Depending on your unique brain chemistry, lemon balm can be an innocuous, but powerful sedative and relaxant. This plant species is home in the Mediterranean and has been used to reduce anxiety, induce calm, and even helps to improve cognitive performance.
Traditionally consumed in tea form, lemon balm (also known as melissa officinalis) has a calming effect especially on those suffering from stress . Given the scientific criteria often vary, it is also considered a powerful way to reduce anxiety . Many of these capabilities to reduce anxiety and stress help to aid in memory enhancement and even processing speed , which are considered downstream effects of the calming factors.
The way to get the most from lemon balm is to use an extract rather than the tea. While both are calming, dosing extract has more research and is a stronger dose of the psychoactive compound. However, many people enjoy consuming lemon balm tea for the chemical effects and soothing warmth of a hot beverage.
Also Known As
Lemon Balm, Melissengeist, Bee balm, Garden Balm, Melissa, Erva-cidreira
Editors’ Thoughts on Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is one of the most intense nootropics experiences I have had, which says something about my personal brain chemistry. I took this on a whim when I heard it could be useful in combating anxiety. I bought some lemon balm tea online and tried it one evening.
The sedative effects hit me hard and I nearly fell into a coma. As it was, I felt like I imagined a heroin act does after taking the lemon balm. I tried doing some reading on my computer, but I ended up going to sleep many hours earlier than usual from taking lemon balm.
It was not a bad experience at all, but definitely not a sustainable one (unless I wanted to use it to go to sleep due to insomnia). However, it must have been so strong of an effect because it was the first time. Later, I drank more lemon balm tea and had a less intense experience than this one.
I have a theory about why it impacted me so greatly. For one, I took the Braverman Nature Assessment and found I was deficient in GABA. The main mechanism of lemon balm is inhibition of an enzyme called GABA transaminase, which breaks down GABA (thus leaving me with a deficiency).
Thus, these intense effects of lemon balm might have been very personalized and I have never met someone who has had a similarly strong experience. It will be relaxing, but probably not jarringly so for you.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Lemon Balm Benefits
The ancient Mediterranean peoples (including the Roman Empire) loved lemon balm in tea form and research is vindicating many of their assumptions about the drug. One of the main benefits of lemon balm is as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety). A study of brain waves showed that lemon balm was useful in reducing anxiety .
In a separate 2 – 4 week study, taking two doses of 300 mg lemon balm extract helped reduce anxiety by up to 15 – 18% in 20 participants. This same study showed that lemon balm could reduce insomnia amongst the cohort by up to 42% .
Lemon balm benefits also include calmness and a reduction in stress. While both of these sound similar to reducing anxiety, by scientific definitions they are slightly different. One study looked at subjective measures of calmness and found a significant improvement in the cohort . All of these are great for improving how you feel, but there are mental performance relationships as well.
For one, multiple studies suggest a strong link with lemon balm and memory enhancement. Although working memory was not significantly affected, the quality of memory improved greatly in a double-blind study in 2003 .
The other evidence consistently suggests an improvement in memory quality and also in processing speed , which may suggest that the plant can improve important cognitive aspects no matter whether you’re a student, entrepreneur, or other high performance individual.
How Does Lemon Balm Work?
The main psychoactive ingredient in lemon balm is called rosmarinic acid, which acts to inhibit an enzyme in the brain called GABA transaminase. Inhibiting this enzyme prevents the breaking down of the brain chemicals called GABA, which are responsible for sedation and calmness .
For individuals that have low GABA levels, this is a great way to increase them. It has many downstream effects for people who have insomnia or feel anxiety and stress.
Side Effects of Lemon Balm
The side effects of lemon balm are mild and will depend on your personal preferences and desires. Some people might not find a highly sedative experience very enjoyable so the sleep-inducing effects of lemon balm can be unwelcome. Although one person might use lemon balm to improve sleep, another might find this a side effect of lemon balm.
You can modulate your dosage depending on your needs, but if you are susceptible to falling asleep or you just don’t want to feel too drowsy, lemon balm side effects might be too powerful for you.
Finally, one side effect of lemon balm that many people enjoy is the interaction with Valerian root. Combining valerian root and lemon balm can help work together to improve sleep quality. In one study, these two showed 33% improvement in sleep versus only 9% of the placebo .
In general, this is one of the few nootropics that does not have strong side effects. You’ll find that sedation and sleepiness are the only thing to worry about if that’s not something you desire.
Lemon Balm Dosage
The lemon balm dosage will depend on your goals. Higher doses of 1,500 mg lemon balm leaves are useful for antioxidant support , but there are so many antioxidants other than this herb, it is probably not a solution that you need.
You can also buy lemon balm tea in order to consume the rosmarinic acid, but this is hard to gauge the dosage. If you go this route, just make sure to let the tea bag steep in the water for up to 3 minutes for the maximum effect.
The most common lemon balm dosage uses lemon balm extract. Starting doses are in the 300 mg range and go all the way to 1200 mg. We recommend you start on the lower end before moving higher, though lemon balm tends to be a well-received nootropic compound.
Lemon Balm Dried Leaves
Recommended dosage range: 1,000 – 2,000 mg dried leaves
Starting point: 1,600 mg per day
Lemon Balm Extract
Recommended dosage range: 200 – 600 mg
Starting point: 450 mg
Lemon Balm Tea
Recommended dosage range: 2 – 7 minutes steeping
Starting point: 3 minutes
How and Where to Buy Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a commonly available nootropic substance you can find at local health food and grocery stores. You can probably find both the extract and the tea in different sections of the store, but buying online comes with some advantages as well.
Despite the popularity of lemon balm, finding a trustworthy, reliable, and affordable product is still a challenge. You can buy lemon balm online with some of the brands that have a long history of creating high quality supplements. You can also find lemon balm extract for sale with the right doses so you can use it as you please.
Of course, Amazon is a great source of lemon balm (whether it is the aromatic tea or the lemon balm extract) and it is quite affordable. Nootropedia recommends the Herb Pharm lemon balm extract as the most trustworthy and effective supplementation method.
Selected Community Experiences
“It has an undeniable, moderate drug-like effect on me. I've shared it around with friends who've not responded much at all and there's not too much noise about it on the internet. I feel pretty great, relaxed. If I use it for two days I'll feel rough on the third and not want to use it again. It disrupts my mood stability.”  – vierkante
“So tried lemon balm a few days, it immediately gave me intense anxiety, tense chest and throat (it was quite interestingly immediate tbh, voice was choking when I was talking to my dad and he was quite perturbed).”  – chasin-the-rule-oh
- References (Click to Expand)
- Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)