Lemon Balm: A Calming Alternative To Bone-Damaging Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Stress and anxiety damage bones by raising cortisol levels and causing an acidifying imbalance in the body. So naturally, reducing stress and anxiety makes sense for your bone health.

Most people turn to their doctors for help, and usually leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug. One of the most popular class of drugs for this purpose is benzodiazepines, which include such well-known drugs as Valium, Klonopin, and Xanax.

The problem is that these drugs not only cause further harm to your bones, but they are also dangerously addictive and have undesirable side effects.

Fortunately, there are natural, healthful alternatives to these dangerous drugs, and today we’re going to take a look at one of the best options: the herb lemon balm.

What Are Benzodiazepines, And What Makes Them Dangerous?

Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as “benzos,” are prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, panic, and seizures. Sometimes benzos are prescribed for depression and chronic nausea and vomiting.

The precise way these drugs act on the brain are still unknown (this is the first red flag). What benzos seem to do is affect neurotransmitters, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are constantly engaged in a balancing act, promoting intense communication between brain cells or backing off to calm things down. GABA is one of the primary “calm-down” neurotransmitters, naturally suppressing nerve activity. Benzos appear to enhance the effects of GABA.

According to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, benzos do this by binding to specific GABA modulator sites.1

Dangers Of Benzodiazepines

Benzos have a profound effect on the brain, directly manipulating the delicate and intricate workings of brain cells and the chemicals that connect them. Originally, benzos were intended for short-term use only; they were meant to be used as a temporary tool to provide relief while the patient sought help through therapy and other forms of treatment or during short periods of high stress, such as before a scheduled surgery.

The main reason for that is that longer-term therapy causes dependency, even when taken as directed (more on this later). And unfortunately, doctors typically renew a patient’s prescription for years.

Benzos were once thought to be “perfectly safe,” and some doctors still seem to think they are. But a growing body of evidence tells a very different, very dangerous story.

Besides common side effects such as drowsiness and adverse effects on cognition, many patients become physically dependent on benzos not through abuse or overuse of the drugs, but by following the directions from their doctor and taking the drug as prescribed.

The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology study report quoted earlier goes on to analyze this unfortunate phenomenon:

“Benzodiazepine use for as little as 3 to 6 weeks, even while adhering to therapeutic doses, is associated with the development of physical dependence, with between 15–44% of chronic benzodiazepine users experiencing protracted moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms upon cessation including emergent anxiety and depressive symptoms.”1

The report goes on to state that:

“Despite the adverse effects of long term prescribing, benzodiazepine prescribing and use continues to escalate. This is largely because no superior alternative pharmacotherapeutic treatment has been developed to treat anxiety and insomnia.”1

This could not be more wrong. There is a “superior alternative” to these dangerous drugs, but it is not “pharmacotherapeutic.” Rather, it’s a remedy that could be called “herbaltherapeutic”, and it’s the herb lemon balm.

Science Reveals The Effectiveness Of Lemon Balm

A remarkable study on the use of lemon balm in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia states:

“A myriad of evidence indicates that drug medications that are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia result in adverse effects… Botanical treatments that have been developed as alternatives are known to induce calming effects…their efficacy is rarely linked to side effects. Thus, a botanical extract that treats anxiety should certainly be a component of the treatment regimen for anxiety-induced disorders and sleep disturbance. These properties exist in a Melissa officinalis L. (lemon balm) leaf extract…”2

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers studied 20 volunteers, aged 18 to 70, who experienced “mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances.”2 The volunteers were also stressed.

They received either 300mg of lemon balm extract twice a day (for a total of 600mg daily) or a placebo for 15 days. The volunteers were then tested, and the researchers concluded that the lemon balm:

“…demonstrated a significant improvement in all categories studied: anxiety manifestations, anxiety-associated symptoms and insomnia.”2

The volunteers also reported feeling calmer and more alert.

It’s very important to point out that lemon balm was:

“…well tolerated by the studied population. No adverse effects were observed and all volunteers complied with the treatment until the end of the study.”2

In an animal study, a mechanism behind lemon balm’s anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects was revealed. Lemon balm was found to be:

“…a potent inhibitor of rat brain GABA transaminase…and enzyme target in the therapy of anxiety, epilepsy and related neurological disorders.”3

Basically, the herb acts exactly like benzodiazepines, but without the side effects and addictive traits. The scientists analyzed the active constituents in lemon balm, such as rosmarinic acid, oleanolic acid, and triterpenoids, and went on to note that “synergistic effects may also play a role.”3

When it comes to plant medicines, synergy always plays a role, which is one of many reasons why herbal remedies fit so well with the comprehensive, integrative, holistic approach of the Save Our Bones Program.

That is not all – there is even more to this humble herb!

More About Lemon Balm

If you have ever grown this delightful, lemon-scented plant, then you know how prolifically it grows, easily providing at least two harvests a season. Like many members of the mint family, it is very hardy and shade-tolerant, and does well in containers or in the ground. It’s been said that you should only grow lemon balm if you want a lot of it!

