Current lemon balm research shows that single doses of lemon balm have shown improved memory in healthy young people.
In 2002, researchers at the University of Northumbria, UK, tested the effects of Melissa officinalis lemon balm extract on both memory and mood.
Using 20 healthy young volunteers, they tested single doses of 300 mgs., 600 mgs., and 900 mgs., or placebo at 7-day intervals in a double-blind crossover study.
Their cognitive or memory-testing performance was tested immediately before dosage, and at 1 hour, 2.5 hours, 4 hours, and 6 hours afterwards.
The cognition tests showed improvements in attention accuracy after the 600 mgs. dosage.
Calmness was reported after the lowest dosage while alertness was not significantly reduced until the highest dosage was used (Kennedy DO et al: Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Pharmacol Biochem Behav July 2002, p953-64).
A follow-up study in 2003 tested 600 mgs., 1000 mgs., and 1600 mgs., encapsulated dried leaf lemon balm or placebo at 7 day intervals with 20 healthy young volunteers.
Memory tests were given before dosing and after 1 hour, 3 hours, and 6 hours.
While overall memory performance and reported calmness were best with the dosage of 1600 mgs., the higher doses also showed some diminished speed in timed testing (Kennedy DO et al: Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties, Neuropsychopharmacology October 2003, p1871-81).
In addition, the specific lemon balm extract may need to have cholinergic receptor binding properties for the best results (Kennedy DO and Wightman EL: Herbal extracts and phytochemicals: plant secondary metabolites and the enhancement of human brain function, Adv Nutr January 2011, p32-50).
Direct research into the brain chemical pathways involved in improved memory from using lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) include lemon balm interaction with
brain receptor cells like nicotinic and muscarinic receptors,
GABA and hippocampal integrity,
acetylcholinesterase inhibition, and
alpha waves, among others.
In 2016, a study tested long-term memory after scopolamine in rats comparing rosmarinic acid, an ethanol extract of Melissa officinalis, and huperzine A.
The researchers found that both Melissa officinalis lemon balm and huperzine A showed improvements linked to AChE (acetylcholinesterase), BuChE (butyrylcholinesterase), BACE-1 (beta-secretase) mRNA levels, and both AChE and BuChE levels in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of the rats (Ozarowski M et al: Influence of the Melissa officinalis leaf extract on long-term memory in scopolamine animal model with assessment of mechanism of action, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med epub April 2016).
In another animal study, a pretreatment combination of Melissa officinalis lemon balm and Boswellia serrata frankincense showed significant protection against scopalamine induced memory loss (Mahboubi M et al: Combined administration of Melissa officinalis and Boswellia serrata extracts in an animal model of memory, Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci August 10(3) 2016).
A study of alpha waves used an herbal complex that included lemon balm.
Using a computer aided electroencephalogram (EEG) of the brain, researchers tested the brain wave patterns of 16 healthy volunteers (8 men and 8 women) after using an herbal lozenge containing lemon balm extract, lavender oil, oat, and hops extract.
They found that alpha 1, alpha 2, and beta 1 brain waves were increased after using the lozenge.
This indicated a relaxed psychophysiological state associated with increased working memory.
Since this herbal preparation also increase beta 1 waves, it might also improve coping with stress (Dimpfel W et al: Effects of lozenge containing lavender oil, extracts from hops, lemon balm and oat on electrical brain activity of volunteers, Eur J Med Res September 2004, p423-31).
We all need an excellent memory to retain useful information about the changing world we live in.
Lemon balm memory studies show that it may be possible to improve memory performance.
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