Lemon balm: properties, use and benefits

Lemon balm: properties, use and benefits

Lemon balm is a small aromatic plant rich in essential oil with countless properties and benefits for health and beauty


  • Characteristics of the plant
  • Properties and benefits
  • How to use it
  • Contraindications and side effects

Characteristics of the plant

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a small aromatic herbaceous, belonging to the Labiateae or Lamiaceae family, probably native to Turkey and now widely spread throughout the Mediterranean area, where it grows spontaneously in vegetable gardens, gardens and fresh, shady lawns. The lemon balm plant grows to a maximum of 80 centimeters in height and has erect, branched and quadrangular stems that bear opposite, oval, wrinkled leaves. When rubbed, the lemon balm leaves give off a pleasant scent reminiscent of lemon. The flowers are small, whitish or pink and give rise to small fruits formed by four achenes.

The lemon balm drug consists of the leaves, rich in essential oil with antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic and sedative activity. The tops are harvested just before flowering and are used fresh or dried to obtain dry or liquid extracts. The essential oil of lemon balm and hydrolate, used in herbal medicine and cosmetics, are also obtained by steam distillation of leaves and flowers.

Properties and benefits

Lemon balm leaves contain flavonoids, polyphenols and an essential oil consisting mainly of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, chemical compounds responsible for the properties and benefits of this small aromatic plant.

Lemon balm has antioxidant, sedative and antispasmodic properties as well as the antibacterial and antifungal action typical of many essential oils. Traditionally it is used to calm spasms, therefore in case of colic, gastric problems and menstrual pain. The hydroalcoholic extract is used for its sedative properties on the central nervous system and therefore represents a valid remedy for anxiety, agitation and mild insomnia. Preparations based on lemon balm are then used for digestive problems, for example in the case of excess gas in the stomach and intestines, as well as to relieve spasms caused by excessive anxiety.

Thanks to its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, lemon balm is also used to treat infections of the skin and mucous membranes. The aqueous and hydroalcoholic extracts are active, for example, against Herpes simplex.

How to use it

Lemon balm leaves can be used dried or fresh to prepare digestive and sedative herbal teas, as well as being used to obtain aqueous, hydroalcoholic, essential oil and hydrosol extracts. Since lemon balm tends to lose much of its aroma and properties shortly after harvest, it is generally preferred to use the fresh plant rather than dried. Fresh lemon balm leaves can be taken in the form of herbal tea, leaving them to infuse for a few minutes in hot water or overnight in cold water.

Alternatively it is possible to resort to the mother tincture of lemon balm, which is obtained by letting the flowering tops macerate in a mixture of water and alcohol appropriately dosed. To promote digestive processes, take 30-40 drops dispersed in warm water after main meals, alone or in combination with gentian, turmeric, artichoke or ginger. In case of anxiety and agitation, the indication is 20 drops of tincture three times a day, also associated with valerian, passion flower or hawthorn.

Lemon balm essential oil is mainly used for its sedative properties, spreading a few drops in the burner or diffuser, or by pouring two or three drops on the pillow before bedtime. To promote relaxation and rest it is also possible to perform soothing massages by diluting one or two drops of essence in sunflower or sweet almond oil: the preparation can also be used by massaging a few drops on the wrists or behind the ears to promote calm and relaxation. or for localized applications in case of herpes on the lips, pimples, folliculitis and other skin conditions. Thanks to the soothing action of lemon balm, the massage oil obtained with its essence is also excellent for calming skin irritations, redness and cracking.

Lemon balm hydrolate, on the other hand, is a cosmetic ingredient that is useful for sensitive and delicate skin, prone to allergies, dry or irritated. It can be used as an alternative to the traditional tonic, for localized skin applications or it can be inserted into face masks or clay-based compresses to make poultices on irritated skin. For internal use, lemon balm hydrolate for food is administered to treat digestive problems, nausea, menstrual pain, irregular menstrual cycles, headaches, water retention and menopause disorders.

Contraindications and side effects

Lemon balm is considered a safe remedy and has no side effects or contraindications. However, the use of this plant is not recommended for allergy sufferers. Lemon balm essential oil, like most essences, should not be used pure on skin and mucous membranes but always diluted; for internal use, it is good to consult your doctor before administration.


Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine
Journal of Ethnopharmacology

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