Bees enjoy the tiny yellow flowers, and beekeepers used to plant lemon balm around their beehives, claiming it calmed the bees as well as providing delicious nectar. This is why this herb is also known as bee balm.

Lemon balm is antispasmodic, meaning it relaxes muscles. This property makes it a good choice for muscle cramps, including stomach and intestinal cramping. It can be mixed with other herbs, such as passionflower, lavender or chamomile to promote sleep and relieve anxiety. Or you can mix it with other bone-healthy, digestive herbs like fennel, ginger, and peppermint to calm the stomach, relieve gas, and aid digestion.

Lemon Balm Is Good For Your Bones

Unlike drugs, lemon balm works gently and alkalizes the body. Its stress-relieving, sleep-promoting properties help improve bone health, because stress destroys bone and quality sleep is vital for healthy bone remodeling to occur.

There are no dangerous side effects associated with lemon balm (although you should check with your doctor if you’re taking any medications, particularly for anxiety or insomnia), and it makes a very good-tasting tea that is delicious hot or iced.

This tea is an excellent place to start if you’d like to begin taking lemon balm. At the Save Institute, we recommend trying the tea first, and turning to lemon balm supplements if you have a tendency to get very anxious or otherwise feel the need for a more potent, immediate effect. Lemon balm supplements are widely available and are inexpensive; you can use the study above, 300 to 600mg daily, as a guideline.

You can also grow lemon balm yourself. It can be made into tinctures, dried, or made into tea fresh from the garden. To make lemon balm tea, follow these simple steps.

  1. Place one heaping tablespoon of minced, fresh lemon balm (or one heaping teaspoon of dried) into a cup. I like to use a glass measuring cup with a spout.
  2. Bring pure water to a boil and pour one cup (6 to 8 ounces) over the lemon balm.
  3. Cover and steep for 10-20 minutes. (Covering is important as it keeps the essential oils from “escaping” via the steam.)
  4. Strain into a cup or mug and enjoy as-is, or sweeten with a little raw honey or stevia. You can also squeeze in a little lemon juice if you like.

Incorporating Lemon Balm Tea Into The Program Is Easy

The Save Our Bones Program’s whole-body, drug-free approach leaves plenty of room for alkalizing teas like lemon balm. You can make a pitcher of it and drink it throughout the day, or enjoy a cup before bedtime.

Isn’t it refreshing to know that just like there are healthful alternatives to dangerous osteoporosis drugs there are effective, drug-free remedies for stress, anxiety, and insomnia? These are such important aspects of bone health that an entire chapter is devoted to them – Chapter 14 (Relax And Have Fun) develops the whole-body approach to bone health and delves into the connection between your brain and your bones.

The Program explains how to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and includes such techniques as deep breathing, connecting with nature, and reading uplifting words. Lemon balm can help you implement this vital aspect of the Save Our Bones Program.

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Support from the Saver community can also help. I love for Savers to share ideas by leaving comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Till next time,

References:

1Hood, David, et al. “Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatment with low dose flumazenil.” BJCP. 77. 2. (2014): 285-294. Web. June 19, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014019/
2Cases, Julien, et al. “Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances.” Med J Nutrition Metab. 4. 3. (2011): 211-218. Web. June 19, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230760/
3Awad, R., et al. “Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity.” Phytother Res. 23. 8. (2009): 1075-81. Web. June 19, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19165747

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24 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Donna Carbone September 3, 2016, 9:13 pm

    My first comment on your site was earlier today. I was trying to decide on Prolia, my doctor recommended. I think I will wait. I am going to motivate myself and get out of this funk. It just has been a long hard road. I do drink a lot of herbal teas. They are wonderful. The lemon balm sounds good to replace my Xanax (only use at bedtime). Can u tell me if the lemon balm is not recommended for hypo thyroid? I do drink lemongrass tea.

  2. Pauline Kelly July 28, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Hello Vivien,

    Your posts are invaluable but I haven’t received any
    since this one on 21 June. So hope I am still on
    your list, Please keep your fabulous information
    coming through. Many thanks

  3. Claudia Johnson July 24, 2016, 7:50 pm

    Hi Vivian, I’ve been drinking lemon balm tea and I really sleep better when I drink it , like you’ve said it’s good for our bones and a host of other things too. I subscribe to Herb Quarterly , in the fall 2016 issue an artical about lemon balm states people with hypothyroidism should not use lemon balm, is this true ? I hope not because I really like lemon balm, thank you,

  4. jo July 12, 2016, 12:24 am

    Once again you rock! Wonderful news. Just as I’m starting back to work with osteoporosis and osteo arthriti. Your info has benn invaluable and so timely!, stoppef all pain
    And anxiety meds, antidepressants 3 years ago ! The God for all you are teaching us! noticing my cortisol levels beginning to sky rocket. At

  5. Tom Hogan June 22, 2016, 4:16 pm

    The lemon balm idea was posted by a friend, wondering if it work against Pagets Disease as well as Essential Tremor. HAve had both since 1995 and would like to make sure I do what I can to keep the Pagets in remission, already cost me a metal implant in my left hip in 96 and I’d like to calm the ET down since the drugs I was on (Inderal and Propanonal) didn’t really work. Appreciate any ideas you can give me. Regards, Tom Hogan

  6. joy markman June 22, 2016, 9:23 am

    Very interesting topic – I will definately try it when I come off my SSNRI although, I might need it while coming off my anti-depressant. I wouder if that will be safe?
    Thank you Vivian for all your research.

