Lemon Balm: An Underrated Natural Sleep Supplement

what is lemon balm

Who here has trouble falling and staying asleep? I know I do and according to the research, I’m not the only one.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), more than 30% of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

Yikes! But is that number REALLY that surprising? Think about it. We are all busy. Constantly stimulated by our mobile leashes. Our brains are on 24/7 and a lot of us live by the adage “you snooze you lose.”

To sleep better many experts recommend strategies such as:

  • Reduce blue light exposure from devices
  • Don’t drink caffeine late in the day
  • Sleep and wake at consistent times
  • Make your bedroom a cold and dark dungeon
  • Don’t watch TV in bed
  • Don’t drink alcohol (this one must be a joke)
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed
  • Get a comfy bed and pillow
  • Engage in regular exercise

    These recommendations are all fine and dandy, but some of us will still have trouble with sleep. You could try medications like Ambien but a lot of us want natural alternatives.

    Undoubtedly you have heard about the supplement melatonin for sleep. Possibly even lavender and kava. But I bet a lot of you haven’t heard about one of the most underrated sleep supplements. Melissa Offcinalis. Also known as lemon balm extract.

    In this article, we will discuss what lemon balm is, how it works, the benefits, and when to take it for some high quality zzz’s.

    What is Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)?

    Lemon balm is a plant/herb officially known as Melissa Officinalis. While this totally makes it sound of Greek origin, lemon balm has traditionally been used in Eastern Europe and more specifically Croatia.

    What’s more, this super sleep supplement has documented use extending back to 50-80 BC. Imagine a bunch of cavemen chomping on a leafy green plant only to find themselves falling asleep and waking up to a t-rex about to eat them.

    All kidding aside, lemon balm has been used for a long time with documented success, which we will discuss shortly.

    What’s in lemon balm that makes it so great? Hold on to your britches as we turn to a little geek-speak.

    The beneficial compounds found in lemon balm are:

    • Caffeate Oligomers
    • Rosmarinic Acid 
    • Rosmarinic Acid hexoside
    • Caftaric acid
    • Melitric Acid A and B
    • 1,3-Benzodioxole
    • Yunnaneic acid F
    • Salvianolic acid A
    • Lithospermic acid A
    • Sagerinic acid
    • Protocatechuic Acid
    • Triterpenoids Carnosic Acid, Ursolic Acid, and Oleanolic Acid
    • Kaempferol diglucoside
    • Quercetin glucoside
    • Apigenin
    • Luteolin-3′-O-glucuronide
    • Galactolipids

    Is your head spinning yet? Let’s move on to the stuff you really want to know. How lemon balm will have you yawning and ready for bed.

    How Does Lemon Balm Work?

    Lemon balm helps you sleep by inhibiting the enzyme GABA transaminase. Say what?

    Basically, GABA is a neurotransmitter in the body that:

    • Controls anxiety
    • Regulates mood
    • Minimizes stress
    • Plays a crucial role in sleep patterns.

    When lemon balm is taken it essentially “shuts off” GABA transaminase so more GABA can be produced to calm our hyped-up bodies and brains.

    Not that we have the “science” stuff out of the way, let’s discuss the benefits of lemon balm extract supplementation

    Lemon Balm Extract Benefits/Uses

    Lemon balm combats insomnia

    Nothing is worse than tossing and turning all night in your bed. Desperately trying to fall asleep by counting sheep. You’ll probably see every hour of the night and get out of bed like death warmed over.

    This my friends is known as insomnia and by some estimates, this sleep disorder affects 25% of the population.

    Lucky for you, lemon balm can help!

    A 2011 clinical study discovered that subjects who took 600 milligrams of lemon balm extract daily were able to reduce insomnia by 42% and anxiety by 18%. Those are some impressive findings!

    Lemon balm reduces anxiety/stress

    The bad “S” word. Stress. Almost everyone experiences stress every day and the effects can range from mild to severe.

