Lemon balm has been used for centuries to improve anxiety symptoms and mood, one of the most common disorders in developed countries around the world. Learn more about the main causes of anxiety, how to use lemon balm for anxiety, and the best ways to consume it.
Anxiety - Causes & Triggers
Everybody experiences anxiety once in a while; however, anxiety can evolve into a disorder when it involves more than temporary worry or fear, and gets worse over time. Symptoms may include feelings of fear, dread, and uneasiness that may occur as a reaction to stress. A person with anxiety may sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat.
ANXIETY DISORDERS ARE PREVALENT AMONG WOMEN AND USUALLY APPEAR LINKED TO DEPRESSION
Researchers have found that genetic and environmental conditions, frequently in interaction with each other, are risk factors that may contribute to developing anxiety.
Common Risk Factors
- Shyness, or behavioral inhibition in childhood
- Being female
- Having few economic resources
- Being divorced or widowed
- Exposure to stressful life events in childhood and adulthood
- Anxiety disorders in close biological relatives
- Elevated afternoon cortisol levels in the saliva (specifically for social anxiety disorder)
- Drug abuse
- Chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and heart disease)
Usual Triggers for Anxiety
- Stressful work conditions or job changes
- Variations in living arrangements (e.g., travel, moving, schedule changes)
- Pregnancy and giving birth
- Family and relationship problems
- Stressful or traumatic events
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Death or loss of loved ones
Preparations of Lemon Balm for Anxiety
The difference between the anxiolytic and sedative effects of lemon balm is in the dosage. However, it is advised not to drive or operate machinery after consuming it. People taking antidepressant medication should consult their doctor before taking lemon balm for anxiety.
Lemon Balm Capsules
Capsules are the most popular way to consume lemon balm, and they can be easily found at local herbal stores and through online retailers. The recommended dose for a calming effect is 300 - 600 milligrams, three times daily or as needed.
Lemon Balm Mist
This preparation can be especially helpful in reducing stress caused for sudden life changes, such as travel or moving out.
Mix 10 - 20 drops of lemon balm essential oil with 60 grams or purified water and 30 grams of alcohol in a dark, glass spray bottle. Keep it in a cool, dark place and shake it very well before every use. Spray it freely all over the room, especially on the sheets and pillow. The aromatic oils of lemon balm will soothe the nervous system, thus reducing anxiety.
Lemon Balm's Anxiolytic Action
A clinical study was performed at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle, United Kingdom (2003) in order to assess the cognitive and mood effects of dried lemon balm leaves. 20 healthy, young participants received single doses of 600, 1,000, and 1,600 milligrams of encapsulated dried leaf, or a matching placebo, at seven-day intervals. The most notable cognitive and mood effects were improved memory performance and increased "calmness after taking the highest dose (1,600 mg). However, lower doses also showed an increase in speed memory task performance and visual information processing.
These results not only corroborated the effectiveness of lemon balm for anxiety, but also suggest that doses of lemon balm at or above the maximum employed during the study can improve cognitive performance and mood.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment was conducted at the University of Northumbria in 2006 to evaluate the anxiolytic properties of lemon balm combined with valerian. 24 healthy volunteers received three separate single doses (600, 1,200, and 1,800 mg) of a standardized product containing extracts of both herbs, plus a placebo, on distinct days separated by a seven-day cleanout period.
The results indicated that the 600-milligram dose of the combination decreased laboratory-induced stress levels.
Other Herbs for Anxiety
While the precise mechanism of its anxiolytic action remains largely unknown, the scientific studies and popular applications of lemon balm indicate that it can be safely used to reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Phytotherapy Research, Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress, 2006
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Understand the Facts
- Beyond Blue, Australia, What causes anxiety?
- Neuropsychopharmacology, Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties, 2003
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Burden of Mental Illness