Humidity: Minimize Flu/Cold Symptoms

Humidity – How To Breathe Easy with Steam!

Whenever you come down with a cold or the flu, your respiratory tract works hard to expel the invading viruses. It turns into an organic “Slip ’n Slide” pathway coated by mucus. Do not try to dry those mucus secretions with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Instead, you can accelerate the healing process by thinning the mucus, thus making it easier to expel. To help keep mucus loose, stay in a moist, warm, well-ventilated environment. To keep the air in your bedroom especially moist, place bowls of water strategically near the air ducts or radiators. Remember too that influenza and cold viruses thrive and transfer more easily in dry environments. Do whatever you can to decrease your risk. Generally try to create more humidity in your home, whether somebody is currently ill or not.

A Steamy Strategy for Relief: Your Bathroom Shower

Breathing moist air can help to ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy when you are fighting a cold or flu is to indulge in a long, steamy shower several times a day. It can help even just to turn on the shower and sit inside your bathroom behind the closed door for a few minutes. Inhale the steam circulating within the room. The steamy shower environment can moisturize your nasal passages and may also help you relax. The high humidity helps keep nasal passages clear and can prevent cold-causing bugs from taking up residence in your nose.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a steam shower, use it frequently.

— caution —

If you are at all weak or dizzy from the flu, be precautious. Run a steamy shower full force but, instead of stepping inside, sit safely on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

— variation:  a hot-and-cold shower —

This approach might help even more. “Temperature fluctuations can jump-start your immune system,” says Donielle Wilson, a naturopathic doctor in New York City.  She recommends that, at the end of a shower, you should stand for an additional 30 seconds under the hottest stream you can tolerate. Next turn the water temperature to cold for just 10 seconds more. Repeat three times, finishing with cold for maximum benefit.

What About a Warm Bath Instead?

Everybody knows that you can reduce a child’s fever by giving him or her a warm sponge bath. Not surprisingly, warm baths can also reduce cold and flu symptoms in adults. Adding one box of Epsom salt and one box of baking soda to the bathwater may further minimize body aches. Consider, too, adding of a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Recommended oils include tea tree, juniper, rosemary, peppermint, thyme, juniper, orange, lavender, ginger and eucalyptus.

A warm bath can bring comfort by relaxing aching muscles and combating chills. Experts suggest emptying the leftover herbs from your steam inhalation pot directly into bathwater. You can, instead, add five to eight drops of plant essential oils (only three drops for peppermint) to the tub. Best choices to relieve muscle aches: juniper, marjoram and ginger. Before climbing into the tub, disperse the oils well. For children 5 to 12 years old, add only one to two drops of essential oil diluted in vegetable oil.

— caution —

Most experts advise against the use of essential oils for very small children or pregnant women.

Get More Localized Humidity Benefits from a Vaporizer or Humidifier

Using a cool-mist humidifier or a steam vaporizer in the bedroom may make a flu or cold sufferer feel more comfortable. This approach is especially helpful in winter, when dry indoor heat can easily exacerbate symptoms. Increasing humidity near to the sickbed can reduce nasal inflammation and make it easier for the ill person to breathe. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil might further stimulate easy breathing. Remember though: the water used in humidifiers/vaporizers needs to be changed daily to avoid contamination by fungi, mildew or molds.

Some research suggests that a general home humidifier may actually help prevent flu from spreading since the virus thrives best in dry conditions.  A new CDC study found that raising the indoor relative-humidity level to 43 percent or higher promptly rendered 86 percent of airborne flu virus particles powerless. According to researcher John Noti, Ph.D., the study author: “The theory is if you combine virus droplets with water droplets in the air, they become so heavy that they fall and can’t be inhaled. Set your humidifier between 30 and 40 percent. This setting should provide enough flu-fighting water vapor. It is low enough, though, that it will not spur mold growth and trigger allergies.”

How Can You Set Up a “Humidity Tent” Using Nothing More Than Common Household Supplies?

Need a quick way to open painful, clogged airways? Don’t have any special appliances (e.g., vaporizer or humidifier) on hand? You can DIY using only common household supplies. Bring one quart-size pot of water to a boil. Then relocate it to a safe spot away from the heat source. Move close, sitting or standing in a comfortable, stable position immediately above the pot. Drape a large, clean towel over the top of your head to trap the steam. Close your eyes and lean over the hot water under your “towel-tent.” Breathe deeply for five to ten minutes. Inhale through your nose if you’re stuffy or else through your mouth to relieve chest congestion. Do not lower your face too close to the water. You could accidentally risk scalding your skin or inhaling vapors that are too hot. Repeat this procedure as often as necessary to ease congestion.

You can augment the power of steam by adding a handful of decongesting, antimicrobial herbs to the boiling water. Then cover the pot to allow them to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Herbalist Mindy Green, co-author of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, recommends using eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary or peppermint leaves.

