Lemon Balm ?
Lemon balm tea is an herbal tea made from the plant known by the botanical name Melissa officinalis. The plant is also frequently called common balm and balm mint.
Lemon balm has a long history of culinary use dating back to the times of the Ancient Greeks. The lemon balm plant is native to Europe and Africa along the Mediterranean region. It is has been used for centuries in this region as a natural herbal remedy.
Some purported health benefits of lemon balm tea include stress reduction, infection prevention, and improved sleep. Studies also show that lemon balm tea may help reduce anxiety and depression by targeting the nervous system (1). Additional research shows that drinking lemon balm tea may help reduce blood pressure and protect the heart from serious cardiovascular disease (2).
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and features a refreshing citrusy flavor with hints of mint. This tea offers a lemony flavor that is brisk and tart. This herbal tisane benefits from the addition of raw honey from honey bees, agave syrup, and a dash of lemon juice.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a cultivated perennial lemon scented herb. Records concerning its medicinal use date back over 2000 years, including a recommendation by Paracelsus (1493–1541) that lemon balm would completely revivify a man and should be used for “all complaints supposed to proceed from a disordered state of the nervous system”. Several herbal apothecaries have attributed the plant with general beneficial effects upon the brain including specific improvements to memory .
More recently research attention has turned to the bioactive properties of M. officinalis, including its central nervous system effects. Regarding its neurocognitive effects, cholinergic nicotinic and muscarinic receptor binding in human brain homogenates varied considerably across strains of M. officinalis . An extract with negligible cholinergic receptor binding produced, in humans, behavioural results consistent with its long traditional use as a mild sedative/anxiolytic but did not enhance memory . Conversely an extract screened for high muscarinic and nicotinic binding in human brain tissue had the same calming effects but also improved memory performance . This suggests that, in the case of M. officinalis, the robust calming/anxiolytic effects of the plant [3,4,5] may be dependent on an, as yet unidentified, non-cholinergic mechanism. An overview of these studies can be found in the review by Kennedy and Scholey .
In the case of cholinergic receptor binding alone, whilst muscarinic and nicotinic binding have been demonstrated, it is unclear whether this occurs at receptor sub-types with known effects on cognition, such as the muscarinic M1, M2 and M4 receptors, and nicotinic α4β2 and α7 receptors. The mood/anxiolytic effects of lemon balm may be attributable to known interactions with GABA-A receptors .
To date studies into the psychogenic effects of M. officinalis have been limited to the use of extracts administered in capsules , coated pills  or applied topically . One obvious next step in such studies is to evaluate the effects of bioactive nutrients delivered in real foodstuffs as these more palatable delivery systems may increase compliance if M. officinalis were to be used in a health context. Here we report two studies into the anti-stress and cognitive effects of M. officinalis delivered in a beverage and in a yoghurt drink. The beverage was an ice-tea link water based beverage with similar bioavailability to a capsule formulation, as the extract is water soluble. The second study used a more complex food matrix, an emulsion, in a drinkable yoghurt.
In order to formulate a product which could be compared with placebo, without compromising nutritional value, a natural fruit sweetener was used. Thus as well as lemon balm, the products contained the natural fruit sweetener, Fruit Up®. Its complex carbohydrate composition provides a low glycaemic index of 39 ± 7. Fruit Up® has no flavour itself but is characterized by a natural sweet sensation in the final product. The main carbohydrates in Fruit Up® are glucose, fructose, sucrose and naturally occurring polyols. It is also known that carbohydrates and glucose can improve cognitive function. In the case of glucose this may be due to the provision of additional metabolic resources to central processes underpinning cognitive performance [8,9]. It has also been shown that lower glycaemic index foods can improve cognitive function , thus a low GI food containing lemon balm may afford further benefits to cognition.
