Melissa Essential Oil
Melissa essential oil, more commonly known as ‘lemon balm’ (which is also known as Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family. While lemon balm is native to Europe, it is grown all over the world today.
Melissa essential oil is derived from the leaves of the Melissa officinalis plant, a popular crop commonly used in medicine, cosmetics and certain household products, such as floor polishers.1 Its leaves are similar in shape to mint leaves and when rubbed, produce an aromatic, citrus aroma—hence the plant being referred to as lemon balm.1
Melissa essential oil is extracted through a process of steam distillation and is reported to have antiviral, antimicrobial, sedative and carminative (gas-reducing) properties.2,3
Melissa Essential Oil Uses
Melissa essential oil can be incorporated into beauty routines, natural treatments and even around the house. Below are some of the most common uses for melissa essential oil.
Add 2-4 aromatic drops of melissa essential oil to a carrier oil (such as almond, coconut or jojoba) for an invigorating massage. For a personalized massage oil, try blending with a few drops of lavender, ylang-ylang or other fragrant essential oils.
Soothe an Upset Stomach
Lemon balm has traditionally been used to help relieve indigestion and to treat mild nausea.3 With carminative (gas-relieving) properties, lemon balm is believed to relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.3 To help relieve bloating or an upset stomach, mix a few drops with a carrier oil and gently massage over the abdomen.
Traditionally used to soothe minor skin irritations, melissa essential oil can easily be used in a natural skin care routine. For a homemade moisturizer, add a few drops of melissa essential oil to equal parts shea butter and coconut oil, along with a dash of honey. Or simply add to your favorite unscented store-bought moisturizer.
Hydrating Face Mist
For a hydrating face mist, add 5 drops of melissa essential oil to a spray bottle full of water. Spritz on your face and/or body to refresh your skin, alleviate anxiety and for a quick pick-me-up.2
Soothing Lip Balm
For a natural, homemade lip balm, combine a few drops of melissa essential oil to a small amount of beeswax and a carrier oil. This petroleum-free balm will help sooth and moisturize lips.
For a calming aroma, add 3-4 drops of melissa to 2-3 cups of boiling water or a diffuser.
Alternatively, add 1-2 drops to the palm of your hands. Rub them together and then cup your hands around your nose and inhale. Repeat this process several times to help de-stress.2 Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after this method of aromatherapy.
Natural Sleep Aid
Aromatic sachets can be made using lemon balm and lavender essential oils, both of which are known to help promote sleep.2,4 To make a quick homemade sachet, add 2 drops each of melissa and lavender essential oil on to an old cotton cloth or unused kitchen cheesecloth. Slip the cloth inside your pillow case before going to bed to help promote a restful sleep.2,4
Add to a Bath
Simply add a few drops of melissa essential oil to your bathwater to de-stress and help promote a restful night’s sleep.2
Benefits of Melissa Essential Oil
Traditionally used to treat conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, herpes, cold sores, minor skin conditions and infections, melissa essential oil (lemon balm) has received increased scientific focus in recent years. With growing research on its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, discover some of the most-fascinating health benefits of this aromatic oil.
Improve Sleep Quality
Several studies have shown that lemon balm combined with other calming herbs (such as valerian, hops, and chamomile) may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and promote sleep.1,2
A pilot trial of the melissa officinalis extract called Cyracos® was performed and published in the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2010. In this study, volunteers who identified as being stressed with mild to moderate sleep disturbances were tested with Cyracos® in tablet form (600 mg per day in two divided doses). After fifteen days, 85% (17/20) reported some improvement in their insomnia.2
Note: While this research shows promise for new applications of melissa essential oil/lemon balm, essential oils should never be ingested without direct supervision of a health care provider.
Anxiety and Stress Management
Anxiety was also tested in the above-mentioned study. In addition to sleep quality, volunteers also reported the effects of the melissa officinalis extract on their overall anxiety. Results from the study state that 70% (14/20) of subjects receiving Cyracos® in a tablet form, (600 mg per day in two divided doses) reported achieving some remission from their anxiety symptoms.2
As one of the most expensive oils to produce (due to its high volume/low yield ratio), melissa essential oil is often tested in combination with other herbal extracts or essential oils.
Melissa officinalis has traditionally been used as a memory-enhancing herb. In a 2014 study, researchers tested this claim in an animal model. Data suggests that after animal subjects were injected with the melissa extract, memory was significantly improved.
Researchers believe that melissa essential oil has cholinergic properties, which can increase neurotransmission in the brain. A reduced number of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons has been associated with memory loss and may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Although further research and extensive human studies are required, this study concluded that Melissa officinalis could be a candidate for potential future treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.5,7
A study in Phytomedicine found that the topical application of a cream containing a highly-concentrated extract of lemon balm helped heal genital herpes sores faster than a placebo.6 Subjects in the study applied a cream containing 1% of a standardized 70:1 extract four to five times per day topically to affected areas.3
Note: While preliminary evidence indicates that lemon balm may help reduce herpes symptoms, further scientific research is still required. Essential oils should not be used to replace conventional treatments.
Cold Sore Relief
In the same Phytomedicine study, researchers also looked at the effectiveness of lemon balm extract in treating oral cold sores. A cream containing 1% of a standardized 70:1 extract was applied to the affected area 4-5 times daily. Data concluded that the topical application helped heal the oral herpes sores faster than a placebo.3
Lemon balm is also known to be an antiviral and antimicrobial herb, and as stated above, shows efficacy in treating conditions such as cold sores and herpes.3 More research is need to understand if these properties can be beneficial to additional human conditions.
Side Effects of Melissa Essential Oil
Melissa Essential Oil is well tolerated and generally safe for most people when inhaled or applied topically. Its sedating effects do not appear to be affected by alcohol.3
It is not recommended to ingest essential oils unless under the direct supervision of a qualified professional. Small children as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using melissa essential oil.
It is important to note that people with glaucoma should avoid lemon balm until human studies are conducted, as animal studies have shown that it may raise pressure in the eye.3
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2015 January 2). Lemon Balm. Retrieved February 25, 2017 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm – View reference
- CASES, J, IBARRA, A, FEUILLIERE, N, ROLLER, M, SAMIR, G. (2011) Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011 Dec; 4(3): 211–218. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230760/
- Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan (2015 April 14). Lemon balm. Retrieved February 25, 2017 from http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2121004
- University of Maryland Medical Centre (2015, January 2) Lavender. Retrieved February 25, 2017 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender – View reference
- SOODI, M, NAGHDI, N, HAJMEHDIPOOR, H, CHOOPANI, S AND SAHR, E. (2014). Memory-improving activity of Melissa officinalis extract in naïve and scopolamine-treated Res Pharm Sci, 9(2): 107–114. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311288/
- WOLBLING, RH, LEONAHARD, K. (1994). Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract of Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine, 1(1). 25-31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0944-7113(11)80019-X
- University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2015 April 23). Alzheimer Disease. Retrieved February 28, 2017 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/alzheimers-disease