For extra phlegm-busting power David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, WA, recommends adding a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil to the pot of hot water. Other healthcare professionals suggest adding as much as three drops of thyme, rosemary or eucalyptus essential oil. They caution, though, to add no more than one or two drops of peppermint oil. Other experts warn against using essential oils of thyme and oregano at all because these two may be too irritating.

— caution —
  • keep your eyes closed as you breathe in the steam; both essential oils and steam may irritate the eyes
  • aromatic vapors may aggravate pre-existing asthma
  • never consume concentrated plant essences by mouth
  • always keep essential oil products well out of the reach of children and pets

What Can You Do When You Absolutely Must Be on the Road?

On the go? Can’t stay in bed any longer? For temporary relief: before you leave home, dab a handkerchief or a few tissues with eucalyptus oil. Then hold them under your nose whenever you feel congested. Still, the very best advice is to allow yourself enough time to recover fully before you venture out.

Chicken Soup: Can It Relieve Cold/Flu Symptoms?

How Effective Is Chicken Soup in Managing the Symptoms of Colds and Flu?

For generations concerned moms and caring grandmas all over the world have been serving chicken soup to sick kids. They believed it could relieve symptoms caused by colds and flu. But was dear old Granny really right? Is chicken soup actually the ultimate cure-all?

 Research Findings About the Action of Chicken Soup

Research recently published in the medical journal Chest looks at soup intake. It suggests that consuming a bowl of steamy chicken soup and vegetables can have good effects.  Whether prepared from scratch or warmed from a can, chicken soup actually may be able to affect the action of neutrophils. Those common white blood cells protect the body from infection. Chicken soup seems to change the rate of movement, congregation and concentration of neutrophils. It may thus help regulate inflammation and prevent large amounts of mucus from being produced.

In addition chicken contains high levels of  cysteine. This amino acid is similar in chemical composition to pharmaceutical acetylcysteine.  Doctors often prescribe the drug to treat symptoms of bronchitis and respiratory infections. It helps to thin mucus and makes it easier to eliminate.

A 2001 study claims to show that such soup also may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Those researchers suggest it may be capable of relieving congestion too; however, this claim is still not well established.

The Chest study found soup to be most effective against symptoms of upper respiratory infections.  Low-sodium chicken soup can supply good general nutritional value and help keep the body hydrated as well. The hot soup may even thin nasal mucus and thus make breathing easier.

 How To Make a Basic Chicken Soup Recipe More Effective

To amp up the action of your basic chicken soup recipe, you might consider adding certain spices and vegetables to the hot broth. Including freshly chopped garlic in the soup, for example, can give your defense system a powerful boost. While garlic kills some germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells. These cells are part of the immune system’s larger arsenal of germ-fighters.

Try spiking your soup with red (chili) pepper flakes to increase the broth’s decongestant power. The spice may help open sinuses and then break up mucus in the lungs.

Consider also adding onions. They contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections. Other beneficial vegetables that support a quick recovery:

  • carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene
  • bell peppers, tomatoes and other vitamin C-containing foods

 What is the Verdict of Medical Professionals?

So, what is the final word from medical professionals about the reality of chicken soup’s health bemefits? “I believe that chicken soup does help with symptoms,” says Reid B. Blackwelder, M.D., professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University in Kingsport, TN. According to Dr. Jill A. Grimes, a family medicine specialist in West Lake Hills, TX: “Eating chicken soup when you have a cold helps because you’re breathing steam, which loosens up congestion. You are also hydrating. And you are not taking antibiotics — all the right treatment for simple upper respiratory viruses!”

Interestingly, though, not all doctors agree that chemistry alone explains the soup’s apparent efficacy. “When you lean over a bowl of hot chicken soup and the vapor gets up your nose, you feel better,” admits William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. Dr. Schaffner also cautions, “… but some [of the benefit] is clearly emotional. It just makes you feel better having someone make soup for you.” And that’s not a bad thing after all, is it?

Bon appétit … and feel better FAST!!

Hydration Tips for Flu and Cold Season

Effective Strategies To Improve Hydration During Flu and Cold Season

The flu or even a persistent cold can soon leave your body dehydrated. If you have accompanying vomiting or diarrhea symptoms, the risk is even greater. It is essential to drink enough fluids whenever you feel a cold coming on. As an additional hydration benefit, liquids also can help to thin mucus and make it easier to expel.

Inside your nose and throat you have a forest of tiny hair-like projections called cilia.   The job of these hairs is to prevent viruses from entering your body by constantly waving back and forth.  Cilia work best when they are moist.

Consuming ample fluids is the only way to assure adequate hydration for your whole respiratory system.

How Much Fluid Is “Enough” for Optimal Hydration?

Generally it is wise to drink as much of liquid beverages as you can. For most individuals eight 8-ounce glasses daily will be adequate, but more may be even better.  This amount will generally keep mucus membranes moist and help relieve dry eyes and other common flu symptoms. Plain water is fine; so are fruit juices, herbal teas, popsicles and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, though, because caffeine works as a mild diuretic.

