"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

Lemon balm is defined chemically into the following categories:  by herb and by essential oil


1. Flavinoids- Quercitrin, rhamncitrin, rhamnazin
Flavinoid sub-category 7- glucocide- Apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, luteolin
2. Phenolic acids and tannins- Rosmarinic acid(up to 4%), glycoside bound caffeic acid and chlorogenic acids, ferulic acid, hydroxycinnamic acid, protocatechuic acid
3. Triterpenic acids- Ursolic acid, pomolic acid, oleonolic acid
4. Additional components- Methyl carnosoate, 2-(3’4’-dihydroxyphenol)-1,3-benzodioxole-5-aldehyde 


* usually obtained by water distillation method to a 0.05 - 0.375% grade
1.Monoterpinoid citronellal is 30 - 40%
2.Geranial ( citral a) and Neral (citral b) are 10 - 30%
3.Sesquiterpenes: b -caryophyllene and germacrene D
4.Additional components: Caryophyllene oxide, geranyl acetate, linalool, eugenyl, acetate, beta-ocimene, copaene, and a-cubenene. (1,2,3,4)

To gain a fuller understanding of the chemistry of lemon balm, it is beneficial to associate the chemicals found within the herb to what that chemical does in the healing process or it’s action upon the human/ animal body.  To not do this would mean our now gained knowledge of lemon balm’s chemistry would not be realized and develop into an herbal keystone of solid wisdom for us to utilize fully.

First we shall look at some of lemon balm’s flavinoids to understand their effectuality in healing.  In general flavinoids have been found to be anti-allergenic, anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti- neoplastic/ anti-tumor.  So far in lemonbalm there have been found 7 different types of flavinoids.  Of specific importance is Quercitin, which has been popularly used as an anti- inflammatory for arthritis and allergies.  Quercitin is also antioxidant particularly helpful in inhibiting damage to liver cells. (5)  Luteolin is another flavinoid commonly found in plants so much so it was one of the first yellow clothing dyes used in Europe.  Luteolin is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial in action. (6)

Lemon balm is a rich source of very water- soluble tannins.  In Culpepper’s “The English Physitian” he states, “it is good to wash aching teeth… and profitable for those that have the bloody Flux.”  By Culpepper’s description we see lemon balm’s tannins toning and tightening flaccid tissues and fighting bacteria or virus that is causing diarrhea.  Pliny and Dioscorides also recommended lemon balm for wound healing, swelling, dog bites, insect sting, and overeating; all of which point to the antimicrobial, antiseptic, and carmative properties the tannins in lemon balm exhibit.  To review:  tannins have been found to be anti-microbial, antiseptic, strongly anti-viral, and have the ability to balance or correct digestive complaints particularly in cases of diarrhea and dysentery. (7)

Sesquiterpenes are of a heavier chemical compound and usually occur with monoterpenes.  Sesquiterpenes are high in volatile essential oils and have a bitter principal to them.  These compounds have been found to have very high anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. (8)  “Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations” by R.C. Wren states lemon balm “makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients” due to its diaphoretic and febrifuge qualities.  This author suggest lemon balm is helpful due to its anti- bacterial properties fighting the infection within the patient’s body as well.

Lemon balm’s high aromatic essential oil content indicates the presence of monoterpenes.  Dr William Mitchell states in his book “Plant Medicine in Practice” that he uses Melissa officinalis as a sedative, ant-spasmodic and a mild antacid.  He also uses it in the treatment of female reproductive complaints.  Monoterpenes are known to be carminative, digestive, sedative, anti-spasmodic and anti-bacterial. (9)

  Triterpenoids are common chemical factors in plants that have been found to influence the action of the heart (cardiac glycocides) and have a potential hormonal/steroidal effect on the body because of steroids and phytosteroids present there in.  Some triterpenoid compounds are known as saponins, which help to thin the blood (hemolysis).  Triterpenoids have anti-bacterial qualities as well. (10)  In “The English Physitian” Culpepper quantifies lemon balm’s healing ability with triterpenoids by stating Melissa will “expel those Melancholly vapors from the Spirits and Blood which are in the Heart and Arteries.”  Culpepper, and Avicenna before him, must have observed lemon balm’s influence upon the heart and blood even if they did not understand the triterpinoids were part of the reason. 

Lemon balm’s anti-viral activity has gained much notoriety in our most recent herbal history.  Melissa contains rosmaric acid, which is thought to be one of the key anti-viral agents in combating the herpes virus.  Dr James Duke states in his book “The Green Pharmacy” Herpes simplex virus manifest as cold sores and genital herpes sores.  Herpes zoster is a cousin that manifest as Shingles.  Lemon balm has shown definitive ability to clear both H.simplex and H.zoster, healing both viruses very effectively. 

Rosmaric acid has been found to be anti-inflammatory.  In studies rosmaric acid proved to be an extremely potent antioxidant.  When compared against the antioxidant effects of Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and Vitamin C, rosmaric acid was ten times more actively potent.  Rosmaric acid accounts for 57% of the antioxidant activity in lemon balm extract alone. (11)

Lemon balm’s caffeic acid is also anti-viral and found to be effective in treating Herpes simplex as well.  In studies caffeic acid isolated from lemon balm leaves were found to exhibit anti-tumor activity.  This occurs because the caffeic acid inhibits protein biosynthesis in cancer cells.  In vitro caffeic acid also inhibits Immunoglobulin (IgG) binding, in Graves Disease, by precluding the binding to TSH receptors of IgG or TSH factors. (12)  To recapitulate the pharmacology of lemon balm, it has been found to be:

Antioxidant,  Anti- inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, Nervine, Anti-fungal, Anti-viral, Diaphoretic, Hepatic, Ant-bacterial, Anti-neoplastic, Anti-depressive, Carmative, Anti-microbial, Anti-thyrotropic, Sedative, Febrifuge.

1. Section 4 pg 4, “Therapeutic Herbalism - A Correspondence Course in Phytotherapy” by David Hoffman
2. Pg 51, “The Protocol of Botanical Medicine, Vol 2,No 1”
3. Online, www.herbalgram.org
4. Online, www.uspharmacist.com
5. Pg 27, “Medicinal Plant Constituents” by Christopher Hobbs
6. Pg 30, Ibid
7. Pg24, Ibid
8. Pg 40,47, Ibid
9. Pg 40 to 43, Ibid
10. Pg 49 to 53, Ibid
11. Online,
www.uspharmacist.com <http://www.uspharmacist.com>
[Table of Contents] [History] [Location] [Chemical Constituents] [Medicinal Qualities] [Contra-Indications]
[Known Herbal Formulas] [Dosages & Applications] [Personal Experience] [Bibliography]
by Melissa Morrison