9 Proven Benefits of Lemon Balm

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

If your medicine cabinet doesn’t contain lemon balm, you are missing out on one of the oldest and most trusted natural remedies. However, before you add any new herbal remedy to your life, it is best to understand where it comes from, what it can do for your health, and some of the potential side effects you may experience.

What is Lemon Balm?

Lemon balm is a type of perennial plant that is native to parts of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Scientifically known as Melissa officinalis, this plant is the source of Melissa essential oil, but even as a herb, it has been in regular use for hundreds of years. Doctors as far back as the Middle Ages recognized the value of this medicinal plant, which is a member of the mint family. [1]

The leaves of this plant are the most sought-after element, as they have a sweet lemon flavor and are therefore useful in many medicinal, aromatic, and culinary applications. Due to the wide variety of uses and potential benefits of this perennial herb, it has become popular throughout the world, both for therapeutic and culinary uses. This herb contains a wide range of antioxidants and active ingredients that provide a boost to multiple systems in the body.

Lemon Balm Benefits

The most important benefits of lemon balm include its ability to help fight cancer, heal sexually transmitted diseases, boost heart health, protect the immune system, promote healthy sleep and regulate diabetes, among others.

Skin Care

With potent levels of antioxidants, lemon balm has long been known as a way to rejuvenate and revitalize the skin. If you are suffering from premature aging, or are seeing wrinkles appearing on your face, using this herb can help reverse or slow down those effects. Lemon balm is also able to improve the immune response in the skin, and reduce inflammation, thus reducing symptoms of rosacea, psoriasis, acne and other skin conditions. [2]

Improves Heart Health

This herb has been shown to lower blood pressure when administered in medicinal concentrations and can also lower overall triglyceride levels. This can significantly reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, and coronary heart disease. [3]

Manages Diabetes

The concentrated extract of lemon balm has been linked to reversing diabetic symptoms and actively lowering blood sugar levels in the body, as per a research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. By increasing the body’s efficiency in using insulin, and regulating the release of glucose, this herb is ideal for people who are suffering from or are at high risk for diabetes. [4]

Flatline view of lemon balm leaves in a wooden spoon placed on a wooden surface

The lemon-scented lemon balm can lift your mood with its heady aroma. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Boosts Immunity

Over the centuries, there have been many medicinal claims about the immune system-boosting properties of the lemon balm, particularly in relation to bacterial infections. This herb has powerful antibacterial effects that can strengthen the immune system against everyday infections, as well as more dangerous and invasive pathogens. The other antioxidants found in this herb can also reduce oxidative stress throughout the body, thus relieving strain on the immune system. [5]

Improves Sleep Quality

With an impressive ability to balance hormone levels and calm anxiety and nerves, lemon balm has long been a natural remedy for insomnia. Despite also having the ability to stimulate focus and optimize memory, the soothing qualities of this herb are just as notable. This flexibility makes lemon balm extremely important for those with interrupted sleep patterns. [6]

Neurodegenerative Diseases

A great deal of research has been done on lemon balm and its relationship to the brain. The high level of antioxidants has been shown to reduce beta-amyloid plaque deposition in neural pathways, which can slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. [7]

May Help Fight Cancer

Lemon balm essential oil has been considered as an anti-tumor agent according to a 2004 study. [8]

The Cancer Investigation journal has published a study suggesting that lemon balm essential oil can be a major component in the fight against brain cancer as it has apoptosis-inducing properties. [9]

One study also suggests that lemon balm extract helps to inhibit the proliferation of colon cancer cells and induces apoptosis. [10]

A comparative study between the cytotoxic and antiproliferative potential of lemon balm leaves and stems shows that leaf extracts show higher antioxidant bioactivity against free radicals. However, lemon balm stems have also shown cytotoxic activity in certain cases of breast cancers. [11]

Fights Sexually Transmitted Diseases

For generations, lemon balm has been used to treat herpes, a very common sexually transmitted disease. There is no known cure for herpes, but there are ways to rapidly treat the most visible symptoms, such as cold sores. Topical application of lemon balm, in these cases, can be very effective at suppressing the inflammation. [12]

Improves Cognition

Not only is this herb good for preventing neurodegenerative diseases, but it can also improve your focus and concentration skills. Research has also shown that people who regularly use lemon balm have better memory retention and can maintain their attention span for longer periods of time. [13]

Lemon Balm Uses

Given how many health benefits this herb possesses, it comes as no surprise that there are also many different uses for lemon balm, including as toothpaste, perfume, and in various types of food, as well as in medicinal and aromatic applications.


You can start by making a lemon balm infusion, and then mix this with 2 tablespoons of baking soda to make a thick paste. This is excellent for protecting your mouth against a wide variety of bacterial infections. [14]


The pleasantly powerful scent of lemon in lemon balm has made it hugely popular in the perfume industry, as it can be easily blended with many different scents.


Lemon balm is included in our diet more easily than most people realize; it is an ideal garnish for fish dishes, can be blended into organic ice cream for a lemony burst, and the leaves can be brewed into an excellent evening tea that will help you sleep quickly.

Topical Use

Although topical use can result in allergic reactions, some people use lemon balm in creams, or in the form of lemon balm essential oil, as this can reduce inflammation and even soothe pain when used in small quantities. [15]


Lemon balm can be used in various aromatic forms, such as when it is included in potpourri, or when the essential oil is added to an aromatherapy diffuser.

Lemon Balm Side Effects

While there are many impressive health benefits of lemon balm, there is also some risk when it is taken in certain concentrations, or if you suffer from particular medical conditions.

Excess Intake

If you consume or apply too much lemon balm, there is a chance that your body will react poorly, including dizziness, gastrointestinal distress, and even wheezing. If these side effects don’t clear up quickly, seek medical attention. Similarly, if you have a thyroid disorder, using a large amount of this herb can further impact your thyroid function. [16]

Allergic Reactions

Some people do have topical allergies to lemon balm, so before you use this herb in any way, be sure that your body isn’t overly sensitive. Initially, use a small amount of this herb – regardless of form – and wait to see how your body reacts, to prevent nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, there isn’t enough definitive evidence showing that the use of lemon balm is safe.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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