Lemon balm is commonly used to treat herpes infections, and its effectiveness in inhibiting the virus's replication has been corroborated by science. Learn more about the main causes of herpes and how to use lemon balm for herpes in order to reap its antiviral benefits.
Herpes - Causes & Triggers
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) spreads from person to person through close contact. Some people have no symptoms, while others get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body. Oral herpes causes cold sores around the mouth or face. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and affects the genitals, buttocks, or anal area. Other herpes infections can affect the eyes, skin, or other parts of the body.
The primary symptoms of herpes infection include a flu-like syndrome with fever, headache, and muscle pain, followed by itching and painful papules. Oral inflammation and pharyngitis are the most frequent clinical manifestations of the first episodes of HSV infection.
There are two types of HSV:
- HSV type 1. This is a common cause of cold sores. It can also cause genital herpes.
- HSV type 2. It is the typical source of genital herpes, but it also can infect the mouth.
The most common risk factors for HSV are:
- Being female
- Having had many sex partners
- Kissing or touching another person's skin (like pinching a child's cheek)
- Sharing objects such as silverware, lip balm, or a razor
Herpes infections have more chance to be triggered under certain conditions, such as:
- A weakened immune system (by stress or illness)
- Overexposure to the sun
- Menstrual periods
Once a person has been infected with HSV, the virus moves from the skin cells to the nerve cells and stays there forever in a dormant state. However, it can become active again.
Preparations of Lemon Balm for Herpes
Topical applications are the best way reap lemon balm's antiviral benefits for herpes lesions.
Lemon Balm Oil
This a very effective treatment for HSV lesions. Stir 250 grams of dried lemon balm leaves and 750 milliliters (three cups) of olive, sunflower, or any other good-quality vegetable oil in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and simmer for two or three hours. Remove from heat and, when the preparation is cool, strain it using a cloth. Collect the infused oil and pour it into dark glass bottles. Seal and label each bottle. Keep them in a cool, dark place.
Lemon Balm Cream
Cream preparations have the advantage of being cooling and soothing, and they can be easily applied over the herpes lesions as often as needed.
Melt 150 grams of emulsifying wax in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, add 70 grams of glycerin, 80 milliliters (1 and 1/3 cup) of water, and 30 grams of dried lemon balm leaves. Stir and let it simmer for three hours. Remove from heat and strain immediately using a cloth. Keep stirring until the preparation cools and sets. Place the cream into a dark glass pot and store it in the refrigerator.
Antiviral Action of Lemon Balm for Herpes
An in vitro study conducted at Sapienza University, Rome, Italy (2008), compared the antiviral activity of lemon balm's hydroalcoholic extract in active HSV-2 cells with an antiviral drug commonly used to treat herpes infections. Lemon balm showed to reduce cell degeneration caused by HSV-2 with a maximum inhibiting effect of 60%, therefore supporting its use for treating herpes lesions.
Another study, conducted at the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany (2012), analyzed the antiviral activity of three of lemon balm's phenolic compounds (caffeic, p-coumaric, and rosmarinic acids) against herpes in vitro. Lemon balm was capable of neutralizing and destroying the virus even at very low concentrations.
Other Herbs for Herpes
Although the exact mechanism of lemon balm's main compounds is still being studied, its antiviral action has been established. Moreover, lemon balm's low toxicity makes it a great choice as a complementary treatment for herpes infections.
- Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, pp. 294, 296
- American Academy of Dermatology, Herpes Simplex: Who Gets and Causes
- Chemotherapy, Melissa officinalis Extract Inhibits Attachment of Herpes Simplex Virus in vitro, 2012
- National Institutes of Health, Herpes Simplex
- Natural Product Research, Inhibitory activity of Melissa officinalis L. extract on Herpes simplex virus type 2 replication, 2008