    When stress rears its ugly head, it does a number on our bodies and brains. Cortisol levels spike, our brains go haywire, and it’s hard to calm down and subsequently go to bed.

    Lemon balm can help with this!

    A 2004 research study found that subjects who consumed 600 milligrams of lemon balm before a stress test were able to reduce the perception of stress and improve calmness.

    At this point, you may be saying, “Sign me up for some lemon balm!” While I don’t blame just hold on for a little longer sparky because lemon balm has another benefit you’ll want to know about.

    Lemon balm improves cognition

    Have you ever noticed that your brain doesn’t work quite as well when you don’t sleep?  You can’t remember things and you have difficulty with basic functions such as putting on your shirt or completing a sentence.

    Well, lemon balm may be able to kick start that gray matter between your ears because one research study has demonstrated it can improve cognition (memory and your ability to think clearly).

    In this 2002 study, scientists found that subjects who took 300-900 milligrams of lemon balm extract improved memory formation and memory retention. Basically, the subjects were able to remember things

    Lemon Balm Dosage

    On the low end, an efficacious dose of lemon balm extract is 300 milligrams, but higher doses may be needed to improve sleep quality.

    One study suggests that 1200 milligrams gives three times as much benefit compared to 300 milligrams.

    However, most studies using lemon balm for improved sleep have used a dose of 600 milligrams

    How to Use Lemon Balm

    If you intend to use lemon balm to get better sleep, take it 15-30 minutes before bed. Avoid taking lemon balm during the day or with sedative medications as this can lead to extreme drowsiness.

    How Fast Does Lemon Balm Work?

    Once you take lemon balm it reaches peak concentrations in the blood after ~30 minutes. After 20 minutes you should feel calm and relaxed. After 30 minutes you’ll be ready for bed or a nap.

    Lemon Balm Side Effects

    Currently, there are no known side effects from taking lemon balm extract. Overall it is a very safe supplement that does not have any negative interactions with medications EXCEPT ones that promote sedation.

    Other Supplements That Work Well with Lemon Balm

    Lemon balm works extremely well and has a synergistic sleep effect with the following supplements:

    1. Valerian root: Multiple studies have demonstrated a 30%+ improvement in sleep when lemon balm and valerian root are taken together.
    2. Melatonin: The melatonin will put you to sleep and the lemon balm extract will help keep you asleep.
    3. Magnesium citrate: Amplifies the sedative effect of lemon balm.
    4. L-Theanine: Works in conjunction with lemon balm to induce calmness.
    5. Lavender: Synergistic with lemon balm for improving insomnia.
    6. Ashwagandha: Helps control cortisol levels and stress-induced insomnia.

    Where to Buy Lemon Balm

    Lemon balm, along with the other sleep supplements listed above, can be found in SleepElite.



    While lemon balm is a great sleep supplement by itself, it works better when combined with other research demonstrated sleep ingredients.

    How Much Does Lemon Balm Cost

    By itself, lemon balm can cost anywhere from twenty dollars up to sixty dollars dependent on the dose and number of servings.

    When found in a sleep supplement like SleepElite the cost will be ~$40 for twenty to thirty servings for lemon balm and other effective sleep ingredients.

    The Bottom Line on Lemon Balm Extract

    Let’s face it. Not sleeping sucks. Anything we can do to get some zzz’s is worth it in the long run for our health and athletic performance.

    First and foremost, try to improve your sleep with the recommendations provided at the beginning of this article. If that doesn’t work consider trying lemon balm or the best natural sleep supplement, SleepElite.

    About the author:

    Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California.  Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.

    References:

    • Cases, J., Ibarra, A., Feuillere, N., Roller, M., & Sukkar, S. 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. Mediterranean journal of nutrition and metabolism4(3), 211-218.
    • Kennedy, D. O., Little, W., & Scholey, A. B. (2004). Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). Psychosomatic medicine66(4), 607-613.
    • Kennedy, D. O., Scholey, A. B., Tildesley, N. T. J., Perry, E. K., & Wesnes, K. A. (2002). Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior72(4), 953-964.

     

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