Lemon Balm and your Brain.

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Lemon Balm for Cognitive Health

Lemon Balm for Cognitive Health


Photo caption: The Lemon Balm herb has been linked to cognitive health.

Can a common herb possibly grown in your garden improve brain function, memory and learning while helping mood, anxiety, and stress levels? We look at the scientific studies into Lemon Balm.

What is Lemon Balm?

Lemon Balm has historically been known for its effects surrounding mood, anxiety, and stress.  In fact, the 17th century English Herbalist and Physician, Nicholas Culpeper, would recommend its use to improve mood and stimulate clear thinking.  Moreover, contemporary studies have revealed a host of benefits for the brain and delved a little deeper as to exactly how Lemon Balm works.

Lemon Balm, Latin name Melissa officinalis, is a lemon-scented herb that is found throughout Europe, it is characterised by thick, abundant green leaves, like that of mint.  Each spring the plant is veiled in small white flowers which attract bees.

What are the therapeutic properties of Lemon Balm?

The herb is a rich source of several bioactive compounds such as rosmarinic acid, flavonoids, and triterpenes.  And it is these compounds that are suggested to exert the beneficial cognitive effects.

Lemon Balm is a prolific herb that grows rapidly, subsequently, an abundance of herb soon flourishes from few seeds or a small seedling.  It has a lovely lemon-mint taste and makes a nice addition to smoothies.

Lemon Balm fields
Photo caption: Lemon Balm supplementation has been studied by scientists. 


What have the studies shown?

Several recent studies have been published that reported an improved cognitive function in response to lemon balm supplementation.  One study especially stood out, it was a study published in 2002 that reported significant improvements in brain function and memory in response to a single dose (600mg) of Lemon Balm Extract.

Kennedy, the lead author stated: “Melissa officinalis has cholinergic receptor-binding properties, and that the ingestion of single doses can modulate both the mood and cognitive performance of healthy young volunteers in a dose- and time-dependent manner.”

Shortly afterwards, the same group of researchers took their research to the next level of investigation, to evaluate exactly how the lemon balm extract exerted its beneficial effects.  They reported that the extract displaced the signalling agents that bind to nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, these are the two major cholinergic receptors that allow for learning, memory, and information recall.

This activity was comparable to the effect of a common medication that is used to manage age-related cognitive impairment.  The muscarinic-cholinergic system plays an important role in brain cells stimulating cognition function, and one of the contributing factors to failing cognition is the lack of a substance called acetylcholine.

Subsequently, the improvements in cognitive performance may be attributable to the binding capacity of the cholinergic receptors by the lemon balm extract which then allows acetylcholine to remain in circulation and continue working in the brain.

Overall, supplementing with Lemon Balm extract may improve how your brain works, in regards to learning, memory and information recall.


Always read the label to check the source of the ingredients. Choose high quality supplements which contain 100% active ingredients – no binders or fillers. Check the amount of active ingredient as this can vary

For more information, including advice on modifying your lifestyle, visit your local independent health store. To find your nearest one, visit: www.findahealthstore.com  

Author: Amy Hipwell is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc in Nutrition.

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