Herbal nootropics are often powerful tools that can benefit our bodies and brains in many different ways.
Lemon balm is no exception to this rule and offers a variety of benefits to help boost cognition, create calmness, reduce anxiety, and promote better sleep.
For centuries people used this plant as a way to promote good health. Its primary function as a sleep aid is well known, but new studies show just how powerful this plant can be to your mind.
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is a plant found in the Mediterranean region of the world. Ancient Romans used to steep the leaves into their wine as a way to improve their overall health. In fact, many people drink lemon balm tea for its soothing effect.
But there is so much more to lemon balm than a pleasant tea and a way to fall asleep faster.
There are actual compounds found in lemon balm that can help stimulate good GABA activity and relieving stress. There are even studies that look into the way it can help Alzheimer’s patients and improve their cognition.
Lemon balm is quite popular as a tea, and you can find it in most health food stores and even in some grocery stores.
If you choose to drink it as a tea, make sure you look at all the other ingredients and buy from a brand or supplier you trust. The extract of lemon balm is much more powerful, and if you choose the right source, you can see benefits right away.
In short, lemon balm is a simple and effective way to reap tons of cognitive benefits from a more relaxed mood to decreased cognitive disturbances.
These benefits can be helpful for healthy individuals and those who have diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Other Names for Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis, Honey Plant, Sweet Balm, Common Balm, Dropsy Plant, Melissae Folium
I tend to suffer from anxiety from time to time. It isn’t anything debilitating, but it can get in the way of certain things like public performances or presentations.
After reading recent research about lemon balm’s ability to relieve anxiety, I decided to try it in tea form. I knew that the tea wasn’t the strongest form of lemon balm, but because it was the first time I didn’t want to be overwhelmed.
I definitely felt a soothing effect and about an hour after I had the tea, I was more relaxed and even started nodding off much earlier than I normally do.
For this reason, if you’ve never tried lemon balm tea you should do so right before bed, so you don’t fall asleep anywhere inconvenient.
The main mechanism of lemon balm is to inhibit GABA, a neurotransmitter that regulates fear and anxiety.
By inhibiting GABA, lemon balm helps your body increase natural production of this neurotransmitter which can calm anxiety and fear. If you aren’t deficient in GABA already, you might not feel as strong of an effect after consuming lemon balm.
As for the ability to mediate cognitive disturbances and better focus, I didn’t experience that from the tea. Lemon balm extract is more powerful, and I suspect you would get more of the cognitive benefits from the supplement than the tea.
I also think you need to take lemon balm extract every day to feel the effects on your cognitive abilities. No matter how you decide to use lemon balm, it is a helpful herb that can produce a variety of benefits.
Lemon Balm Reviews
I’m not the only one who has seen some powerful effects from lemon balm. Here are just a few reviews from others:
I like Lemon Balm because it’s very relaxing for me and is so easy/free to just have growing in the yard. It grows like a weed in my area so I put plants in my yard in the places that are a pain to mow. Before bed I make hot tea from fresh leaves and add raw honey. -redditor nootpoint
I’ve been using 500mg or 1000mg before bed for a few weeks now. It’s definitely effective in helping me fall asleep. I sleep very deeply with more vivid dreams. In general my dreams seem to be a bit more stressful than normal but I wouldn’t go as far as to call them nightmares. -Clide024
Benefits and effects
While lemon balm is considered a nootropic, it is also an adaptogen which means it helps the body adapt to external stressors and normalize all processes.
The combination of an adaptogen and nootropic make lemon balm so unique and effective. It also produces a lot of great benefits.
The main benefit of lemon balm is its ability to relieve anxiety and produce a sense of calm. One of the main compounds of lemon balm is rosmarinic acid which has shown to help with the inhibition of GABA.
Lemon balm, therefore, stimulates GABA production and this effect helps lower the amount of anxiety and stress in the body.
This calming effect is great not only for healthy people that might be feeling a little stressed but patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Both of these illnesses often cause agitation and anxiety which lemon balm helps to calm.
Lemon balm has also shown some promising results in improving memory in the long term. Because it’s so powerful in producing calm, there hasn’t been a lot of research into how effective it can be in improving memory.
Initial studies though are promising, especially at the maximum dose of lemon balm.
Lemon balm stimulates activity in nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, and these receptors work with acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is known to help increase memory capacity and improve cognitive function.
Again, these can be helpful benefits for healthy individuals as well as those with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive abilities.
Better sleep is another of the primary benefits to the use of lemon balm. If you suffer from insomnia, then the lemon balm in combination with valerian root can help induce sleep as well as better quality of sleep.
More sleep and a higher quality of sleep can help reset the brain and improve your overall health.
In addition to inducing sleep or drowsiness, the compounds in lemon balm can work to calm muscles, so if you often experience aches or spasms that prevent you from sleeping, lemon balm can help combat those issues.
How It Works
There is still a lot of ongoing research to find out exactly how lemon balm works to produce all of its benefits.
It is very different than most nootropics out there, but we do know there are three compounds, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, and rosmarinic acid that work together to produce the effects of lemon balm.
Rosmarinic acid is thought to be the main mechanism that works to interact with GABA transaminase.
Rosmarinic inhibits GABA-t, and this causes the body to produce more GABA-t. Because GABA-t is crucial for the reduction of fear and anxiety in the body, this is what gives lemon balm its anxiety and stress reducing effects.
Regarding how lemon balm works to relieve cognitive disturbances in Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients, there is a little more known. Lemon balm helps mitigate the loss of cholinergic neurons.
