restoration of calming neurotransmitters.
How to use lemon balm in your daily life
The two best ways to use lemon balm in your daily life are as herbal tea and as part of skin cream for cold sores.
As a tea, you can enjoy it alone if you need a higher dose or combine it with other bright, tangy flavours such as orange peel or ginger. Lemon balm is a generally safe herbal remedy that you can incorporate into your daily life at a dose of up to four cups daily.
The most common recommendation for using lemon balm is eight to 10 grams of dried leaf per day, whether you prefer it as a tea or food ingredient.
If you like to make tinctures, which further concentrates the medicinal qualities, a dose of2-6mL, three times daily, is recommended.
Who shouldn’t use lemon balm
There are some situations where lemon balm is not safe, or we don’t know enough about it.
High doses of lemon balm are not recommended in pregnancy or for babies because of insufficient information. There is a chance that lemon balm could reduce the production of thyroid hormones, meaning it should be avoided in cases of hypothyroidism.
As for using the lemon balm as a cream, it is best to be cautious if you have sensitive skin. Cases of dermatitis, localised skin reddening and increased sensitivity to allergy are known to occur with lemon balm cream.
Other, more theoretical reasons to avoid lemon balm include use alongside sedative drugs or antidepressants and if you have glaucoma, as it may increase pressure in the eyes. Lemon balm may have additive effects with herbal sedatives too, including kava and hops.
Lemon balm extracts and teas are safe for most people in doses of up to five cups, or 10 grams, of tea per day. Use caution if you are pregnant, have hypothyroidism, or have sensitive skin.
Lemon balm tea is growing in popularity in Australia for its potential to improve mental and physical health. You may find relief from stress and anxiety, including improved sleep.
Or, perhaps you could enjoy a brighter mood and clearer mind. Physical health benefits you may experience include a reduction in inflammation and antiviral effects against the herpes virus.
If you’d like to try lemon balm tea for yourself, click here to make your first purchase.