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- About lemon balm
- Research on the benefits of lemon balm for quality, restful sleep
- Research that has shown mixed or incomplete results on lemon balm + sleep
- Other potential health benefits of lemon balm
- Dosage at which benefits have been shown
- Who lemon balm is best for
- Forms of lemon balm
- Side effects
- The bottom line
- How lemon balm stacks up to other natural sleep ingredients
Here at Proper, we 🤓 nerd 🤓 out over the science of sleep. Years of rigorous research went into developing products to directly support aspects of the mind and body that impact sleep quality. Our PhD-led formulations team looked for ingredients backed by multiple human clinical studies that verified the efficacy of the ingredient itself AND its dosage—with no conflicting findings. All were double-blind and placebo-controlled.
We’ve taken this same vigor and applied it here, to our ingredient guides that evaluate what the science says (and doesn’t say) about various vitamins, minerals, and herbs/natural botanicals. Some are in our products, others aren’t. The goal? Equip you with the know-how to make the most informed decisions for your personal sleep journey.
Melissa officinalis L, more commonly known as lemon balm, is part of the mint family and has a subtle citrusy flavor. It’s recognized today for its mild antibacterial, antioxidant, and sedative effects, although records on its use as a medicinal plant date back over 2,000 years. (1-2)
Lemon balm has been studied in patients suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. In a pilot trial, in which it was administered via standardized extracts, lemon balm was shown to reduce anxiety (a primary barrier to quality sleep) by 18% and lower insomnia by 42%. (3) These benefits to mood and sleep may be regulated by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain, but further research is needed to elucidate the mechanism of action.
Lemon balm alone has not been extensively studied—and when it has, the clinical trials have been small. For example, a 2004 study, (4) which found that lemon balm may help relieve stress and promote a sense of calmness and reduced alertness, was conducted on a sample size of just 18 people, meaning more research is needed to validate these findings.
Another significant limitation of the research behind lemon balm is that many studies evaluate it as a combination supplement with valerian. (5-8) It’s also been studied in combination with IQP-AO-101, which is a proprietary formulation that contains asparagus extract, saffron extract, lemon balm extract, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. Despite the promising results, it’s important not to attribute it to lemon balm alone.
Proper has multiple human clinical studies verifying the efficacy of each ingredient AND dosage in our supplements—with no conflicting findings.
- Cold sores
When applied as a cream, lemon balm has been found (10) to reduce the symptoms of cold sores and speed up the healing process.
The scientific evidence behind lemon balm for indigestion relief is sparse, but one small 2010 study (11) did show that participants who ate a sorbet with the herb after a meal experienced more subdued symptoms of functional dyspepsia (a type of indigestion) compared to the placebo group who just ate the plain sorbet without lemon balm.
- Cognitive performance
Building off the hypothesis that lemon balm—because of its in vitro cholinergic binding properties—may improve cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease, researcher Andrew B. Scholey and his team wanted to evaluate (12) the effect of acute administration of melissa officinalis (lemon balm) on mood and cognitive function. 20 young, healthy participants received single doses of 300, 600, 900 mg of lemon balm or a matching placebo. Results included a sustained improvement in the accuracy of attention (at the highest dose) as well as elevated calmness (at the lowest dose) and reduced alertness (at all doses).
The fact that a supplement contains an ingredient is only one half of the equation. It’s also necessary to ensure that the ingredient is included at the dosage levels in which it has been proven effective.
For lemon balm, the promising results for anxiety and insomnia (13) have been shown when administered via 600 mg per day (divided into two doses) of Cyracos®, an extract that has been standardized to consist of more than 7% rosmarinic acid and greater than 15% of hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives.
Proper formulations directly support aspects of the mind + body that impact sleep quality.
If you find that stress, anxiety, and a racing mind are impacting your ability to fall and/or stay asleep, lemon balm may be for you.
Lemon balm supplements
It’s possible to find lemon balm in supplement form (typically 300 - 500 mg dosage).
READ MORE: The FDA Regulates Supplement Facts Differently Than Nutrition Facts. Here's Why.
Lemon balm tea
Lemon balm tea is a common herbal option that usually consists of a quarter to a teaspoon of dried lemon balm leaves steeped in hot water.
READ MORE: 7 Best Teas For Sleep
Lemon balm culinary herb
Lemon balm is available as a dried leaf that can be used as a substitute for lemon peel in soups, sauces, or even seafood—although keep in mind that the only significant study on the anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods was conducted on an iced tea drink (with similar bioavailability to a capsule) and a drinkable yogurt. (14)
When used topically or taken orally at the correct dose for up to 30 days, lemon balm is not associated with any side effects. However, it is not advised for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, those on thyroid medications, or in combination with sedatives. As with any new supplement or herbal medicine regime, it’s best first to consult with your healthcare provider.
Lemon balm may have mild anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects which, in turn, may help with sleep. However, because most research has been conducted on small sample sizes and in combination formulas, it may be best to consider alternative natural sleep aids backed by more clinical trials—and with no competing results.
Interested in exploring alternative natural ingredients and herbal remedies for better sleep and overall wellness? We’ve got you covered:
- Does Chamomile Help With Sleep?
- Does Magnesium Help With Sleep?
- Does Vitamin D Help With Sleep?
- Guide To GABA For Better Sleep
- GABA vs Melatonin For Sleep
- Guide To Ashwagandha For Stress + Anxiety
- Guide To Melatonin: Uses, Types, Side Effects
- Guide To Valerian Root For Sleep
- Guide To L-theanine For Sleep
- CBD vs Melatonin For Sleep
- Guide To Tart Cherry For Sleep
Sleep Problems During Menopause: Causes + Treatment
3 Best Essential Oils For Sleep: A Complete Guide To Aromatherapy
When To See A Sleep Specialist: 6 Signs + Symptoms Of A Sleep Disorder
The Relationship Between Sleep + Memory