Yvonne Maldonado, M.D., professor of Infectious Diseases at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, offers the following advice: “To individualize the fluid intake recommendation more precisely, just take your body weight (in pounds) and divide by 2.  The resulting number,” she says, “will tell you how many ounces of water you need daily.  For example, if you weigh 128 pounds, your target will be 64 ounces (approximately 8 glasses) each day.”

If you feel nauseated, try limiting yourself to small sips of liquids. Big gulps that are swallowed too fast can precipitate an increased feeling of queasiness or even trigger actual vomiting.

Why Are Hot Beverages Especially Effective at Improving Hydration?

Another way to to keep your system hydrated is by drinking warm liquids, especially herbal teas and soup broth.  This intake thins mucus secretions, relieves nasal congestion and prevents dehydration — all at the same time. Hot liquids can also soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat.

  • Herbal tea with honey is especially soothing for a sore throat.
  • Black and green teas also contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects.
  • Ginger tea helps block the production of substances that may cause bronchial congestion and stuffiness. In addition it contains compounds call gingerols, which are natural cough suppressants.
  • A tea brewed from the combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger, when drunk hot and often, can be effective for combating a cold or flu. Such a beverage can cause you to sweat and thereby hasten eradication of the virus from your system.

Harvard researchers found that drinking black tea improved immunity in as little as two weeks. Cranberries contain unique antiviral properties that may further help to ward off the risk of colds. The vitamin C in lemon juice provides an added boost of another powerful antioxidant. The following brew, containing all three ingredients, can be a pleasant way to help keep colds at bay:

— cold-fighter tea —

6 oz. water
1 tea bag of black tea
3 oz. cranberry juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar or sugar substitute, to taste

In small saucepan bring water to boil. Remove pan from heat; add tea bag, juices, cinnamon and sugar (or other sweetener) to taste. Steep for three to five minutes; then discard tea bag and enjoy sipping the hot benerage.

What About Drinking Alcoholic Beverages When You Have a Cold or the Flu?

How about drinking alcohol? Probably not a good idea. According to William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN: “When you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is drink alcohol. It makes you sleepy, and flu does that already.” Alcohol can also reduce the body’s ability to fight off infections for up to 24 hours.

One possible exception to the No-Alcohol Rule: if you’re so congested that you cannot sleep at night, you might want to try a hot toddy. Here is the recipe for that age-old remedy:

   — hot toddy —                                                               

   1.) Make a cup of hot herbal tea.

   2.) Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about one ounce) of whiskey or bourbon.

Limit yourself to one single drink though. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and can make you feel even worse.

How Do You Know When You Are Consuming Enough Fluids To Meet Your Hydration Needs?

How can you be sure you’re getting enough fluid? One good indicator: the color of your urine should appear pale yellow. It ought to look something like the color of lemonade.

Cold and Flu Fighters: 10 Top Tips

10 Best Interventions To Fight Cold and Flu Symptoms

As United States health records document year after year, cold and flu (influenza) symptoms are among the leading causes of doctor visits and missed days from work and school. Likely the early months of this year will be no exception. Is there anything you can do now to avoid cold and flu season illness?

Which Do I Have? Is It a Common Cold? Is It the Flu?

Americans suffer from approximately one billion cold and flu illnesses every year. This averages out to about two to four colds per year for the average adult.

Several families of viruses are known to cause colds. When they strike, you can expect all-too-familiar, telltale symptoms. Runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and cough are likely to ensue. Though symptoms are usually mild and disappear within a week, colds do result in rampant absenteeism from work and school.

Influenza is not as common as the cold; furthermore, vaccines can help prevent flu. Unfortunately there is not yet an effective vaccine against colds. Two main types of influenza viruses — A and B — cause most cases of the flu. These viruses spread in the air and also via direct contact. Flu symptoms are usually dramatic with sudden onset of chills, fever and muscle aches. Nasal congestion is not as marked, but the cough that accompanies flu can take weeks, or even months, to resolve completely.

Are you experiencing congestion, sore throat, sneezing, coughing? If your symptoms are mostly confined to areas above the neck, you probably have a cold. On the other hand, if you have all those symptoms plus a fever of 102˚F (38.8˚C ) or more, then you’re more likely suffering from the flu. Flu symptoms also commonly include headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. The two are caused by different viruses, but features of cold and flu can be a lot alike. Generally, though, the flu comes on faster with accompanying symptoms of fever, cough and overall tiredness that are more intense.

— strong recommendation —

Call your doctor’s office at the first signs of flu.  Antivral drugs (NOT antibiotics) are available with a physician’s prescription. They may shorten your illness and ease symptoms of the flu. For effectiveness, though, you must begin taking them within 48 hours after onset of first symptoms.

Remember, also, that other serious conditions can sometimes look a lot like the common cold. Sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat and asthma exhibit some of the same features.

