A balm is a preparation that heals or soothes.
And there’s an ancient balm with a long history that not only soothes your anxious brain, but may also be able to preserve your ability to think straight and keep your memory working better as you grow older.
Remarkably, this balm – which has been giving people these benefits for thousands of years – has now been shown by medical research to have unique chemical effects on the brain.
The herb I’m talking about is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a plant that’s been used for anxiety and mental support pretty much since people first started using herbs. The plant grows in my garden (in fact, it’s pretty invasive – sort of a weed.)
As the name suggests, it tastes and smells just like lemon, and makes a nice addition to tea.
Now we know there’s a lot more to it than the flavor. A review of the studies on lemon balm shows it produces measurable benefits for “mood, cognition and memory (that) have been shown in clinical trials.”1
Helps People with Alzheimer’s
This venerable herb may, in fact, be able to help people cope with Alzheimer’s disease and slow memory loss.
In a four-month study on more than three dozen seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, investigators tested the effects of taking 60 daily drops of lemon balm extract. The results: folks improved their cognitive abilities on tests of intellectual function while also displaying better mental judgment, longer attention spans, less disorientation, stronger language skills and better reasoning skills.2
Something New? Not Exactly. . .
For anyone well-acquainted with the history of herbs, this kind of research result shouldn’t be a surprise. Way back in the 1500s, a famous physician named Paracelsus was promoting lemon balm as the “elixir of life.”3
Going back even further to the time of the ancient Greeks, lemon balm was considered essential for dealing with “all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered nervous system.”4
Traditionally, the most widespread use of lemon balm has been to treat melancholy and to improve mood. It also has a longstanding reputation as a calming agent that eases anxiety.5
These calming effects of lemon balm have also been shown to, in fact, have scientific validity.
Several studies show that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, hops, or chamomile) helps reduce anxiety and promote sleep. A study that examined the herb’s effects on people with sleep difficulties discovered that it could help more than four out of five people fall asleep more easily and sleep better.6
Another study found that a week of taking lemon balm twice a day caused a significant calming effect, improved mood and greater ability to focus on mental tasks.
How Does It Work?
Exactly how lemon balm produces its benefits in the brain and body is not yet clear. Some of the studies suggest that lemon balm interacts with the important neurotransmitter in the brain known as acetylcholine.
Many researchers believe that when you develop a brain problem like Alzheimer’s disease, things go seriously wrong with this neurotransmitter and its receptors in the brain. If lemon balm can help correct this imbalance, that might explain how it tends to get memories and cognitive faculties back on track.7
Medical researchers also note that people who develop Alzheimer’s are frequently agitated and suffer mood disturbances. Therefore the “specific calming or mildly sedative effect” of lemon balm could be very useful for folks experiencing these problems.8
For my money, the fact that lemon balm can both potentially help the brain stay healthy and relieve the anxiety that is so rampant in today’s world makes it a valuable addition to a supplement regimen. And more than two thousand years of herbalists would agree.
Lemon balm supplements are readily available on the Internet. Our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, includes a clinical dose of lemon balm in their Vital Force formula, which contains a number of other ingredients and is designed to raise your levels of glutathione, a vital antioxidant that may be the difference between having a long life or a short one.