Cultures worldwide have used lemon balm to treat various health conditions and mood problems since ancient times (per Mount Sinai ). Botanically named Melissa officinalis, the sweet-smelling herb is also commonly called Melissa, sweet balm, and bee balm, according to RxList .
Pre-medieval cultures used lemon balm to treat venomous stings and bites and heal wounds. People in the Middle Ages used it to encourage appetite and ease symptoms of indigestion like cramps, gas, and bloating. The Herb Society of America says lemon balm has served many medicinal purposes since ancient Greece, but researchers continue to unlock this multifaceted plant’s health benefits.
Mount Sinai confirms that ancient cultures were right to believe lemon balm can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, promote sleep, and help heal sores. And this flowering herb shows potential as a brain-boosting nootropic that may improve memory and cognition (via Supplements in Review ) But what, exactly, is lemon balm? And can lemon balm essential oil help manage symptoms of diabetes ?
Lemon balm is a sweet, tart, flowering herb in the mint family. According to Supplements in Review , lemon balm has been used in plant medicine since ancient Greece, more than 2,000 years ago. This native European plant can now be found in private and commercial gardens for bee colonies, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, cosmetics, and skincare. The lemon-scented leaves are used in medicine and cooking and may provide calming sedative effects and combat viruses and bacteria (per WebMD ).
Lemon balm’s anti-inflammatory properties make it good for healing cold sores when applied topically. Also, a 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition shows low doses of lemon balm essential oil can serve as a hypoglycemic agent for type 2 diabetes , possibly due to enhanced liver metabolism and glucose uptake.
Healthline describes essential oils as compounds extracted from plants via distillation or cold-pressing. Oils obtained from plants using chemical processes or any method other than distillation or cold-pressing are not true essential oils. Essential oil extracts contain the concentrated essence of the plant, including flavor and aroma.
Essential oils are commonly applied to the skin or diffused into the air and inhaled through the nose and mouth. Essential oils are highly absorbable when applied topically and are rapidly metabolized, as shown in a 2015 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. It May Also Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms
Medical News Today cites a 2015 mice study that suggests lemon balm may help balance blood sugar. A 2020 animal study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology backed these findings, showing evidence that lemon balm can reduce visceral body fat and lower insulin resistance in obese female mice.
Human trials have shown lemon balm extract is safe and effective for treating symptoms in patients with type 2 diabetes. A 2018 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology shows lemon balm can balance lipid ratios and lower triglyceride to HDL ratios, reducing the chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
The results of a similar 2020 human trial published in Phytotherapy Research support this conclusion. This study concluded that lemon balm extract improves lipid profiles, helps maintain glycemic control, and reduces inflammation in type 2 diabetes.
According to Medical News Today , these findings suggest that lemon balm essential oil can help manage symptoms of diabetes when applied to the skin or used in a diffuser; and human trials show taking lemon balm extract orally may offer even more significant benefits for those with type 2 diabetes (per Complementary Therapies in Medicine ).
While many publications warn against taking essential oils internally, the FDA has approved lemon balm essential oil as safe for human consumption. Dr. Eric Zielinski advises taking essential oils in a capsule or mixing them with one tablespoon of a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil before swallowing (via Natural Living Family ).
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