If you have severe symptoms or do not seem to be getting better within a reasonable time, then call your healthcare provider.  Most viral infections, including colds, are on their way out within a week or two. If you’ve been sick for longer than that—or if you feel as though your cold and flu symptoms started to diminish only to flare up again with a vengeance—see your doctor. Why? You may have developed a secondary bacterial infection. This illness could very well need treatment with antibiotic medication. Other signs of a bacterial infection include fever, nasal discharge that contains pus and severe pain in the sinuses.

Experts at the American Academy of Otolaryngology recommend that you contact your healthcare provider promptly in any of the following situations:

   1.)  experiencing difficulty with breathing

   2.)  unable to swallow or drink sufficient fluids

   3.)  develop a rash or a fever

   4.)  symptoms exacerbate or persist for more than a week 

 What Happens to the Immune System During Cold and Flu Season?

It is important to recognize that, although a virus triggers your cold and flu symptoms, the microbe itself is not the true cause of the illness. To illustrate: in the very same setting, as we have seen year after year, a group of individuals all can be exposed to the identical environment. Even so, only some of those people eventually become ill and exhibit symptoms.  The others escape unscathed. Why does the cold and flu disease process seem to be selective about victims? Health researchers have discovered that it is actually an impaired or compromised immune system that singles out susceptible victims. These are the people who are unable to fight off the virus.

Although there are many ways an individual might end up with a weakened immune system, among the more common causes are the following:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Insufficient exercise and/or exposure to sunlight
  • Poor nutrition, especially eating too much sugar and other refined carbohydrates
  • Vitamin and/or mineral deficiency
  • Inadequately managing emotional stressors
  • Any combination of the above

Few people make it through the entire winter season without experiencing at least one scratchy throat or annoying runny nose. It isn’t that germs magically appear at certain times of the year — they’re always around.  Instead, it is your ability to respond and fight them off that changes with the seasons. As temperatures drop and we begin to congregate indoors spending less time in the sun, we are more apt to spread viruses from one person to another.​

Of course you can’t very well hold your breath for the entire winter. If you want to avoid the misery of cold and flu season altogether this year, you will need to be proactive in boosting up your immune system.

What Specific Actions Can Boost Your Immune System To Fight Cold and Flu Germs?

To avoid getting sick in the first place, plan to implement positive lifestyle improvements.  How? Consider the following common sense recommendations:

  •  eat well and emphasize whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your diet
  •  try to sleep seven to eight hours a night
  •  wash your hands often, and sneeze into your arm — not your hand
  •  avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, which stalls respiratory defenses
  •  keep alcohol consumption to a minimum since excessive drinking can impair immunity
  •  exercise regularly and moderately. If you do come down with a cold, light exercise is still fine and can even help to clear respiratory mucus. If you have a fever, though, then take a break until your temperature returns back to normal.

One piece of good news: don’t worry about the weather. You can’t catch a cold just from being outside in chilly or rainy weather.

To review the most important reasons that many of us get winter cold and flu illnesses:

1.)   we’re indoors with other people while windows and doors are closed.

2.)   the viruses causing most respiratory infections are always mutating. As a result our immune systems have trouble fighting off these ever-changing germs.

3.)   many pathogenic viruses can survive on non-porous surfaces for hours. If you turn a door handle that was recently touched by a sneezing, sniffling person and then lift your hand to your nose, you could infect yourself by that one simple action.

4.)   some respiratory viruses, notably those that cause influenza, become airborne when someone coughs. You only need to inhale three tiny viruses to become sick.  Remember: one sneeze can spray 3000 droplets traveling at more than 100 miles per hour!

What Can You Do To Minimize the Impact If You Catch a Cold or the Flu?

Preemptive measures such as flu shots, hand washing, healthy eating and regular exercise are among the best ways to to minimize susceptibility. Sometimes, though, even the most scrupulous germaphobes — and other healthy people — get sick anyway.

Contrary to what you might think, some of those annoying symptoms you experience are actually helping the natural healing process.  They also provide evidence that the immune system is battling the viral illness. For instance a fever is your body’s way of trying to kill viruses by creating a hotter-than-normal environment. The hot environment makes germ-killing proteins in your blood circulate more quickly and effectively.  If you endure a moderate fever for a day or two, then you may ultimately get well faster.

Coughing is another productive symptom.  It clears your breathing passages of thick mucus that could otherwise transport germs to your lungs and the rest of your body. Even that stuffy nose is probably best treated mildly or not at all. A decongestant (e.g., Sudafed, Mucinex) works by restricting blood flow to the blood vessels in your nose and throat. You should be aiming, instead, to increase the flow. Because circulating blood warms the infected area, it helps secretions to carry germs out of your body.

Certain natural remedies/supplements/therapies can help shorten symptoms—or prevent infection entirely. Other products, though, have proven to be more hype than health-enhancing. Often simple home remedies may be all you need for relief of mild to moderate flu and cold symptoms. The following list provides information about a variety of interventions to consider if the “Flu Bug” attacks you this winter:

— references —

How Effective Is Chicken Soup in Managing Cold/Flu Symptoms?