Mild, measurable stress can be induced in humans in the laboratory in a variety of ways. These include via participants performing “multi-tasking” activities where mental resources are taxed while attempting to meet ongoing cognitive goals. The Purple Multi-tasking Framework (MTF), previously known as the Defined Intensity Stress Simulator (DISS), has been developed as a platform for eliciting acute psychological stress. Previous research has shown that performance of the MTF reliably increases self-ratings of negative mood and anxiety, and results in stress-related physiological responses [5,11,12,13,14,15,16]. The MTF has specific advantages over other laboratory stressors such as the Trier Social Stress Test (involving simulated public speaking). Firstly it can be repeated on a number of occasions, allowing its use in cross-over design experiments such as the two reported here. Secondly it produces a number of outcomes which allow a concomitant assessment of cognitive outcomes, in this case psychomotor, memory and attentional performance.
The primary aim of the present two studies was to evaluate the mood and cognitive effects of two lemon balm-containing products (a tea-like beverage in Study 1 and a yoghurt drink in Study 2). We hypothesised that, compared with control treatment, the lemon balm containing treatments would reduce negative mood responses to multi-tasking. These included the negative mood/anxiety and the physiological stress response (measured as salivary cortisol) induced by the multi-tasking battery. Any effects on cognitive performance during completion of the battery were also examined. The studies were also designed to delineate any contributing effects of other potentially psychogenic constituents contained within the foods.
Following a pilot study, two behavioural studies followed a randomised, placebo-controlled, balanced crossover design aimed at examining the mood, cognitive effects and anti-stress effects of lemon balm preparations. The trial was registered on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12609000864224.
2.1. Pilot Study
A single-blind pilot study was conducted to assess the effect of lemon balm on cognition in subjects with self defined stress and to examine the bioavailability of potential bioactive substrates of lemon balm.
Five male or female subjects aged 23–28 were recruited for the study on the basis of considering themselves to lead a stressed lifestyle.
The lemon balm extract was obtained by extraction using cut dried leaves with water at 60 °C under stirring with subsequent filtration. The filtrate was then evaporated under vacuum at 40 °C. The resultant native extract was standardized with Maltodextrin to a rosmarinic acid content of >2%. An iced-tea type drink containing a standardised, extract of M. officinalis was supplied by Wild (Wild GmbH & Co., Heidelberg, Germany). On the testing day, participants received an identical 200 mL serving containing 1.8 g lemon balm extract standardized to 2% rosmarinic acid and Fruit Up® natural fruit sweetener.
Participants visited the laboratory on two occasions. The first was a training day which was similar to study day, with the exception that no treatment was given. The second was the testing day, on which participants refrained from consuming any food for 10 h prior to consuming the test sample. Cognitive and mood modulating effects were evaluated using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) core battery, a computerised cognitive assessment system. The battery covers the cognitive domains of attention/concentration, short term working memory, long term secondary memory. Mood was also assessed. The battery takes 20–25 min to complete and consists of tasks testing several cognitive domains (see  for details). These include attention (simple reaction time, choice reaction time, digit vigilance) working memory (numeric working memory, spatial working memory) and secondary memory (word recall, word recognition and picture recognition). Mood was assessed using a computerized version of the Bond-Lader Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) questionnaire  which records aspects of mood. In addition two traditional, validated pencil-and-paper questionnaires were used to assess mood, the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and the Spielberger State Anxiety Questionnaire [19,20]. Blood samples were taken at baseline, 30 minutes, and 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12 hours post consumption of the test food. Rosmarinic acid was chosen as a biomarker for bioavailability. The pilot study was conducted by RSSL, The Science and Technology Centre, The University of Reading, UK who acted as an independent Contract Research Organisation (CRO) to produce the pilot data.
2.2. Study 1. Effects of Lemon Balm in Drinks on Stress and Performance
Twenty-five participants (17 female and 8 male) were recruited via advertisements in local newspapers and university bulletin boards. Ages ranged from 18 to 39 years (M = 25.3, SD = 6.2). All participants reported that they were in good health, were not taking any drugs or medications (excluding the contraceptive pill), had no known food allergies or allergies to natural sweeteners, and were non-smokers.
The study had approval from the Swinburne University Human Research Ethics Committee and all participants gave written informed consent. The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. Participants received a payment of 200 AUD at the end of the study for their participation.
