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”.