Lemon Balm Essential Oil

Lemon Balm Essential Oil
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Lemon Balm Essential Oil - General Description

Lemon balm or balm mint (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herb related to mint. The plant is very well known for its deeply wrinkled, lemon-scented leaves that range in color from dark green to yellowish green depending on the soil and climate. During spring and summer, clusters of small, light yellow or white flowers full of nectar grow from the point where the leaves meet the stem, attracting numerous bees in the vicinity and thus the genus name Melissa, the Greek word for honeybee. [1]

Lemon balm essential oil appears pale yellow with a watery viscosity and has a sweet, fresh, and citrusy aroma. It is yielded through steam distillation from the flowering tops, leaves, and steams of the herb and is usually codistilled with lemon or citronella essential oil.

Lemon Balm Essential Oil - Uses and Reported Benefits

External application of lemon balm essential oil has been found to be helpful in the treatment of disorders associated with the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, liver, and bile. [2] In aromatherapy, it also works exceptionally well in aiding those with issues of nervousness, insomnia, hysteria, and irritability due to its emotion-balancing, calming, and sedative effects and is indicated for bacterial and fungal infections, diarrhea, and eczema. [3] It relieves pain, especially from menstrual cramps, headache, and toothache, and diffusing lemon balm essential oil at night promotes a restful sleep, relieves stress, and eases tension. In European, African, Mediterranean, and Asian medicine, lemon balm has been traditionally utilized as a natural remedy for its calming, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, sedative/hypnotic, and cardiovascular-strengthening effects. [4]

Lemon Balm Essential Oil - Contraindications and Safety

Lemon balm essential oil is generally considered safe for typical aromatherapy use. However, it can cause sensitization and irritation and thus should always be used in low dilutions. Pregnant and nursing women are cautioned to seek physician's advice prior to use.

Since lemon balm may cause drowsiness, patients are advised to stop lemon balm essential oil application at least two weeks before and after a scheduled surgery - and it is contraindicated with sedative medications such as clonazepam, lorazepam, and phenobarbital. [5]|

Lemon Balm Essential Oil - Scientific Studies And Research

Lemon Balm Essential Oil as anti-inflammatory: Using carrageenan and experimental trauma-induced hind paw edema in rat models, Bounihi, Hajjaj, Alnamer, Cherrah, and Zellou (2013) examined the anti-inflammatory activities of the essential oil extracted through hydrodistillation from the leaves of lemon balm. Lemon balm essential oil was orally administered at a dose of 200 and 400?mg/kg and exhibited reduction and inhibition of edema, which represents a component of inflammation, with 61.76% and 70.58%, respectively, in comparison to control and standard drug (indomethacin). [4]

Lemon Balm Essential Oil as free radical scavenger and antimicrobial: Mimica-Dukic, Bozin, Sokovic, and Simin (2004) investigated the free radical scavenging capacity and lipid peroxidation activity of lemon balm essential oil as well as its antimicrobial effect against thirteen bacterial strains and six fungi. In this study, the lemon balm essential oil tested displayed very strong free radical scavenging capacity and inhibition of lipid peroxidation in a dose-dependent fashion, with the most effective antibacterial action observed against multiresistant strain of Shigella sonei and significant antifungal effect against Trichophyton species. [6] Hancianu et al. (2008) similarly determined the antimicrobial property of lemon balm essential oil and compared it with that of lavender essential, having identified citral (neral and geranial), citronellal, and trans-caryophyllene as the major constituents of lemon balm essential oil with antimicrobial activities. In this study, lemon balm essential oil demonstrated higher degree of antibacterial activity against Gram-positive strains than lavender essential oil. Both essential oils nonetheless were greatly inhibitory against Candida albicans. [7]

Lemon Balm Essential Oil as antioxidant: The study of de Sousa et al. (2004) reported also the antioxidant activity of lemon balm essential oil, as evidenced by the reduction in 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl-hydrazyl, and—more importantly and interestingly—its antitumoral effect. The researchers determined through in vitro cytotoxicity assay the efficiency of lemon balm essential oil against a series of human cancer cell lines (A549, MCF-7, Caco-2, HL-60, K562) and a mouse cell line (B16F10). [8] Recently, in the study of Queiroz et al. (2014), lemon balm essential oil and its principal component, citral, displayed promising results as a potential aid in the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, a cancerous primary brain tumor arising from astrocytes and by far the most common and most malignant type of glial tumor. Both lemon balm essential oil and citral reduced the viability of glioblastoma multiforme cells and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) of the said tumor cells. Moreover, citral downregulated the activity of multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 and hindered its expression. [9]

