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.
- 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.
- Bring pure water to a boil and pour one cup (6 to 8 ounces) over the lemon balm.
- Cover and steep for 10-20 minutes. (Covering is important as it keeps the essential oils from “escaping” via the steam.)
- 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.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Save Our Bones Program.
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Till next time,
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