How — Or Whether — To Choose the Best Option in Over-The-Counter Cold Remedies

Best Natural Supplements for Flu or Cold Relief

Herbal Remedies: Which Ones Might Help When a Cold or Flu Strikes?

Flu Microbes and Cold Germs: How To Fight Them

Can Rest and Sleep Speed Up Your Recovery from Colds and/or Flu?

How Can You Best Stay Hydrated During Flu and Cold Season?

Why Is Humidity Important To Minimize Flu/Cold Symptoms and Hasten Recovery?

How About a Stuffed-Up Nose? Are Natural Remedies Effective?

What Is the Best Way To Care for Your Throat During a Bout of Flu or a Cold?

Mood, Stress, Performance: Role of Lemon Balm

What Is the Role of Lemon Balm in Regulating Mood, Stress and Mental Performance?

Lemon balm has been widely used for centuries in Europe to improve mood, to reduce anxiety and to relieve stress or sleep disorders.  Recent research, as reported in Prevention Magazine, suggests the herb may also increase ability to concentrate and to perform better at word or picture tasks. Muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are probably responsible for  the effect.

Research Findings

In a study at Northumbria University in England, students used either lemon balm or a placebo over several weeks. Research subjects in this study performed significantly better on tests after taking the lemon balm.  They continued to post much improved scores for up to six hours after taking the herb. These students were also calmer and less anxious than the placebo group during testing sessions.

In other research, scientists tested high doses of purified lemon balm extracts.  They found the high intake to be effective in the amelioration of laboratory-induced stress in human subjects. Researchers reported “significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness.” The authors of this study further report a “significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy” following the administration of a 300-mg dose of extract.

Historically Europeans have used lemon balm to improve mood in the treatment of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Observers note that many depression problems improve as a side benefit when pre-existing chronic aches and pains are adequately treated. This observation, in part, earns lemon balm its reputation as “Herb of Good Cheer”.  Other research shows effectiveness in relieving sadness accompanying mild depression and/or anxiety.  Some traditional healers find the herb particularly useful in treating symptoms of menopausal depression.

Recent research at a major medical center found that a single daily dose of lemon balm tea reduced oxidative stress. The study focused on radiology staffers with exposure to persistent low-dose radiation during work. After only 30 days lemon balm tea consumption produced significant results. Plasma levels of catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase improved along with a marked reduction in plasma DNA damage, myeloperoxidase and lipid peroxidation.

Digestive Problems? Could LEMON BALM Help?

What Is the Role of Lemon Balm in Managing Digestive Problems?

Functional herbal remedies are emerging as gentler, more natural alternatives to replace some harsh drugs and pharmaceutical medications. Lemon balm is among the most popular herbs recommended by herbalists to prevent or even reverse some problematic digestive issues. Historically lemon balm has been used to manage problems including upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas, flatulence, vomiting and colic. The volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles and relieve symptoms. Lemon balm may be helpful for multiple stress-related digestive problems.
ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative On Phytotherapy) recommends internal use of lemon balm for symptomatic treatment of digestive disorders such as minor spasms. Materia Medica suggests that the herb can help with spasms in the GI tract because of lemon balm’s ability to relax smooth muscle Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine recommends lemon balm for relief of nervous dyspepsia, colic, flatulence, irritable bowel disease and gastritisCommission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices describes lemon balm as effective in treating “functional gastrointestinal complaints.” In traditional Austrian medicine lemon balm leaves are prescribed to treat disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and bile. The Georgetown University Medical Center describes lemon balm as effective in treating indigestion.

How Does It Work?

According to the University of Michigan Health System, terpenes are responsible for this herb’s relaxing and gas-relieving effects. These aromatic hydrocarbons also account for the plant’s pleasant smell.  Lemon balm is classified as a carminative herb (aromatic digestive tonic or botanical bitter). Carminatives seem to work, at least in part, by relieving spasms in the intestinal tract. 
Lemon balm contains both choloretics and colagogues, which may also help with liver and gall bladder problems. Bile is produced in the liver, stored in the gall bladder and then released to the small intestine to digest fats. A choloretic stimulates production of bile. A colagogue enhances the expulsion of bile from the gall bladder. The primary lemon balm constituents in these categories — caffeic acid, eugenol, chlorogenic acid and P-coumaric acid — enhance the content of digestive juices and may improve the digestion of food. The herb may thus help to enhance appetite, prevent formation of stones and assist liver detoxification enzymes. It may also enhance the rate of digestion as well as absorption in the stomach.

Lemon Balm Tea – Variations

For relief of digestive problems, lemon balm is usually most effective as a tea beverage. Use a covered container to prepare it by steeping two to three teaspoons of leaves in hot water for ten to 15 minutes. Lemon balm tea is a pleasant-tasting beverage to consume hot or cold. Herbalists typically recommend three or more cups per day to sip immediately after meals. Lemon balm, in combination with other medicinal plants, may treat a variety of disorders more effectively. A brew made from peppermint and lemon balm together, for example, can often sooth persistent stomach problems.

