Lemon Balm: 10 Health Benefits, How To Take & Side Effects

Updated in December 2023
Scientifically proven

Lemon balm is the medicinal plant Melissa officinalis that is rich in phenolic compounds and flavonoids. It contains calming, sedative, soothing, antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  

It can be used to treat many health problems, particularly digestive issues, anxiety and stress. It is available for purchase at supermarkets, natural health stores and pharmacies, although it can also be grown at home, as it is easy to plant and requires minimal care.

Lemon balm is commonly taken as a tea or infusion, but it can be easily added to smoothies, desserts or yogurts. Supplements in capsule and natural extract forms are also available for people looking for more precise dosing. 

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Health benefits

Lemon balm can be used to achieve the following health benefits:

1. Improving sleep quality

Lemon balm contains phenolic compounds, like rosmarinic acid, which has soothing and sedative properties. It can be beneficial for managing insomnia and improving sleep quality. 

Some studies also show that taking lemon balm tea twice a day for 15 days can improve imsonia. Lemon balm tea with valerian can help to relieve restlessness and sleep disturbances.

2. Combating anxiety and stress

Lemon balm can help to combat stress and anxiety due to the rosmarinic acid in its composition. This substance increases the activity of neurotransmitters like GABA in the brain, which help the body to relax and promote wellbeing and tranquility. GABA also reduces symptoms of anxiety, like agitation and nervousness. 

Some studies show that a single dose of lemon balm can increase calmness and alertness in adults under mental stress. Taking 3 capsules with 300 to 600 mg of lemon balm per day can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. 

3. Relieve headaches

Lemon balm can also be useful for treating headaches, particularly those related to stress. Because of the rosmarinic acid, analgesic properties, and anti-inflammatories naturally found in lemon balm, this plant can help to relax the muscles and release tension. This can also dilate any tense blood vessels, which can relieve headaches. 

4. Combat intestinal gas

Lemon balm contains citral, an essential oil with antispasmodic and carminative action. It inhibits the production of substances that cause intestinal contractions, which can relieve cramping and reduce gas. 

Some studies show that treatment with lemon balm can improve colic in babies who breastfeed within one week.

5. Relieve PMS symptoms

Because it contains phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid, lemon balm can help relieve symptoms of PMS by increasing GABA activity in the brain. This can improve mood, and reduce nervousness and anxiety, all of which are associated with PMS. 

Lemon balm contains antispasmodic and analgesic properties that can also help to relieve menstrual cramps. 

Some studies show that to reduce PMS symptoms, you should take 1200 mg of lemon balm daily. 

6. Relieve gastrointestinal problems

lemon balm can help to complement the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, like indigestion, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, GERD and IBS. It contains rosmarinic acid as well as citral, geraniol and beta-Caryophyllene and has antiinflammatory, antioxidant, and antispasmodic properties. This can help with the elimination of accumulated gas, which relieve symptoms and discomfort from gastrointestinal conditions. 

7. Treat oral herpes

Some studies show that the caffeic acid, rosmarinic asic and telluric acid found in lemon balm can combat the herpes virus responsible for oral herpes. It inhibits the virus and blocks multiplication, which can reduce infection and boost healing time. It can also help to relieve symptoms like itching, numbness, burning, swelling and redness. To use lemon balm for cold sores, you should apply a lip balm that contains lemon balm at the earliest signs. 

The acids in lemon balm can also help to inhibit the multiplication and growth of genital herpes, although more studies are needed to prove this benefit. 

8. Eliminate fungus and bacteria

Some in-vitro lab studies show that the phenolic compounds in lemon balm (like romarinic acid, caffeic acid and coumaric acid) are able to eliminate fngus, particularly those found on the skin (like Candida sp.) as well as bacteria like: 

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa which cause lung infections, ear infections and UTIs 
  • Salmonella sp which cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections  
  • Escherichia coli which cause UTIs 
  • Shigella sonnei which cause intestinal infections 

However, more studies are needed to prove these benefits. 

9. Complement the treatment of Alzheimer's

Some studies show that the phenolic compounds in lemon balm, like citral, can inhibit cholinesterase. This enzyme is responisble for the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that is important for memory. People with Alzheimer's usually present with reduced levels of acetylcholine, which leads to memory loss and a reduced learning capacity. 

In addition, studies show that taking lemon balm orally for 4 months can reduce agitation, improve cognitive thinking and reduce other symptoms of Alzheimer's. 

10. Reduce oxidative stress

Lemon balm contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds, primarily rosmarinic and caffeic acid, which contain antioxidant action. These can fight off free radicals that cause damage on a cellular level. Lemon balm can help to prevent diseases associated with oxidative stress caused by free radicals, like cardiovascular diseases. 

How to consume

Lemon balm can be consumed as a tea or infusion, or added to desserts. It is easy to use and very flavorful. 

1. Lemon Balm Tea

To make the tea, we recommend you only use the leaves, which can be fresh or dry, as it the leaf is where all its beneficial properties can be found.


  • 3 tablespoons of lemon balm leaves;
  • 1 cup of boiling water.

Preparation method

Add the lemon balm leaves to a cup of boiling water and let it infuse for a few minutes covered. Then strain the tea and drink 3 to 4 cups a day.

2. Lemon balm infusion

Lemon balm infusions can be prepared with fresh or dried leaves. It is a tasty and refreshing way to consume this medicinal plant and obtain all of its benefits. 


  • 1 cup of chopped lemon balm leaves
  • 200 mL of water
  • The juice of 1 lemon 
  • Ice as desired
  • Honey as desired (optional) 

How to prepare

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend. Then strain and add honey as necessary. Drink 1 to 2 cups per day. 

Possible side effects 

Up until now, no side effects have been clinically studied, but its use may interfere with thyroid medication, therefore be sure to check with your doctor before starting. We also recommend that pregnant women check with their obstetricians before taking this tea.

Lemon balm is safe when consumed for a maximum of 4 months by adults and 1 month by babies and children. If this plant is consumed in excessive doses or for prolonged periods, it may also cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased heart rate, drop in blood pressure and shortness of breath.