The lemon balm extract was obtained by extraction using cut dried leaves with water at 60 °C under stirring with subsequent filtration. The filtrate was then evaporated under vacuum at 40 °C. The obtained extract had a rosmarinic acid content of >6%. This increased level of rosmarinic acid allowed the development of products containing higher concentrations for studies 1 and 2.
An iced-tea type drink containing a standardised, extract of M. officinalis (produced by Cognis for this study and commercially available as Bluenesse® from Vital solutions) was prepared and supplied by Wild (Wild GmbH & Co., Heidelberg, Germany). On each testing day, participants received an identical 480 mL serving containing either (1) 0.3 g lemon balm and natural fruit sweetener, (2) 0.6 g lemon balm and natural fruit sweetener; or (3) 0.6 g lemon balm and a blend of artificial sweeteners (containing cyclamate, asparatame, acesulfame-K and saccharine) or (4) a placebo beverage containing the same blend of artificial sweeteners, flavoured and coloured to match the appearance of the other drinks. Treatment blinding was performed by a disinterested third party who played no further part in the study.
Participants visited the laboratory on five occasions. The first was a practice day during which the procedure was similar to the other four study days, with the exception that no treatment was given and participants only performed the tasks once. These data were not analysed other than to ensure that each participant’s performance lay within an acceptable range of scores for this population. Before the first study day, a disinterested third party, using random number tables, allocated participants to a treatment regimen dictated by a Latin square, which counterbalanced the order of treatments across the 4 testing days of the study. Each of the 4 testing days was separated by a 7-day “washout” period. All testing took place in small groups (3–6 participants) in dedicated laboratory facilities at the same time on each day.
On all of the four testing days participants refrained from drinking anything other than decaffeinated products on the morning of the day of the study. On the testing days, participants refrained from consuming caffeinated products and were required to eat a light breakfast, the nature of which was recorded and participants were requested to eat a similar meal on subsequent visits. They were also provided with the same type of sandwich for lunch (with either chicken and salad, or cheese and salad). On testing days, sessions began at the same time for each volunteer. In order to control for diurnal changes in cortisol these commenced at the same time for each participant in the afternoon or evening sessions (either 12 pm or 4 pm respectively). During each testing day, participants completed three “blocks” of testing. Each “block” consisted of STAI-S, saliva sample, word presentation, immediate word recall, Bond-Lader, stress and fatigue VAMS, 20-min MTF, Bond-Lader, stress and mental fatigue VAMS, delayed word recall, word recognition, saliva sample, and STAI-S.
At the beginning of the testing day, participants completed the STAI-T and the DASS immediately followed by the first “block” to establish baseline performance and stress reactivity on that day. Participants were then given the day’s treatment (active or placebo) and instructed to eat their lunch. The other two “blocks” were completed 1-h and 3-h post treatment. At the end of the last “block”, participants additionally completed the symptom checklist.
2.2.4. Cognitive and Mood Measures
188.8.131.52. Multi-Tasking Framework
Participants were required to simultaneously perform four tasks presented via computer. The multitasking interface (Purple Research Solutions Ltd., UK) was presented on Dell computers with high definition screens. Participants were instructed via on screen standard instructions to attend simultaneously to all four tasks, while monitoring the central counter displaying their accumulated aggregate score. Scores were dictated by speed and accuracy, with failure to respond resulting in negative scoring. Previous research has shown that simultaneous performance of these four tasks engenders increases in subjective stress and frustration and stress-related physiological responses, including an increase in salivary cortisol . In the current study, all four tasks were set at a medium difficulty/intensity level and were performed for 20 min.
How to prepare Lemon Balm ?
Homemade Lemon Balm Tea
- 1 tablespoon dry lemon balm leaves (or two tablespoons fresh leaves)
- 10 ounces boiling water
- Honey, sugar, agave OPTIONAL
1. Add the fresh herbs to a tea strainer or tea ball and place in a standard-sized teacup.
2. Bring water to a boil in temperature controlled kettle or a large pot on the stove.
3. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the lemon balm leaves to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Remove the tea strainer and sweeten with honey, sugar, or agave if desired.
1This product has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” This product is not intended to cure or treat any disease. “
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