The Calming Magic of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a lemon scented herb that from the mint family. Its leaves have a mild and delicious flavour, which are commonly used in herbal teas or added into meals to help flavour the dish.
Its uses have dated back to the 14th Century, where it is documented that lemon balm was prescribed to calm the body, the nervous system and the digestive system in order to create balance. Today, lemon balm is still widely used by naturopaths and herbalists for similar treatments.
How can we use lemon balm today?
Calming the nervous system
Lemon balm is frequently used to for its ability to calm and relax the nervous system during times of prolonged stress. Naturopaths and herbalists have been prescribing this medicinal herb for its mild sedative effect on the body, helping to calm the body and mind.
A 2004 study found that with daily use, lemon balm worked to improve negative moods, significantly increase calmness.
Due to its mild sedative effect on the body, taking lemon balm in the afternoon can be a beneficial way to unwind from a day of work and relax into the evening.
When we start to calm the body, we also see improvements in how the body responds to stress, mild anxiety and general mood irritability.
Lemon balm works to support our natural production of the amino acid Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). GABA has an important function in our brain, when levels get too low, it’s difficult for the body to relax. Essentially GABA naturally helps to relax the brain which makes us feel calm and settled.
Supporting quality of sleep
The use of herbal extracts have been found to reduce sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), increase the duration of sleep as well as the overall sleep quality. Lemon balm contains the compound Rosmarinic acid which has been found to improve the quality of sleep.
When we use lemon balm to support the nervous system, it also helps to relax the whole body and in turn encourages an evening of blissful sleep.
As well as general sleep support, one study found that lemon balm worked exceptionally well to enhance the quality of sleep for menopausal women.
Calming the digestive system
Lemon balm is frequently used to support the digestive system. It works by calming the stomach muscles and is especially helpful for those with IBS and situationally triggered digestive concerns such as a nervous tummy. For this application, lemon balm can be used as a powder, capsule, tea or herbal tincture to reduce the symptoms of bloating, colic and digestive cramping.
Calming period pain
Lemon balm is a wonderful herb to include for specific women’s health concerns such as dysmenorrhea (period pain). Its ability to relax uterine smooth muscle tissue prior to a menstrual bleed can reduce the severity of period pain as well as the heaviness of the bleed itself, mood changes prior to a bleed, PMS, and premenstrual fatigue.
To support this, lemon balm is best taken throughout the month, often with the addition of magnesium to reduce the severity of premenstrual symptoms.
Contributor: Alyce Cimino | Naturopath