Healthy Articles Archive

Supplement Focus: Lemon Balm

Dr. Carina Norris is a registered nutritionist, consultant and health journalist. She has written several books on nutrition and health, most recently Healthy Eating.

Whether you're trying to shift that cold sore or you're tossing and turning at night, this is the ideal tonic.

What is lemon balm?
As a member of the mint family, lemon balm can be grown in the garden. The lemon scented leaves contain terpenes (found in the essential oils of the plants) which contribute to its relaxing and antibiotic properties. Also contained in the leaves are the essential oils citral and eugenol. . This makes lemon balm useful for a variety of health conditions.

How can lemon balm help me?
Lemon balm can help improve the quality of sleep. In one study involving 68 women suffering from insomnia, those taking two capsules of 160mg valerian root extract and 80mg lemon balm extract for two weeks reported a 60% reduction in the severity of their problems.

Traditionally it has also been used to lessen  the unpleasant symptoms of indigestion - specifically excess wind. It is thought to help by easing spasms in the digestive tract.

Lemon balm may also help to  kill the cold-sore virus. Research has revealed that a group of patients with recurrent cold sores who were given a lemon-balm cream to apply four times daily healed significantly better than a similar group applying a placebo.

In addition to the antiviral effect, lemon balm also shows potential in the fight against bacteria and fungi.

How should I use it?
It's available in capsules, extracts, tinctures and aromatherapy oil.
You can also grow it in a pot or in the garden, or buy dried leaves to make into a tea or infusion. Steep a teaspoon of dried leaves or two teaspoons of fresh leaves in a mug of water and drink up to four times daily.

How much should I take?
The usual dosage is 300-500mg dried lemon balm, three times daily or as advised by your healthcare practitioner. However, as always it's vital to ensure you closely follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer.  Creams can be applied to the skin, or you could apply a tea/infusion with a cotton wool ball.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn't take it, plus it can interact with medications for anxiety, insomnia or thyroid problems. If you're affected by any of these conditions you should check with your GP first.


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