Lemon Balm for Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. Research has found lemon balm to be effective in treating a variety of mental health issues.
Lemon balm can significantly reduce anxiety levels in a variety of settings. Scientists at the University of Ottawa in Canada discovered that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can be beneficial for treating anxiety disorders because of its action on brain gamma-aminobutyric acid levels.
Lemon balm is also used in combination with other herbs. For example, the combination of lemon balm and valerian has also been tested, with positive results indicating significant anxiolytic effects.
One study determined that valerian taken 30 minutes before bedtime for 28 days was as effective as oxazepam (Serax), a commonly prescribed medication for insomnia. In another study, a combination of valerian root and lemon balm at bedtime was as effective as the sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion). Moreover, only the Halcion group felt hung over and had trouble concentrating the following day. Another double-blind trial found a combination of valerian and lemon balm taken before bed improved sleep quality in one-third of the participants.
Combining lemon balm with other mildly sedating herbs is common both in Europe and the United States. Chamomile, hops, passion flower, valerian root, American scullcap, and catnip are often used as sleep remedies. These herbs are used alone or in combination as mild sedatives for those suffering from insomnia. In addition to valerian and hops, lemon balm is approved by the German government for relieving sleep disturbances.
A number of studies have shown benefits using lemon balm for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other types of dementia. In a double-blind study, supplementation with an extract of lemon balm for 16 weeks improved cognitive function and reduced agitation, compared with placebo, in people with AD. One study found that lemon balm binds directly to both nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in human brain tissue, thus reducing agitation and cognitive declines in sufferers from AD and other dementias.
Lemon balm and preparations thereof also have shown to improve mood and mental performance. These effects are believed to involve muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.