What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon Balm is a memory enhancing and anxiety relieving Nootropic, also known as Melissa officinalis. It is regarded as a calming herb with a mild lemon scent derived from the Lamiaceae mint plant with its most common uses revolving around inducing relaxation, relieving stress and boosting mood.
This herb was used as a remedy for a variety of ailments dating back as far as the middle ages. It was traditionally used as a mild sedative, pain reliever and versatile tonic to help relieve anxiety, headaches, insomnia and gastric problems associated with stress.
In Ancient Greek mythology, this perennial herb was considered as a cure-all tonic and was used to heal flesh wounds that occurred during sword battles. The oil extracted from the leaves were applied to the skin to help heal cuts and sores.
Lemon Balm has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-oxidant properties. In the modern day and in this respect, we now often see supplements containing this plant which are used to help fight cold sores and herpes outbreaks.
This herb was also used in Hellenic Greece in ancient rituals to encourage states of relaxation and mental focus. In fact, the herb got its name from the Greek word for honey bees “Melissa” since it was known to attract bees.
Today, there is a better understanding of this ancient herbal remedy and its organic compounds. Lemon Balm may not only play a supportive role in the body but is now known to have neurochemical functions in the brain that may play an important role in how the body copes with stress and its implications on cognition.
This article will serve as a summary of the major benefits and effects associated with Lemon Balm, why people use it as well as a guideline on how to take it safely.
Lemon Balm Effects
Lemon Balm and its extracts contain flavonoids, triterpenes, tannins and phenolic acids that are all contributors to the various effects of this supplement but eugenol and rosmarinic acid are the two main compounds that are thought to affect brain health and function.
The first and most important compound is Rosmarinic acid which may have anti-anxiety effects. All Lemon Balm extracts, oils and teas contain it in high concentrations. It is known to encourage greater blood flow and has been found to act as a GABA transaminase inhibitor in the brain (inhibits this enzyme that removes GABA) when it is released by neurons.
GABA is a primary and important calming neurotransmitter that is used to prevent the overexcitation of neurons and create balance. When the activity of this enzyme is decreased, GABA activity in the brain is then increased.
GABA plays a role in sleep cycles and ensures that our stress levels and communications in the brain remain normal even when under physical or mental extremes. When GABA levels in the brain are increased it can result in a calming and light sedative effect which is why Lemon Balm is commonly used to induce relaxation, reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep.
Another effect of Lemon Balm that may be responsible for its use to increase cognitive performance is that it may enhance cholinergic transmission. It is able to bind to both nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the brain that respond to Acetylcholine, an important chemical messenger related to memory formation, working memory capacity, learning and attention. This action may also have positive effects for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another chemical compound found in Lemon Balm extract is Eugenol. This is a powerful antioxidant, both acting to increase natural antioxidants in the brain and to neutralize free radicals in the body that can lead to damaging brain cells. It is also a substance known to relax muscles, numb tissues and kill bacteria.
When we are feeling mentally stressed, it can often cause involuntary tightening of the muscles and along with terpenes found in Lemon Balm, this supplement may have soothing and overall relaxing effects that help counteract various symptoms of stress.
Top Uses of Lemon Balm
Most individuals use Lemon Balm as a natural supplement to help reduce daily stress, common anxiety, increase memory and as a sleep aid to promote deep, restful sleep.
Lemon Balm interacts with stress-fighting GABA receptors. When used at night just prior to bedtime, it promotes relaxation and helps quiet the mind from restless thoughts which is thought to be a primary cause in people who suffer from insomnia.
When used for daily stress, Lemon Balm is considered to have powerful anxiolytic effects. Users report that it works fast at promoting a sense of calmness, soothes feelings of irritability and helps tame racing thoughts, effects that some users say may work as well as Xanax.
Additionally, as a Nootropic, Lemon Balm has shown to have positive effects on mental performance. Healthy users have reported experiencing a boost in mental focus, memory and learning capacity and fluid thought when overwhelming stress thoughts are tamed. These effects may also help with hyperactive thoughts and cognition associated with ADHD.
Finally, phenolic acids, flavonoids and other compounds found in Lemon Balm may have antiviral effects and it is commonly used to battle cold sores (herpes labialis). It is widely reported online to be a good solution to use when they first appear.
Lemon Balm Side Effects and Safety
Lemon Balm used on its own is considered non-toxic and very safe to use for daily stress. When taking this natural herb, typically most users should not experience side effects at all.
However, taking it in combination with anti-anxiety, muscle relaxers, sedatives, tranquilizers or alcohol in an attempt to produce optimum stress and anxiety-relieving effects is not recommended. This herb is considered to have sedative effects and these pairings can cause excessive drowsiness and sedation to dangerous levels.
If you are first exploring into non-prescription options that promote powerful anxiolytic effects you may want to want to look into stronger Nootropics like Sulbutiamine, an energy enhancing more concentrated form of Vitamin B1.
In addition, Lemon Balm may interact with anti-seizure drugs, antihistamines and should be avoided if you are taking thyroid medications.
This supplement should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing. It is also not recommended for children.
Lemon Balm Dosage
When using Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) for Nootropic purposes, the most accepted dosage range is between 300mg to 600mg per day. It is available in tea or capsule form and considered most potent in extract capsules.
For stress relief purposes, 300 mg per day is suggested to be the lowest effective dose and may be a good place to start before raising the dosage. If using Lemon Balm for other purposes such as a sleep aid or for anxiolytic purposes, slightly higher amounts may be needed (such as 300mg twice daily).
Lemon Balm is also available in various formulation such as tea and topical skin rub. It is always recommended to start at the lowest effective dose and to first test a small area of the skin if using topically.
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