Melissa essential oil, also known as lemon balm or bee balm, is known for its sweet citrus-like fragrance. One of the rarest oil on the market, Melissa oil can promote good health in several different ways.
It reduces mood swings, improves sleep, boosts memory, balances blood sugar levels and can even prevent cancer.
In this article, you will learn more about Melissa essential oil and its numerous health benefits.
What is Melissa essential oil?
Melissa essential oil (lemon balm) is steam distilled from the flowers and leaves of an herb known as Melissa officinalis. This herb is from the Mediterranean region, and it grows to about 60 cm.
It grows in soil with high iron content and has small serrated slightly hairy leaves, and its flowers are white or pink.
It has a sweet citrusy fragrance, which is known to attract bees. The word ‘Melissa’ is Greek for ‘honey bee.’ In Hebrew, this oil is known as ‘Balsmin,’ which means the chief of oils.
Although the leaves of the lemon balm plant are aromatic, they do not yield much oil, which is the reason why pure Melissa oil is quite expensive.
Melissa oil contains approximately 60 percent aldehydes and 10 percent monoterpenols. Citral gives this oil its lemony aroma. Melissa oil also contains 10 % citronellal.
History of Melissa oil
Melissa has been grown and used for medical purposes since ancient times. Records of its use date back 2000 years with entries in Historia Plantarum (300 BC) and the Materia Medica (around 50 to 80 BC).
Theophrastus and Dioscorides wrote of melissophyllon as being a sedative, vulnerary, and emmenagogic. Avicenna recommended its use for improving mood.
After it was introduced to Spain in the seventh century, its use spread all over Europe. In the fourteenth century, it was included in tonic water made by the French Carmelite nuns.
Paracelsus called this herb the elixir of life. John Evelyn also described it as a sovereign of the brain which strengthens memory and chases away melancholy.
Melissa oil has been used traditionally as a mild sedative and anxiolytic.
Benefits of Melissa essential oil
1. Improves mood
Melissa essential oil has sedative and relaxing properties which help to uplift spirits and reduce depression. It is often recommended for soldiers who come back from the combat zone.
Melissa oil also helps people with insomnia as it can relax you can put you in a calm and deep sleep.
According to a 2013 study from the University of Melbourne, Melissa oil helps in improving anxiety, depression, neuroprotectivity and cognition (1).
According to another study from the University of Northumbria, UK, Melissa oil can improve mood and cognitive performance. The results showed that even at the lowest doses, self-rated calmness was elevated with Melissa oil (2).
2. Treats Alzheimer’s and dementia
Melissa essential oil can help patients of dementia and Alzheimers. According to a 2002 study published in the Clinical Journal of Psychiatry, 72 people with severe dementia were treated with either Melissa essential oil or a placebo for four weeks.
The results showed that 60 percent of the people taking Melissa oil and 14 percent of the people taking placebo showed a 30 improvement in agitation. This result indicates that treatment with Melissa oil is a safe and effective treatment for people with dementia (3).
3. Prevents cancer
Melissa oil contains antitumoral and antioxidant properties which show that it can be used against a series of human cancer cell lines (4).
Another study published in Cancer Investigation in 2014 showed that Melissa essential oil and its major component citral could induce cell apoptosis in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells. GBM are tumors that arise from the supportive tissue of the brain (5).
4. Improves digestion
Melissa oil has carminative properties that help improve digestion. It soothes the abdominal muscles, expels gasses from the stomach and intestines, ensures proper flow of bile, heals ulcers and thus enhances digestive function.
5. Reduces inflammation
Melissa essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing inflammation and pain. A 2013 study, investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of Melissa oil by using carrageenan and experimental trauma-induced hind pay edema in rats.
The anti-inflammatory properties of oral administration of Melissa oil at the doses of 200 mg per kilogram showed significant reduction and inhibition of edema. The study concluded that Melissa oil could be used to treat various diseases associated with inflammation and pain (6).
7. Prevents infections
Melissa oil has potent antibacterial properties, and it works well on external as well as internal wounds. It can be applied to wounds to prevent infections. You can also take it internally to treat UTI, and infections in the kidney, intestines and the colon.