Researchers find that a soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel and lemon balm can relieve infant colic more effectively than a placebo. These herbs, in combination, may better relax intestinal spasms. According to the website WebMD lemon balm tea is possibly effective for relief of upset stomach (dyspepsia) when a specific combination of lemon balm and peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, licorice, clown’s mustard plant, celandine, angelica and milk thistle is used. Such a combination seems to improve symptoms of acid reflux (GERD), stomach pain, cramping, nausea and vomiting.

Other Forms of Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, as a dried leaf, is available to purchase in bulk. It is available, too, in tea form and in capsules, extracts, tinctures and oil. Lemon balm also appears as a component of some homeopathic remedies and as an essential oil for aromatherapy.

To reduce indigestion, flatulence or bloating, first consult a knowledgeable provider to find the best intake for your specific need. Recommended doses are likely to be within the following ranges:

  • Capsules: 300 to 500 mg dried lemon balm, three times daily or as needed.
  • Tea: 1.5 to 4.5 grams (1/4 to 1 tsp.) of dried lemon balm herb in hot water. Steep and drink up to four times daily.
  • Tincture: 40 to 60 drops of lemon balm daily.

You will find lemon balm tea, capsules or tinctures — either alone or in combination with other herbs — for sale at health food stores or at the offices of some herbalists and naturopathic doctors. Whether you choose to take lemon balm as a tea or in a supplement, make sure to check the quality of your source. Never settle for an inferior product.

The use of herbs is an effective approach to strengthening the body. Herbs, however, sometimes contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements or medications. You should always take herbs with care, preferably under supervision of a health care provider knowledgeable about botanical medicine.


Lemon Balm: Its Role in Treating Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease

What Is Graves’ Disease?

The thyroid glands, located in the neck and chest, are essential to proper metabolism and overall good health. If the thyroid glands are not functioning properly, they can produce too much thyroid hormone and cause hyperthyroidism. In this situation the metabolism will speed up. As opposed to hypothroidism, where the metabolism is very slow, hyperthyroidism can cause the body to work excessively. Consequences include degeneration of the bones, overtaxing the heart and mood fluctuations.

People who suffer from hyperthyrodism often have Graves’ disease. This condition causes protruding eyes, restless sleep, muscle weakness, increased heartbeat and irritability. Graves’ disease is most common in women and usually occurs among people over 60 years of age.

What Do We Know About Treatment of an Overactive Thyroid?

An overactive thyroid is probably the result of an antibody that accidentally stimulates the thyroid to produce an overabundance of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones. In some cases the pituitary gland can also play a role, over-riding the releases of hormones from the thyroid.

Often harsh pharmaceutical drugs or very invasive surgery are used to eliminate non-cancerous tumors which can form in the thyroid glands. Research studies show, however, that certain herbs can sometimes calm an overactive thyroid without such drastic intervention. Administered as an injection along with Lycopus virginicus or bugleweed, lemon balm is widely used in Europe for treating hyperthyroidism. The herb is also administered as a tonic or tea to reduce and manage symptoms in Graves’ disease.

How Does Lemon Balm Actually Work To Regulate the Thyroid?

Lemon balm slows pituitary function, lowering thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. This adjustment, in turn, can reduce thyroid hormone levels. Paradoxically lemon balm is also used to raise thyroid hormone levels in patients with hypothyroidism. Lemon balm probably strengthens rather than stimulates thyroid function. In this way it may be able to restore normal levels to patients with autoimmune and other thyroid diseases. Even so, its effects are usually mild.

Recently information about lemon balm appeared in the scientific journal Endocrinology. Research reported there demonstrated that Melissa officinalis, the scientific name for lemon balm, exhibits antithyrotropic activity. Test tube studies found that lemon balm can block attachment of antibodies to the thyroid cells that cause hyperthyroidism. The active medicinal ingredients in lemon balm include citronella, citral, tannins and geraniol. Flavonoids, phenolic acids and other compounds appear to be responsible for lemon balm’s thyroid-regulating actions. By inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, the herb may be of possible use in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.

Recommended Intake

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): To normalize an overactive thyroid

Add 2 tablespoons lemon balm to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep, covered, 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers; 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Strain and cool. Drink two to four cups per day. There is no limit on the duration of treatment. You can drink it not only hot but also refrigerated or poured over ice if you prefer.


In vitro laboratory studies found that lemon balm blocks attachment of antibodies to the thyroid cells that cause Graves’ disease. Further animal studies show that lemon balm may help decrease thyroid concentration in cells. Definitive human studies, however, have not yet been conducted for this possible use.