The loss of these neurons can cause a lot of the agitation and cognitive disturbances in Alzheimer’s. Because lemon balm has choline, it binds to the cholinergic receptors. This process blocks acetylcholinesterase which prevents cognitive decline.
The effects of lemon balm can vary depending on what you use it for and how you use it. If you are looking for an aide in sleeping and anxiety reduction, simply drinking the tea can result in immediate effects.
These effects will last up to six hours but will eventually wear off, so you won’t be continually drowsy.
If you’re looking for an improvement in your memory and cognition, you will want to use lemon balm extract because it is more powerful than the tea.
You can also get a higher dose through extract, and this can produce a quicker result. Again, it will wear off over time, so you need to keep using lemon balm to see the positive effects.
You can find lemon balm as a tea, extract, dried leaves, creams, tinctures, and even as an essential oil. All of these forms will produce the positive benefits lemon balm has to offer, but in different amounts and at different price ranges.
Tea will tend to be on the lower cost end of the scale while creams and essential oils will be more expensive.
The most popular forms of lemon balm are tea and extracts. For both of these, the most effective dosage is between 300 and 600 mg. For a boost in your cognitive function stick to a lower dosage and if you want better sleep go with a higher dosage.
Don’t be tempted to go too high with lemon balm, though, because it can have a negative effect. In fact, doses of 1800 mg or higher have shown to produce the opposite effect of lemon balm and increase anxiety and stress.
Nootropics can often have side effects, but lemon balm doesn’t have that many negative effects.
The one thing to note is lemon balm will affect everyone differently. Some people report that they don’t feel anything after using lemon balm while others claim it is one of the strongest nootropics they have tried.
Lemon balm does have a sedative effect, so see how it affects you before using it regularly. Do not combine it with alcohol as it can increase your drowsiness and don’t operate heavy machinery after using.
You also shouldn’t combine lemon balm with other sedatives or it can negatively impact your health. Also, be cautious about using lemon balm before surgery because it can affect the way the anesthesia works in your body.
Nootropics are often stacked with other supplements to help enhance their effectiveness. Lemon balm is quite powerful on its own, and don’t need to combine it with anything else to make it work better.
That said, it is common to combine it with valerian root to enhance it as a sleep aide.
If you want to try this combination for better sleep you can use this combination three times per day for up to thirty days:
- 120 mg valerian root
- 80 mg lemon balm
You can also take this combination right before bed instead of throughout the day if you notice that it makes you too sleepy during the day. Again, be careful not to stack lemon balm with any other sedatives as it can make you too drowsy.
Choose a day when you don’t have to wake up early or do a lot of work to test this combination so you can see how it affects your body and plan accordingly.
Perhaps you’ve used lemon balm before and didn’t like the way it affected you, or you didn’t feel any effect at all.
There are some other herbs and supplements you can try that have similar properties and benefits of lemon balm.
1. Kava Kava Root
is a popular herb found on the South Pacific Islands. The Islanders have used this root for centuries as a medicine, and it has started gaining popularity for its calming effects and as a muscle relaxer.
The root is the only part used, and it’s often ground into a pulp and combined with water to produce a tea of sorts. The effects of the tea are commonly compared to that of alcohol.
When taking kava kava root, you need to make sure you stick to the proper dosage because it can have some negative effects on the liver if you take too much for too long.
100 mg three times per day or 250 mg right before bed are the recommended doses.
- The effects of kava kava root can decrease over time so that it won’t be as powerful
- Unlike lemon balm, it is not for long term use, because it can have negative side effects such as liver damage or allergic reactions
- Kava kava isn’t for cognitive enhancement, just calm and stress relief
- You can learn more about kava kava and find out if it would work for you
2. Valerian root
is a common herb used with lemon balm, and that is because it produces some of the same effects.
On its own, it is a powerful aid against sleep disturbances and can help with anxiety and stress. It has also shown some promise with relieving depression and ADHD.
Valerian is another root that you shouldn’t take for long periods of time. The recommended dose is 400 to 900 mg about two hours before bed for up to twenty-eight days.
If you’re using it in combination with lemon balm, use the smaller dose suggested previously.
- Like lemon balm, it helps increase the production of GABA-t
- Most commonly used with lemon balm and not very often on its own
- Other than a sleep aid, it isn’t used to treat many other issues
- If you want to see if valerian root will work for you, learn more about it here
Another herb you can look into is
3. Panax ginseng
Ginseng is another adaptogen like lemon balm. It’s used to relieve stress and help the body adapt to external stressors. It can also provide a boost the immune system and improve mental performance.
As for proper dosages, anywhere from 100 to 3000 mg has been effective. There have also been cases where a single dose of 10 g of ginseng has been safe, but make sure you check with a doctor or healthcare provider first.
- Compounds in ginseng can help the body fight off infection or illness
- Thought to help cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, but more research is needed
- Also shows some promise in regulating diabetes and fighting cancer cells
- Ginseng could be helpful for you, but research it to find out if it will work for your body
People have used lemon balm for thousands of years, and a lot of the research around this plant has shown it has many benefits to offer.
If you have trouble sleeping, deal with a lot of stress, or often find yourself anxious then there is no reason you shouldn’t give lemon balm a try.
Because it helps stimulate the production of GABA-t, a neurotransmitter responsible for reducing fear and anxiety, it is highly effective at producing calm and acts as an effective sleep aid.
It also has properties that could improve cognition and its ability to stop the loss of cholinergic neurons can help those with Alzheimer’s.
The various forms you can find lemon balm make it easily accessible and give you the relief you’re seeking right away.