Melissa Essential Oil Benefits, Uses, Risks and Side Effects - Dr. Axe

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11 Benefits of Melissa Essential Oil


Melissa essential oil - Dr. Axe

Melissa essential oil, also known as lemon balm oil, is used in traditional medicine to help treat a number of health concerns, including insomnia, anxiety, migraines, hypertension, diabetes, herpes and dementia. This lemon-scented oil can be applied topically, taken internally or diffused at home.

One of the most well-known melissa essential oil benefits is its ability to help treat cold sores, or herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, naturally and without the need for antibiotics that may add to the growth of resistant bacterial strains in the body. Its antiviral and antimicrobial properties are only some of the potent and therapeutic qualities of this valued essential oil.

What Is Melissa Essential Oil?

Melissa essential oil, also known as lemon balm, is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, and the oils are extracted by steam-distilling the leaves and flowers. Lemon balm is a medicinal plant native to the East Mediterranean region and West Asia. The herb has been used since ancient times for its many therapeutic properties.

Melissa oil is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic and antidepressant properties. It has a delicate and lemony aroma that promotes emotional balance and boosts skin health.

One of the main benefits of melissa oil is its antioxidant property, which is due to the presence of special compounds. Researchers have identified 70 active compounds in melissa essential oil, including geranial, germacrene, neral and citronellal.

Due to its medicinal properties, melissa essential oil has been used in many scientific studies for examining its effects on Alzheimer’s disease, memory, learning and depression.

Although not one of the better-known essential oils, melissa oil has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years. In the 14th century, it was included in tonic water made by the French Carmelite nuns. In the 16th century, famed philosopher, physician and botanist Paracelsus called the herb “The Elixir of Life,” while 17th century writer and gardener John Evelyn described it as “sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing away melancholy.”


1. May Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Melissa is probably the most studied of the essential oils for its ability to serve as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s, and it’s very likely one of the most effective.

Scientists at Newcastle General Hospital’s Institute for Aging and Health conducted a placebo-controlled trial to determine the value of melissa essential oil for agitation in people with severe dementia, which is a frequent and major management problem, especially for patients with severe cognitive impairment. Seventy-two patients with clinically significant agitation in the context of severe dementia were randomly assigned to the melissa essential oil or placebo treatment group.

Researchers found that 60 percent of the melissa oil group and 14 percent of the placebo-treated group experienced a 30 percent reduction of agitation scores. There was an overall improvement in agitation in 35 percent of patients receiving melissa oil and 11 percent in those treated with placebo, suggesting that quality of life was improved significantly with essential oil treatment.

However, in 2011, a follow-up study seemed to refute the evidence and showed that it had no more impact on the patients than medication or placebo. The researchers specifically point out that they blinded more factors in the study and used a more “rigorous design.” The research is conflicting, but it seems melissa oil does potentially do as well as medication can in some instances.

Furthermore, research published in 2020 found that Melissa officinalis extract that contained rosmarinic acid “may help prevent the worsening of AD-related neuropsychiatric symptoms.”

2. Possesses Anti-inflammatory Activity

Research has shown that melissa oil can be used to treat various diseases associated with inflammation and pain. A 2013 study published in Advances in Pharmacological Science investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of melissa essential oil by using experimental, trauma-induced hind paw edema in rats. The anti-inflammatory properties of oral administration of melissa oil showed a significant reduction and inhibition of edema, which is swelling caused by excess fluid that is trapped in the body’s tissues.

The results of this study and many like it suggest that melissa oil can be taken internally or applied topically to reduce swelling and relieve pain due to its anti-inflammatory activity.

3. Prevents and Treats Infections

As many of us already know, the widespread use of antimicrobial agents causes resistant bacterial strains, which can seriously compromise the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment thanks to this antibiotic resistance. Research suggests that the use of herbal medicines might be a precautionary measure to prevent the development of resistance to synthetic antibiotics that are associated with therapeutic failures.

