Some of the health benefits of lemon balm for children include anti-viral properties, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, can strengthen neuroligical system, can reduce pain, helps in reducing gastric problems, can help in recovering from liver damage and can reduce insomnia.
Lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is a perennial herb related to the mint family. It also goes with other names such as balm, common balm, balm mint, etc. The name lemon balm is used more often because the leaves give out mild lemon scent. The plant usually requires warm climates to grow and hence, it can be found in places such as North Africa, Mediterranean region and central Asia.
During summers, the plant grows white flowers which attract bees. Hence, the official name given is Melissa which means ‘honey bees’ in Greek. The plant has been known from ancient times, when it used to grow in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean regions. For ages, it has been used as a calming herb and also has been used for treating wounds and venomous insect bites and stings. Even in the Mediterranean cuisine, the leaves are used as a flavoring agent because of their gentle lemon flavor. They are added in salads, cooked foods and also tea is prepared with the leaves.
Source: The Flowering Garden
In the medieval times, lemon balm was widely consumed in Europe and in the Mediterranean regions as it was believed that lemon balm is the “elixir of life” and it promotes and increases longevity of life. Many kings have consumed lemon balm beverages in the belief that it promotes their health.
Apart from being used as a medicine and flavoring agent in food, the essential oil from lemon balm leaves are used for treating various diseases and they are also used in other commercial applications such as perfume and cosmetic industries as well.
Health benefits of Lemon Balm for children
Here are some of the health benefits of lemon balm for children.
The extracts from lemon balm have anti-viral properties. Lemon balm extracts were tested against influenza virus, Newcastle disease virus and herpes virus. This property can be helpful in fighting viral infections which can often be seen in children.
Has antibacterial and antifungal properties
Apart from possessing anti-viral properties, lemon balm also possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties. One study showed that the extracts from lemon balm have showed control over 13 bacterial species and 6 species of fungi.
Can help in strengthening neurological system
For a very long time, lemon balm has been known to have a calming effect on the mind. Today, scientific research shows that lemon balm could improve memory and cognitive performance. This property can benefit children who need to be very active in this competing academic world. Incidentally, this property is also being explored as a remedy for Alzheimer’s disease.
Has painkilling properties
Some studies have shown that lemon balm has painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects. The effect of painkilling has been measured to be on par with drugs like morphine and aspirin. This can be particularly useful when children hurt themselves.
Helps in reducing gastrointestinal disorders
Traditionally, lemon balm was also used as a remedy for gastrointestinal disorders. These include digestion problems, gripping pain in the belly, spasms in the digestive tract and flatulent dyspepsia as well.
Can provide better relief in colic
Colic, which is observed in infants can be very disturbing for both the child as well as for parents. Colic, the causes of which are unknown, can include spasms, inflammation in the stomach, etc can be reduced to a great extent with lemon balm.
Can help in reducing liver damage
Liver, though being one of the most resilient organs, can be prone to damage. This damage can be reduced with lemon balm consumption. One study in particular has shown that by taking lemon balm, liver damage can be reversed to a great extent.
Can act as a remedy for insomnia
Insomnia or sleeplessness can be sometimes found even in children. With its mild sedative effect, lemon balm can be given for improving the length of the sleep and quality of sleep.
How to consume lemon balm
Lemon balm is a versatile culinary herb and it has been used as a flavoring agent in different types of dishes including soups, stews, butters, cheeses, fish, stuffing for chicken, lamb and pork. It was also used as a dressing in vegetable salads and fruit salads as well. In fruit salads, lemon balm goes well with fruits such as pineapple, apple, pears, honeydew and cantaloupe, etc. Tea made from stewing the leaves of lemon balm was also very famous during medieval times until modern times.
Side-effects or interactions of lemon balm
Not all herbs are devoid of side-effects and so does lemon balm. Here are certain side-effects of lemon balm.
Generally considered safe: Lemon balm is generally considered as a safe herb when used in small quantities and for short duration of time. However, long term consumption and its effects are unknown.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: According to WebMD, there is not enough information about the kind of interactions or side-effects of lemon balm taken during pregnancy and breast-feeding and its suggests to avoid using it during pregnancy.
Can cause nausea, headache: When consumed in large quantities, lemon balm can cause nausea, headache and palpitations, etc. It can also put pressure on the intraocular region and impact glaucoma.
Can be taken by children: It is safe to say that lemon balm can be safely taken by children for not more than 1 month. As mentioned in the health benefits, it is better to use lemon balm only as a medicine and that too in appropriate amounts and not in large quantities.
Can interact with sedatives, glaucoma and thyroid medications: Being a mild sedative by itself, using lemon balm before or after surgeries can interact with sedatives given during surgeries. Because of this, it is better to avoid lemon balm at least 2 week before a scheduled surgery. Lemon balm can interfere with thyroid medications and hence, it should not be taken with thyroid medications. It can also interfere with glaucoma medications as well.