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Lemon Balm for the Ageing Brain

Tuesday October 20, 2020
Lemon Balm for the Ageing Brain

Learn how lemon balm could be used to support memory and healthy cognitive ageing. We explore the research into how lemon balm may support those with mild cognitive impairment and could improve symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • An ageing population - nearly one in five adults in the UK are 65 and over (Office for National Statistics)
  • Mild cognitive impairment is estimated to affect between 5-20% of people aged over 65, with 10-15% of those diagnosed going onto develop dementia.
  • Lemon balm supplementation could be beneficial for the ageing brain, with clinical trials showing that Melissa officinalis ethanol extract and rosmarinic acid can help patients with cognitive impairment.
  • Studies have shown that supplementation with lemon balm could help improve symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ageing is a complex process and involves certain gradual changes in the mind and body. Improvements in lifestyle and healthcare have led to an ageing population.

The Office for National Statistics figures show nearly one in five adults in the UK (18%) aged 65 and over with 2.4% aged 85 and overi. The UK population is projected to continue growing, reaching over 74million by 2039.

As such, the prevalence of age-related health conditions is becoming an important concern for health organisations.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which refers to the clinical condition between normal cognition and probable Alzheimer's disease, is estimated to affect between 5-20% of people aged over 65. A further 10-15% of those diagnosed with MCI go onto develop dementiaii. Symptoms for MCI are usually part of a diagnoses for dementia.

Recognisable symptoms include:
  • memory – for example forgetting recent events or repeating the same question
  • reasoning, planning or problem-solving – this could involve struggling with thinking things through
  • attention - being very easily distracted
  • language - taking much longer than usual to find the right word for something
  • visual depth perception - struggling to interpret an object in three dimensions, judge distances or navigate stairs.

Dementia is progressive, and the symptoms gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies greatly from person to person. As dementia progresses, the person may develop behaviours that seem unusual or out of character.


These behaviours may include asking the same question over and over, pacing, restlessness, or agitation. They can be distressing or challenging for the person and those close to them. A person with dementia, especially in the later stages, may have physical symptoms such as muscle weakness or weight loss.


Changes in sleep pattern and appetite are also commoniii. However, research has shown that there are ways to slow the progression of cognitive decline, and to help maintain a healthy fulfilled life.

Lemon Balm – natural support for cognitive decline

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a herb which naturally contains various active compounds such as rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and triterpenes. In previous research, it has been used as a mild sedative and calming agent.


However, this nootropic herb has an array of research supporting its use in memory and cognitive performance, namely due to its standardisation of rosmarinic acid. Lemon balm supplementation has shown to be beneficial for the ageing brain, with clinical trials showing that Melissa officinalis ethanol extract and rosmarinic acid can act via diverse mechanisms to help patients with cognitive impairment.


It can trigger multiple targeted agents involved in Alzheimer’s disease, and inhibit the acetylcholine esterase activity and ß -amyloid plaque formation in brain. Also, it has anti-inflammatory effect and neuro-protective effects by its antioxidant activitiesiv.

What has the research shown?  

Studies have shown that supplementation with lemon balm could help improve symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A lemon balm tincture was investigated for its effects on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This was a four-month placebo controlled parallel group study undertaken in patients between 65 and 80 years of age with confirmed Alzheimer’s disease.


The participants received 60 drops a day of the tincture which was a 1:1 extract in 45% alcohol. The results showed that at four months, the Melissa officianlis tincture supplementation produced a significantly better outcome on cognitive function compared to placebo with improved agitation levels and no reported side effectsv.


The effects of lemon balm for cognitive health have been well documented in modern research. Current research shows lemon balm to be an effective and natural treatment to reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, and those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.


Overall, lemon balm supplementation has demonstrated positive outcomes not only for mood and stress, but for cognition, memory, and mental focus.

Author: Amy Hipwell is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc in Nutrition


Related articles:

 More on Brain Health


 More on Lemon Balm


 Top Brain Nutrients


 What are Nootropics?


 Brain Function


 Healthy Food Healthy Brain


i Office for National Statistics, 2019. Overview of the UK population, available from:

ii Abner, E. L., Kryscio, R. J., Cooper, G. E., Fardo, D. W., Jicha, G. A., Mendiondo, M. S., Nelson, P. T., Smith, C. D., Van Eldik, L. J., Wan, L., & Schmitt, F. A. 2012. Mild cognitive impairment: statistical models of transition using longitudinal clinical data. International journal of Alzheimer's disease, 291920.

iii Alzheimer’s Society: United Against Dementia, 2020. Mild Cognitive Impairment, available from:

iv Mahboubi, M. 2019. Melissa officinalis and rosmarinic acid in management of memory functions and Alzheimer disease, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 9 (2), 47-52.

v Akhondzadeh, S., Noroozian, M., Mohammadi, M., Ohadinia, S., Jamshidi, A.H. and Khani, M., 2003. Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 74(7), pp.863-866.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Brain HealthLemon Balm Insights, Brain Health, Herbs


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