By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 4 February 2015)
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (2011), lemon balm, which is a member of the mint family, has traditionally been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, stomach upsets, and various other problems. It is often combined with other calming herbs such as chamomile and valerian.
The Effectiveness of Lemon Balm for Treating Anxiety
People who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have dysfunctional GABA systems. Lemon balm inhibits GABA-transaminase, a substance that degrades GABA in the body (Head & Kelly, 2009). Therefore, it’s possible that lemon balm reduces anxiety by affecting the GABA system.
Studies have shown stress-reduction benefits in lab animals with lemon balm supplementation (Johnson, 2007), and a number of studies have shown that a combination of lemon balm with valerian, hops, or chamomile can reduce anxiety in humans. However, because the studies used herb combinations, it’s difficult to tell which herb did the trick, or if they all contributed to the effect (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011).
There have been a couple of studies that used lemon balm on its own with human subjects. Both studies found that lemon balm reduced anxiety in people, though the studies used small subject pools (NYU Langone Medical Center, 2012; University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). It should also be noted that although the lemon balm and valerian combination has typically produced relaxation effects in subjects, one study found that a very high dose of lemon balm (1800 mg) may increase anxiety (Head & Kelly, 2009).
At this time, evidence attesting to lemon balm’s potential anti-anxiety benefits is largely anecdotal. In other words, many people believe that it has helped reduce their anxiety, but more research is needed, with bigger groups of people, to confirm these effects.
Lemon Balm Supplements for Anxiety
Lemon balm is available in capsules, teas, and tinctures. Most reviews of lemon balm supplements on Amazon are positive, suggesting that many people are pleased with this herb’s effects, though there are certainly exceptions.
Lemon balm is considered safe for most people, but given the lack of research into this herb’s potential effects, people should not take lemon balm if pregnant or breastfeeding or within two weeks of surgery. Lemon balm may also interact with certain medications. Always consult a doctor before taking supplements to be on the safe side.
Other Natural Anxiety Remedies
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Medical concerns should be referred to a qualified doctor.
- Head, K.A., ND, & Kelly, G.S., ND. (2009). “Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep.” Alternative Medicine Review, 14(2), 116-140).
- Johnson, T.D., RN, BSN. (2007, August). “Quick Relief from Anxiety and Stress Without Tranquillizer Drugs.” Life Extension Magazine, LEF.com.
- Kennedy, D.O.; Wake, G.; Savelev, S.; Tildesley, N.T.J.; Perry, E.K.; Wesnes, K.A.; & Scholey, A.B. (2003). “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, 28, 1,871-1,881.
- NYU Langone Medical Center. (2012). “Lemon Balm.” Med.NYU.edu.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). “Lemon Balm.” UMM.edu.
- WebMD. (2015). “Lemon Balm.” WebMD.com.