A preliminary Australian/German study of lemon balm in functional foods explored the bioactivity of a lemon balm iced tea preparation and a lemon balm drinkable yogurt.
For the lemon balm iced tea drink, researchers recruited 25 healthy volunteers, age 18 to 39, and tested them for signs of physical stress, reports of mental stress (mood), and cognitive performance or memory after a multi-tasking experiment.
The lemon balm iced tea drink was made with a standardized amount of rosmarinic acid.
It was prepared with either natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index or with artificial sweeteners.
For the lemon balm drinkable yogurt experiment, they recruited 21 healthy volunteers, age 21-30, using the same testing procedures.
The lemon balm drinkable yogurt was also prepared with natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.
While the bioavailability of lemon balm peaked within one hour after drinking the beverage, it then rapidly dropped off.
These studies showed some improvements in memory and alertness within the first few hours, increased contentment later, and decreased anger throughout the mood tests.
With the lemon balm drink with natural sweeteners, the results in the volunteers showed a significant reduction in anxiety and better working memory over the first few hours.
People reported feeling more calm, relaxed, and self-confident.
It was suggested that a sustained anti-anxiety effect like this could be compared to use of prescription drugs like benzodiazepines.
But some prescription drugs may have side effects of impaired memory or impaired psychomotor performance (leading to restrictions on driving).
Impairments like these were not seen with this drink.
In contrast, the preparation with artificial sweeteners had similar results, but showed increased anxiety over time.
The lemon balm yogurt preparation showed improved alertness, word recall, and math performance at different testing times, but a higher dosage showed more “fatigue.”
Specific memory effects were also shifted, with better word recall for the lemon balm yogurt preparation and better working memory for the natural sweetener lemon balm drink (Scholey A et al: Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods, Nutrients 2014, p4805-4821).
Kombucha tea is a fermented preparation of green or black tea, sugars, and a traditional mixture of living bacteria and yeasts.
In a study replacing black tea with lemon balm leaves, researchers found that the lemon balm provided sufficient nitrogen for the growth of the traditional consortium of bacteria and yeast, giving a comparable product to the black tea preparation.
The finished lemon balm kombucha product exceeded the black tea kombucha for antioxidant activity against DPPH radicals and showed antibacterial activity against pathogenic Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria (Velicanski AS: Antioxidant and antibacterial activity of the beverage obtained by fermentation of sweetened lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) tea with symbiotic consortium of bacteria and yeasts, Food Tech Biotech December 2014, p420-429).
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