Alzheimer’s disease: role of LEMON BALM

Research Findings on Use of Lemon Balm for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Recent research studies suggest that lemon balm may help improve cognitive function and decrease agitation in people diagnosed with various dementia conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. Common symptoms of dementia, especially in the later stages, include agitation, aggression, shouting, depression, delusions, pacing, wandering, sleep disturbances and hallucinations. Drugs sometimes help to manage the condition but often with unpleasant — or even dangerous — side effects. In contrast lemon balm has shown sedative and anti-anxiety effects without bad effects in studies of healthy people. Though preliminary, several recent studies of lemon balm treatments show improvement, too, among patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


An alternate approach that shows promise is aromatherapy.  With this technique a patient receives the active agent in either of two ways:

1.) inhalation

2.) skin application through massage with aromatic oils

One problem with aromatherapy research, though, is that it can be difficult to distinguish whether benefits obtained this way are the result of actual biological activity of the agent in question or, instead, by the pleasure of the experience. Researchers can design placebo-controlled trials, but even then foolproof double-blinding  is difficult to achieve. For this reason a totally objective, valid conclusion can be challenging.

In one recent study conducted in England, 72 severely demented patients with clinically significant agitation were treated by aromatherapy. The agent was essential oil of lemon balm in a base lotion, massaged into the skin (face and arms) twice daily for four weeks. Compared with a placebo (sunflower oil) group, the lemon balm treatment patients exhibited markedly less agitation. They were also less socially withdrawn and they engaged in more constructive activities according to researchers there.

Oral Intake

Lemon balm contains a number of volatile essential oils, including citronellal and citral A and B. Many of these oils have sedative properties. In both animal and human studies the herb, taken by mouth, produces calming effects. In larger doses it may also promote sleep.

Based on the positive effect in mice, human trials are now underway. In a four-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 42 people with Alzheimer’s disease, use of an oral lemon balm extract significantly decreased their tendency to become agitated and improved their cognitive function.

A new study from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran also seems to support the therapeutic potential of lemon balm.  Researchers there tested 42 elderly men and women, aged 65 to 80 years, with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Those subjects participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of four months’ duration. The therapeutic agent was 60 drops per day of lemon balm in the form of an alcoholic extract. Preliminary results were encouraging. After 16 weeks of treatment with lemon balm, the test patients showed significant benefits in cognition as measured by two batteries of tests. The researchers found improvement in functions such as attention, language, memory, orientation, judgment and reasoning. There was also a significant reduction in agitation among the test subjects.

Meanwhile Dr. David Kennedy, a researcher at Northumbria University, says of his part in a study there: “As a sedative, the lemon balm extract worked. The more [they] took, the more it worked. But it was only the dried leaf, which is probably closest to the traditional way of taking lemon balm, that enhanced memory. We believe that it could be used as an helpful adjunct to conventional treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Topical Application

In one study in England, researchers found that applying lemon balm oil to the faces and arms of patients with severe dementia reduced their agitation by 35 percent.

In another study lemon balm essential oil applied to the skin in the form of a cream also reduced agitation in 71 people with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers in this U. K. study originally considered the experimental treatment to be a form of aromatherapy; however, one of the first faculties to diminish in Alzheimer’s disease is the sense of smell. Other professionals, therefore, conclude that it is more likely that absorption through the skin accounts for the improvement.

Why Does It Work?

Recent studies indicate that lemon balm stimulates the brain’s acetylcholine receptors.  Acetylcholine (ACh) is the principal neurotransmitter for cognitive functions in brain activity.  Deficits in ACh levels and activity are probably primary neurological factors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. British researchers recently evaluated lemon balm’s stimulation of ACh receptors as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.  The herb is already well known to function as a mild sedative. This study evaluated its benefit in helping to alleviate the nervous agitation often associated with severe dementia. As a bonus, the researchers noted that antioxidant properties of lemon balm may also provide some protection against free radical damage, a known causative factor in Alzheimer’s disease. The British authors concluded their report of findings by stating:

On the broader question of a possible medicinal role for M. officinalis, it is notable that the results evinced here support the suggestion that M. officinalis may eventually have a role to play in the treatment of dementia.

Another study noted that lemon balm suppresses acetylcholinesterase, the brain chemical that breaks down ACh.  This action may help stimulate and support memory and mood.

In one Chinese study eugenol, a powerful antioxidant found in lemon balm, and acupuncture helped test subjects recover memory-related functions.

Another series of experiments at Northumbria University published for the British Psychological Society’s annual conference highlights work of Dr. Elaine Perry. Researchers at Medical Research Council’s unit at Newcastle General Hospital in England conducted this lemon balm study. On autopsy Dr. Perry found a positive effect on pieces of brain tissue and chemical receptors of Alzheimer’s patients.

Recommended Intake

For mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: 60 drops per day of a standardized lemon balm extract, prepared 1:1 in 45% alcohol.


There is still more work to be done before definitive proof is established. Preliminary research, though, suggests a therapeutic role for lemon balm in treating symptoms of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or others in the dementia category.

Herpes Virus: How Effective is LEMON BALM?

How Effective Is Lemon Balm Against Herpes Virus?

