The Balmy Effect of Lemon Balm

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Lemons are nice and tasty and so sour, even the most adamant lovers of the fruit scrunch up their face. And then, there’s lemon balm, an herb belonging to the mint family which has immense healing properties, especially in fighting insomnia and herpes. Yes, those two words were used in the same sentence. Lemon balm is indeed a priceless addition to one's herb garden.

This bit of natural miracle has been used for centuries, having become the medication of choice during the middle ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort of colic babies, alongside other forms of indigestion. Earlier on, considering the time before Christ, lemon balm was used in wine to lift the spirits and heal wounds.

Did you know that lemon balm is also used in cosmetics and furniture polish? It’s an herb similar to mint that can grow up to 2 feet high, with the leaves tasting both tart and sweet like lemons. It is, in essence, a versatile plant, both delicious and useful in preserving one’s health.

What does research have to say about it’s worth?

• According to the Maryland Medical Center, several studies show that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs, including but not limited to valerian, hops, and chamomile, helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. However, the research has not looked at lemon balm individually, but always in combination with another herb. Of those who took valerian with lemon balm, 81% reported better quality sleep and higher levels of relaxation.

• Another double blind study concluded that a 600 mg lemon balm extract significantly increased calmness and alertness, as well as lifting moods considerably.

• Lemon balm used in topical medication is used to heal cold sores, significantly reducing redness and swelling within 2 days. Furthermore, when used to treat this Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), several studies where lemon balm ointment was used saw a lack of recurrence of cold sores.

• There might also be a breakthrough in studies soon that show the link between Lemon balm and reducing symptoms of HIV.

• Lemon balm oil has shown to have high levels of bacteria fighting abilities.

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• Lemon balm combined with other herbs can be used to relieve indigestion.

• A few early studies have also shown a link between lemon balm and a decrease in agitation combined with an increase in cognitive abilities in Alzheimer’s patients.

There are many ways to take lemon balm. For children, it is recommended to stick to only topical creams. For adults however, there are a few ways a doctor trained in the field of botanical medicine may prescribe, according to the Maryland Medical Center:

• As capsules: Take 300 - 500 mg of dried lemon balm, 3 times per day or as needed.

• As tea: 1.5 - 4.5 grams (1/4 - 1 teaspoonful) of dried lemon balm in hot water. Steep it for a few minutes and drink up to 4 times per day.

• As tincture: 60 drops of lemon balm per day

• As topical cream: Apply to affected area, 3 times per day or as directed.

• For cold sores or herpes sores: Steep 2 - 4 tsp. full of crushed leaf in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool before applying tea with cotton balls to the sores.

Natural health is often the best route to take and lemon balm is no exception. Soon, studies will focus more deeply on the use of herbal medicine, utilizing the botanical world around us to protect from and cure diseases that ail us constantly. Not to mention, its taste is undoubtedly preferable to that of over-the-counter or prescribed medication by pharmaceuticals. It’s usually better to go the natural route. Thank goodness for lemon balm!

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

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