In response to the increasingly growing demand, many studies conducted in the phytotherapy arena have tried to identify the plants presenting the best soothing and anti-stress qualities.
Several cooperative trials have shown the significant relaxing properties of lemon balm and demonstrated its superior effectiveness at lower doses when compared to valerian and passion flower – two of the most utilized plants in sedative pharmaceutical applications.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a "calming" herb. It was used in the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort associated with digestion (including flatulence and bloating as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings.
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 18 healthy volunteers received two separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or placebo for 7 days. The 600 mg dose of lemon balm increased mood and significantly increased calmness and alertness.
Kennedy DO, Little W, Haskell CF, Scholey AB. Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. 2006;20(2):96-102.
Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;66(4):607-13.
Ballard CG, O'Brien JT, Reichelt K, Perry EK. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002;63(7):553-8.
Patora J, Klimek B. Flavonoids from lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., Lamiaceae). Acta Pol Pharm. 2002;59(2):139-43.
Muller SF, Klement S. A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children. Phytomedicine. 2006;13(6):383-7.
Kennedy DO, Wake G, Savelev S, et al., Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003;28(10):1871-81.