Lemon balm contains significant polyphenols (flavonoids, phenolic acids and other compounds). As a result studies are underway to investigate potential for the herb in treatment of cold sores (herpes labialis).  Researchers speculate that lemon balm might have a role in combating the herpes simplex virus, shingles and other viral afflictions as well.

Numerous test tube studies have found that extracts of lemon balm possess antiviral properties in vitro. The predominant explanation theorizes that the herb blocks viruses from attaching to host cells. Several animal studies also support the value of topical lemon balm for treating herpes lesions. In a few small, placebo-controlled human trials lemon balm topical cream or ointment has shown some efficacy in managing cold sore lesions caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). Even though treatment did not completely eliminate symptoms, researchers noted significant reduction in the duration and severity of herpes outbreaks. Data also documented a reduction in the frequency of recurrence. Regular use of lemon balm potentially might help prevent flare-ups, but this application has not yet been rigorously evaluated.

What Does Current Research Show?

One double-blind study followed 66 individuals who were just starting to develop a cold sore (oral herpes). Treatment with lemon balm cream produced significant benefits on the second day. The herbal remedy reduced intensity of discomfort, number of blisters and size of the lesion. The researchers specifically looked at day #2 because, according to them, that is when symptoms are most intense. To achieve best efficacy, treatment must begin at a very early stage of the infection. Accelerated healing was most evident in the first two days of treatment.

Another multicenter clinical study of 115 patients, followed by a placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 116 patients, also confirmed antiviral activity. This research incorporated a dried extract of lemon balm leaf into a lip balm. Test subjects used the balm to treat lip sores associated with herpes simplex infections.
The study of 115 subjects involved three German hospitals and one dermatology clinic. Results showed that, when lemon balm was used to treat the primary infection of HSV I, not a single recurrence followed. The remedy was also effective in reducing healing time of both genital and oral herpes. The outcome is probably a result of antiviral properties of the caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid components of lemon balm.
Both studies showed best results with treatment at the earliest possible point following onset of infection. In the second study, for example, subjects experienced improvement in redness and swelling after only two days. Other symptoms, such as pain and scabbing, however, did not improve.

Recommendations for Application

To treat cold sores, choose a cream or ointment with one percent of a 70:1 freeze-dried, water-soluble extract. Apply it two to four times daily from first sign of symptoms until a few days after the cold sores have healed. For treatment of an active flare-up of herpes, the proper dosage is four thick applications daily. The dosage may be reduced to twice daily for preventive purposes.


Certain conventional drug treatments can reduce infectivity and thereby perhaps help prevent the spread of herpes. Unfortunately there is no evidence as yet that lemon balm offers this benefit in the case of genital infections. Keep in mind also that common sense methods of avoiding transmission of genital herpes are not 100% effective. Many people are infectious even when they do not exhibit obvious symptoms. Use of a condom does not entirely prevent the spread of herpes virus. Experts strongly recommend suppressive drug therapy for infected individuals who may be sexually active with a noninfected partner.

Insomnia and Anxiety: Is Lemon Balm Effective?

Can Lemon Balm Manage Insomnia and Anxiety Symptoms?

Research studies are now underway to evaluate the effectiveness of lemon balm to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. Early results show evidence of improved sleep patterns with reduced stress and anxiety when the herb is utilized.

What Research Evidence Exists for Using Lemon Balm To Relieve Anxiety and Insomnia?

One recent study looked at people with minor sleep problems. About 81 percent of those who took an herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm reported sleeping much better than the placebo group.
A different preliminary trial studied the effect of valerian root extract combined with extract of lemon balm. This research pitted the herbal combination against the prescription sleeping drug triazolam (Halcion). Effectiveness of the herbal remedy was statistically similar to that of Halcion. Only subjects from the Halcion group, however, reported feeling hung over and had trouble concentrating the next day. The herbal group reported no such adverse side effects.
In another double-blind trial researchers administered a combination of 360 mg valerian and 240 mg lemon balm. The herbal combination, taken before bed over a two-week period, was effective in improving reported sleep quality for one-third of the participants.
It is not clear from these and other similar studies, though, whether the lemon balm or the valerian (or the combination) produced the result.  
Few studies have examined lemon balm by itself, except for topical use. One exception is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 18 healthy volunteers. These research subjects ingested two separate single doses of either a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or else a placebo for seven days. The 600-mg dose of lemon balm was reported to improve mood and to increase calmness and alertness significantly.

European Approaches

European healthcare providers use lemon balm widely today to treat anxiety and insomnia. Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices approved it for managing “nervous sleeping disorders” . Commission E is the German governmental agency that evaluates both safety and effectiveness of herbal products. The German Standard License approves lemon balm tea for treating nervous disorders of sleep and the GI tract.

ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative On Phytotherapy) approves lemon balm for internal use to manage tenseness, restlessness and irritability. Additionally the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia documents its use as an effective sedative (internally) and a topical antiviral (externally). Lemon balm is the main ingredient of Carmelite Water. This remedy is for sale in German pharmacies today to treat nervous disorders. It is advertised to “comfort the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness”.