Melissa oil has been evaluated by researchers for its ability to stop bacterial infections. The most important identified compounds in melissa oil that are well-known for their antimicrobial effects are citral, citronellal and trans-caryophyllene.

A 2008 study showed that melissa oil exhibited a higher degree of antibacterial activity than lavender oil against gram-positive bacterial strains, including candida.

4. Has Anti-diabetic Effects

Studies suggest that melissa oil is an efficient hypoglycemic and anti-diabetic agent, probably due to enhanced glucose uptake and metabolism in the liver, along with adipose tissue and the inhibition of gluconeogenesis in the liver.

A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when mice were administered melissa essential oil for six weeks, they showed significantly reduced blood glucose levels, improved glucose tolerance and significantly higher serum insulin levels compared with the control group, all of which can reduce diabetes symptoms.

5. Promotes Skin Health

Melissa oil is used for naturally treating eczema, acne and minor wounds, as it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. In studies that involve topical use of melissa oil, healing times were found to be statistically better in the groups treated with lemon balm oil.

It’s gentle enough to apply directly to the skin and helps clear up skin conditions that are caused by bacteria or fungus.

6. Treats Herpes and Other Viruses

Melissa is often the herb of choice for treating cold sores, as it’s effective at fighting viruses in the herpes virus family. It can be used to inhibit the spread of viral infections, which can be especially helpful for people who have developed a resistance to commonly used antiviral agents.

A 2008 study published in Phytomedicine found that higher concentrations of melissa essential oil nearly abolished herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 completely when it was tested on monkey kidney cells using a plaque reduction assay. Researchers suggest that melissa oil serves as a suitable topical treatment for getting rid of herpes because it has antiviral effects and is able to penetrate the skin due to its lipophilic nature.

Melissa essential oil benefits - Dr. Axe

7. Serves as a Potential Anti-Tumor Agent

A 2004 study found that melissa essential oil has potential as an anti-tumor agent, as evidenced by a reduction of human cancer cell lines when evaluated in an in vitro study.

Another study, conducted in 2014 and published in Cancer Investigation, found that melissa oil may be of potential interest for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which are tumors that arise from the supportive tissue of the brain. The study investigated the activity of melissa essential oil and its major component citral in GBM cell lines. Both melissa oil and citral decreased the viability and induced apoptosis of GBM cells with their antioxidant effects, showcasing its potential as a natural cancer treatment.

8. Boosts Mood and Aids in Fighting Depression

Melissa essential oil has antidepressant, hypnotic and sedative properties, and it may create a feeling of peace and warmth. It can promote emotional balance and has uplifting compounds.

A 2o13 study conducted at the University of Melbourne found that the effects of melissa essential oil were shown to help improve anxiety, depression, neuroprotectivity and cognition.

Melissa oil has also been shown to modulate mood and cognitive performance in healthy young volunteers, who reported no side effects or symptoms of toxicity. Even at the lowest doses, self-rated “calmness” was elevated with melissa oil treatment, making it a great essential oil for depression.

9. May Help Reduce High Blood Pressure

Melissa oil has the power to lower blood pressure levels because of its hypotensive, antihyperlipidemic, antiarrhythmic, neuroprotective and hepatoprotective properties. A 2015 animal study published in Research in Cardiovascular Medicine found that melissa essential oil is associated with significant electrocardiogram alternations in rats. The electrocardiogram is a test that’s used to check for problems with the electrical activity of your heart.

Another animal study, conducted in 2016, found that melissa oil reduces the heart rate of injured rats and increases the heart’s resistance to injury.

The blood pressure-lowering effects have been shown in humans as well. For instance, a 2021 double-blind crossover clinical trial concluded that “M. officinalis can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressures of the patients with essential hypertension.”

10. Reduces Triglyceride Levels

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that ingesting melissa oil could have beneficial metabolic effects. When used on mice, melissa oil slowed fatty acid synthesis (a process that creates fatty buildups in the body), which reduced triglyceride levels.