Lemon Balm Essential Oil as anti-herpes agent: Allahverdiyev, Duran, Ozguven, and Koltas (2004) evaluated the effect of lemon balm essential oil on the replication process of herpes simplex virus type 2 in HEp-2 cells. Among the five volatile oil concentrations tested, namely, 25, 50, 100, 150, and 200 μg/ml, lemon balm essential oil was found to be slightly toxic to HEp-2 cells at concentrations over 100 μg/ml, with the replication of herpes simplex virus type 2 being inhibited. [10]

Schnitzler, Schuhmacher, Astani, and Reichling (2008) likewise examined the antiviral activity of lemon balm essential oil against herpes simplex viruses on monkey kidney cells using a plaque reduction assay. The findings indicate that at noncytotoxic concentrations of lemon balm essential oil, plaque formation significantly decreased by 98.8% and 97.2% for herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, respectively, whereas at higher concentrations, viral infectivity was almost absolutely eliminated. Furthermore, it appears that lemon balm essential oil exerts a direct antiviral effect on herpes viruses and affects the viruses before adsorption into the host cell. [11]

Lemon Balm Essential Oil - Molecular Components and Chemistry

The chief volatile constituents of lemon balm essential oil, as analyzed through gas chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, include (E)-citral (37.2%), neral (23.9%), and citronellal (20.3%). [12] In the study of Basta, Tzakou, and Couladis (2005), the leaf essential oil derived from lemon balms grown in three Greek localities contained ß-pinene (6.4-18.2%), sabinene (6.9-17.4%), (E)-caryophyllene (7.2-15.3%), and caryophyllene oxide (12.6-24.4%) as key compounds. [13]


[1] Melissa officinalis. Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_officinalis

[2] Vogl S. et al. (2013). Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine-An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 149(3): 750-771. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3791396/

[3] Melissa Pure Essential Oil 15 ml Lemon Balm - Helpful for Anxiety & Depression Aromatherapy Support. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Pure-Essential-Lemon-Balm/dp/B007QFNUSG

[4] Bounihi A., Hajjaj G., Alnamer R., Cherrah Y., Zellou A. (2013). In vivo potential anti-inflammatory activity of Melissa officinalis L. essential oil. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences. 2013:101759. doi: 10.1155/2013/101759. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24381585

[5] Lemon balm. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-437-lemon%20balm.aspx?activeingredientid=437&activeingredientname= lemon%20balm

[6] Mimica-Dukic N., Bozin B., Sokovic M., Simin N. (2004). Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) essential oil. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 52(9): 2485-2489. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113145

[7] Hancianu M. et al. (2008). Chemical composition and in vitro antimicrobial activity of essential oil of Melissa officinalis L. from Romania. Revista medico-chirurgicala a Societatii de Medici si Naturalisti din Iasi. 112(3): 843-847. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20201279

[8] de Sousa A. C. et al. (2004). Melissa officinalis L. essential oil: antitumoral and antioxidant activities. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics. 56(5): 677-681. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15142347

[9] Queiroz R. M. et al. (2014). Apoptosis-inducing effects of Melissa officinalis L. essential oil in glioblastoma multiforme cells. Cancer Investigation. 32(6): 226-235. doi: 10.3109/07357907.2014.905587. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24745610

[10] Allahverdiyev A., Duran N., Ozguven M., Koltas S. (2004). Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against Herpes simplex virus type-2. Phytomedicine. 11(7-8): 657-661. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15636181

[11] Schnitzler P., Schuhmacher A., Astani A., Reichling J. (2008). Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses. Phytomedicine. 15(9): 734-740. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.04.018. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18693101

[12] Taherpour A. A., Maroofi H., Rafie Z., Larijani K. (2012). Chemical composition analysis of the essential oil of Melissa officinalis L. from Kurdistan, Iran by HS/SPME method and calculation of the biophysicochemical coefficients of the components. Natural Product Research. 26(2): 152-160. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2010.534733. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21809949

[13] Basta A., Tzakou O., Couladis M. (2005). Composition of the leaves essential oil of Melissa officinalis s. l. from Greece. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 20: 642-644. doi: 10.1002/ffj.1518. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.1518/abstract

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