  7. Melissa June 22, 2016, 4:03 am

    Hi Vivian, the first (but not only) thing I notice is that one of the studies you quote used only 20 volunteers. An alarmingly small sample size like this is a quality of a poor study– wouldn’t you agree? I’m sure your intentions are not harmful, however, if I had my own website that people depended on for real ailment advice, I would make sure the science behind my claims is backed up with a decent study.

    I hope everyone reading this understands– there are good scientific studies and there are bad ones. Please look up what makes a good study, then apply that information critically to other quoted studies not just on this website, but all health websites.

  8. Molsy June 21, 2016, 7:52 pm

    My friend suffers from sever rash through his body. Very itchy and he scratches a lot. He has been taking some Anti istamine tablet. and it does not answer now a days. Will this lemon balm help.

  9. Judy June 21, 2016, 6:27 pm

    Magnesium ( not citrate unless you have problems with constipation) taken at bedtime really help with relaxing and sleep. I have arthritis and it helps me have a much better nights sleep. I take 2 capsules at bedtime with good result. When I took 4 capsules I wanted to sleep part of the day away as well.

    • DSW June 26, 2016, 8:54 am

      My doctor had recommended Magnesium….at bedtime. 250 mg. I do get a better sleep.

  10. Fran Bauer June 21, 2016, 6:21 pm

    I would like it if the person who uses the lemon balm roll-on could tell us where it’s available to purchase.

  11. Cherie June 21, 2016, 3:10 pm

    Wondering if anyone has successfully used lemon balm to prevent seizures . As always thanks Vivian!

  12. vicki martin June 21, 2016, 12:57 pm

    Thank you soooo much,
    I planted a 2 inch lemon balm in my northern Utah garden three years ago and it is now a 5 foot diameter bush . I also put a bunch of leaves in cool water and refrigerate for ice tea. it sounds like the hot water is needed to bring out the oils so I’ll switch to hot tea and ice for out 100+ temps.
    Vicki Martin
    Clearfield, UT

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 21, 2016, 3:45 pm

      Hi Vicki,

      You can also make sun tea with chopped lemon balm and water – just place in a glass jar or pitcher and leave in the sun for a few hours. 🙂

  13. Esther Bingaman June 21, 2016, 11:52 am

    Where can I purchase the – Lemon Balm – (roll on)? Also – where to buy the plant?
    I have been on Alprazolam for years for-anxiety – relax – and mostly at night for sleep.
    (Xanax-0.5 mg)
    I only take one at night time to sleep. Do have problems with arthritis.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 21, 2016, 3:39 pm

      You can check your local garden center or farmer’s market for lemon balm, Esther. Or you might check with a gardening friend – most who grow it have an abundance, and it’s very easy to root cuttings. 🙂

    • Cheryl P. June 21, 2016, 1:51 pm

      A good nursery or garden store should have the plant. It really is easy to grow and smells nice, too.

  14. Jessie June 21, 2016, 10:31 am

    I was wondering about using Lemon Balm in the form of essential oils too. Any opinions on that?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 21, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Hi Jessie and Diane,

      As I mentioned to Gail below, lemon balm essential is available from various online vendors. The price varies widely, so you might want to shop around before purchasing.

    • Diane Martinson June 21, 2016, 10:59 am

      My question too. My daughter is into a lot of essential oils and what she has is just lemon essential oil and when I looked on the website she gets products from it isn’t there, so I’m assuming lemon balm is not an essential oil.

  15. elaine chaulk June 21, 2016, 8:56 am

    Hi Vivian,
    Just read your article on Lemon Balm for stress. I have been using All Natural Lemon Balm for Artiritis for quite some time. It’s excellent. Don’t have to take any meds so works for me. ( It’s a roll on like deodorant).
    Love your emails.

    • Gail June 21, 2016, 9:23 am

      My question is for Vivian and Elaine who said she uses lemon balm in a roll on design. Is this an essential oil that can be purchased from a company? I’ve recently been in communication with a girl who sells pure essential oils. I am really searching for the ones for me I have arthiritis, sleep issues and some anxiety along with osteoporosis.
      Thank you.

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 21, 2016, 10:41 am

        Hi Gail,

        Yes, you can purchase lemon balm essential oil from various online sources. You can make a lemon balm oil by steeping minced lemon balm in warm coconut oil for several hours and then straining. While that is not the same as an essential oil, it is inexpensive and easy to make, and may impart similar effects. 🙂

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 21, 2016, 9:16 am

      That is interesting, Elaine! Lemon balm is good for so many things – and I bet the roll-on you use smells wonderful. 🙂

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