Another animal study, conducted in 2009, found that melissa oil contains phenolic alkaloids that are among the properties that can inhibit cholesterol synthesis and lead to lower total cholesterol levels, total lipid levels and reduced lipid peroxidation levels in liver tissue.

11. Relieves PMS and Menstrual Symptoms

A 2015 study published in Nursing and Midwifery Studies assessed the effect of melissa essential oil capsules on the intensity of PMS symptoms. A hundred high school girls participated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

The intervention group participants received a capsule with 1,200 milligrams of melissa oil from the first to the last day of their menstrual cycles for three consecutive cycles. The second group received the placebo. The results revealed a significant reduction in PMS symptoms for the intervention group, suggesting that melissa oil is effective in reducing PMS symptoms.

How to Use

You can find melissa essential oil in some health stores and online. Melissa oil is one of the more expensive essential oils to purchase, but it’s worth the money — and a little bit goes a long way.

Be sure to read the label carefully, and only buy melissa oil (or any essential oil) from a trustworthy and reputable company. This is particularly important if you plan on using the oil internally.

Melissa essential oil can be diffused at home or in the office, applied topically, and taken internally. For people with sensitive skin, use a carrier oil before using melissa oil on your skin. For internal use, start with very small amounts — one to two drops — and if you plan on taking any essential oil internally for an extended period of time, do it under the care of your health care provider or essential oil coach.

Here are some easy ways to use melissa essential oil at home:

  • To improve symptoms of dementia, diffuse melissa essential oil daily, or inhale it directly from the bottle.
  • To treat skin conditions, such as eczema, use five drops per ounce of carrier oil, especially for use on the face. Alternatively, you can add five drops to a moisturizer or a spray bottle with water, and spritz it on your face.
  • To treat cold sores and herpes, apply two to three diluted drops of melissa oil topically to the area of concern.
  • For hypoglycemia, take a few drops internally to promote healthy glucose levels.
  • To fight feelings of depression and anxiety, diffuse or apply melissa essential oil topically to the wrists, back of the neck and ears.
  • To get rid of vertigo and nervousness, apply two to three drops topically to the back of the neck or ears to alleviate nervousness, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Melissa oil can also be taken internally by adding one drop to water or tea.
  • To help relieve hypertension, apply topically to the chest or back of the neck, or take one to two drops internally.
Melissa essential oil uses - Dr. Axe

Risks and Side Effects

Melissa essential oil is generally considered safe for most adults when used appropriately. However, it can cause some side effects, especially in high doses or for people with certain health conditions.

Here are some potential side effects of melissa essential oil:

  • Skin irritation: When applied directly to the skin, melissa essential oil can cause irritation, redness and itching. It’s important to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as, coconut, jojoba or almond oil, before topical application.
  • Allergic reaction: Some people may be allergic to melissa essential oil, which can cause a variety of symptoms, such as rash, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use immediately, and seek medical attention.
  • Drowsiness: Melissa essential oil has sedative properties and may cause drowsiness. It’s important to avoid using it before driving or operating machinery.
  • Stomach upset: In some cases, melissa essential oil may cause stomach upset, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Interaction with medications: Melissa essential oil may interact with certain medications, such as sedatives, thyroid medications and blood thinners. It’s important to talk to your doctor before using melissa essential oil if you are taking any medications.

Avoid use during pregnancy, as melissa oil is an emmenagogue.  Breastfeeding women, children and people with certain medical conditions should avoid using melissa essential oil.

If you are considering using melissa essential oil, it’s important to talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.

Final Thoughts

  • Melissa essential oil is used in traditional medicine to treat a number of health concerns, including insomnia, anxiety, migraines, hypertension, diabetes, herpes and dementia.
  • Melissa oil, which is also known as lemon balm oil, is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, and the oils are extracted by steam-distilling the leaves and flowers.
  • You can diffuse melissa essential oil at home, or it can be applied topically and taken internally. For people with sensitive skin, use a carrier oil to diffuse melissa before topical application.

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