Hypertension, arrhythmia and nervous palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.
Mechanism of Action
Melissa contains phenolic acid derivatives such as rosmarinic and the related lithospermic and chlorogenic acids,1 and it is a natural inhibitor of angiotensin-converting enzymes.2
Rosmarinic acid and the triterpenoids oleanolic acid and ursolic acid inhibit γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transaminase activity, resulting in increased GABA levels in the brain.3 This mechanism is believed to contribute to anxiolytic and hypotensive effects. Aromatic essential oils including citral, neral, geranial, citronellal, and caryophyllene are also credited with anxiolytic effects.4
GABA transaminase is an enzyme targeted in the therapy of anxiety, epilepsy, and related neurological disorders. In animal studies, rosmarinic acid found in Melissa has been shown to inhibit GABA transaminase by 40% at 100 µg/mL. Whole Melissa extracts contain not only rosmarinic acid but also additional GABA inhibitors that are believed to offer synergistic effects.5
Animal studies show Melissa extracts to have mild protective effects against reperfusion-induced lethal ventricular arrhythmias in rats.6
Heart palpitations are commonly associated with stress. One human randomized controlled trial dosed either 500 mg of Melissa twice daily or placebo for 2 weeks to patients experiencing regular heart palpitations and then evaluated the results using the patients’ subjective assessments of the frequency and intensity of episodes. Secondary outcomes assessed included somatization, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression. Melissa reduced frequency of palpitation episodes and significantly reduced the number of anxious patients in comparison to the placebo.7
Safety in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
No studies have been identified that test the safety of Melissa in either pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Melissa is generally considered to be safe and well tolerated within recommended dosing ranges.1
This herb is generally considered safe at doses of 600 mg and up to doses as high as 1800 mg/day of the crude leaf.
Melissa officinalis goes by the common name lemon balm because of the strong lemon aroma released from the leaves. This low-growing, herbaceous plant has been used traditionally for mood disorders, insomnia, migraines, infections, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, gastric conditions, bronchial complaints, and hypertension. Melissa contains rosmarinic acid, a phenolic compound derived from caffeic acid that is credited with many anti-inflammatory effects.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;188:204–28. Melissa officinalis L. – A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Shakeri A, Sahebkar A, Javadi B.
2 Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2006;15(1):107–18. Evaluation of clonal herbs of Lamiaceae species for management of diabetes and hypertension. Kwon YI, Vattem DA, Shetty K.
3 Phytomedicine. 2010;17(6):397–403. Effects of chronic administration of Melissa officinalis L. extract on anxiety-like reactivity and on circadian and exploratory activities in mice. Ibarra A, Feuillere N, Roller M, Lesburgere E, Beracochea D.
4 J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008;60(11):1515–22. Pharmacological profile of essential oils derived from Lavandula angustifolia and Melissa officinalis with anti-agitation properties: focus on ligand-gated channels. Huang L, Abuhamdah S, Howes MJ, Dixon CL, Elliot MS, Ballard C, Holmes C, Burns A, Perry EK, Francis PT, Lees G, Chazot PL.
5 Phytother Res. 2009;23(8):1075–81. Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity. Awad R, Muhammad A, Durst T, Trudeau VL, Arnason JT.
6 Med Princ Pract. 2014;23(4):340–5. Efficacy of Melissa officinalis in suppressing ventricular arrhythmias following ischemia-reperfusion of the heart: a comparison with amiodarone. Joukar S, Zarisfi Z, Sepehri G, Bashiri A.
7 J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;164:378–84. Heart palpitation relief with Melissa officinalis leaf extract: Double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of efficacy and safety. Alijaniha F, Naseri M, Afsharypuor S, Fallahi F, Noorbala A, Mosaddegh M, Faghihzadeh S, Sadrai S.