Citral, citronellal, and trans-caryophyllene are the compounds in Melissa oil that are known for their antibacterial effects.
According to a 2008 study, Melissa oil exhibits a higher degree of antibacterial activity against gram-positive strains than lavender essential oil (7).
8. Treats menstrual problems
Melissa oil can regulate irregular periods thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to manage the symptoms of PMS like cramps, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and headaches.
During a 2015 study, 100 high school girls received either 1200 mg of Melissa oil or a placebo every day from the first day to the last day of their menstrual cycles for three consecutive periods. The result showed that Melissa capsules were effective in reducing PMS symptoms (8).
9. Prevents diabetes
Research suggests that Melissa oil may be helpful for people with diabetes. According to a study that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, when researchers administered Melissa oil to mice for six weeks, it showed significantly reduced blood glucose, and TAG concentrations, it improved glucose tolerance and significantly higher serum insulin levels.
The results suggested that Melissa oil, when administered at low concentrations, is an efficient hypoglycaemic agent. This effect is due to enhanced glucose uptake and metabolism in the liver and adipose tissue and inhibition of gluconeogenesis in the liver (9).
According to studies, topical ointments containing Melissa oil can help heal cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. It can inhibit the spread of herpes and reduce healing time of both genital and oral herpes.
It is especially helpful to those people who have developed a resistance to commonly used antiviral agents.
A study from Germany examined the antiviral effect of Melissa oil on herpes simplex virus. The results showed that Melissa oil affected the virus before adsorption but not after penetration into the host cell.
This result indicates that Melissa officinalis oil is suitable for the topical treatment of herpetic infections (10).
11. Treats skin conditions
The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of Melissa oil help the skin in many ways. This oil helps in calming, soothing, healing and tightening the skin. It also stimulates circulation.
The caffeic acid and ferulic acid present in this oil penetrates the top layers of the skin and protects from sun damage. It also helps to treat acne.
The leaves of Melissa herb have been used since ancient times to lower blood pressure. Modern research also shows that Melissa oil has several properties that help reduce blood pressure.
According to a 2015 study, consumption of Melissa oil is associated with significant ECG alterations in rats (11).
According to another study lower dose of Melissa extract can reduce the heart rate and increase the heart’s resistance to injury (12).
13. Lowers triglyceride levels
Hypertriglyceridemia is considered one of the main contributors to the development of the cardiovascular disease. According to a 2012 animal-based study, Melissa oil reduces plasma triglyceride levels.
This study suggests that the intake of phytochemicals with a pleasant scent can have beneficial metabolic effects (13).
Another study showed that the phenolic alkaloids in Melissa oil could inhibit cholesterol synthesis, which helps in lowering cholesterol levels, lipid levels and also reduces lipid peroxidation levels in live tissue (14).
Ways to use Melissa essential oil
Melissa essential oil is one of the more expensive essential oil, but its benefits make it worth the investment. Five milliliters of Melissa oil can cost upto $ 150.
So, beware of cheap Melissa oil as it may be diluted with synthetic or similar essential oils. There are several ways to use this highly beneficial oil.
- Inhale it directly from the bottle or diffuse in your home to energize your body and mind. This oil also improves the symptoms of dementia.
- Dilute this oil in water and fill a spray bottle. Spritz this mixture on your face to refresh and rejuvenate your skin.
- To treat cold sores and herpes apply a few drops of Melissa oil to the affected area.
- Apply a few drops of diluted Melissa oil to your chest and back to relieve hypertension.
Side effects and precautions
Melissa essential oil is safe for use topically and internally when taken in medicinal amounts for a short period. Always dilute Melissa oil with a carrier oil before using it on your skin.
Pregnant women should avoid Melissa oil as it is an emmenagogue. This oil can also lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, so they should consult with a doctor before using this oil.
Melissa oil can cause too much drowsiness if used along with other medication during and after surgery. So, you must stop using this oil at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Melissa oil is steam distilled from the leaves and the flowers of Melissa officinalis. It can treat many health issues like depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes, herpes, and high blood pressure.
You can diffuse this oil in your home or use it topically. You can also consume this oil in small amounts. Always make sure you purchase pure Melissa oil, even though it can be a bit pricey.