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.