Welcome back to my blog, and thanks for reading! In an effort to create more content, I’ve decided to highlight some herbs that are super useful during the childbearing year. A note of disclaimer: information here is for educational purposes only and not for diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any ailment. You are your own best judge of your health and wellbeing, and the person who makes all final choices about your health (even when working with a doctor) is you! Okay, onto the herbs!
Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant. It has a history of medicinal use dating back more than 2000 years. The leaves can be used as a tea, supplement, or extract.
Herbal Actions: Carminative, relaxing nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-depressant, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, hepatic, anti-viral
Indications for Use: Lemon balm is an excellent digestive herb. It relieves spasms in the digestive tract and is useful in cases of dyspepsia. It is indicated in cases of bloating or excessive gas, and may be useful in cases of infant colic if ingested by the breastfeeding mother. The volatile oil in this herb acts on the interface between the digestive tract and the nervous system and is best indicated when there is also anxiety or depression. The oils are gentle sedative and relieve stress and tension reactions.
Lemon balm is considered a trophorestorative for the nervous system. This herb is indicated for use with neuralgia, anxiety-induces palpitations, insomnia, and migraines. It is a cardiac tonic which helps the circulatory system function normally and causes mild vasodilation of the peripheral vessels. This blood vessel action helps to lower blood pressure. Anxiety and high blood pressure are the most likely indications for use during pregnancy.
Water-based extracts of lemon balm make best use of its antiviral properties. It can be used internally for colds and flus or externally for viral lesions such as herpes.
It has some indication in cases of urinary incontinence and may be helpful when added to a formula created to address this.
What Studies Show: There have been limited studies on the use of lemon balm. Short term studies show that this herb is capable of benefitting mood and performance. It was shown to improve working memory and alertness.
Safety Considerations During Pregnancy: Lemon balm is considered likely safe for short term use. There is no research regarding the safety of this herb during pregnancy. Lemon balm may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones and should be avoided if there are any concerns about thyroid function. It is also considered a mild emmenagogue and should not be consumed in the first trimester of pregnancy. As always, when trying new herbs during pregnancy, a low dose should be used first and careful attention paid to the body’s response to this supplement.
In Practice: I have seen Lemonbalm used frequently in my practice as a doula and student midwife. I’ve witnessed it having a very consistent affect in helping to cease the upward creep of blood pressure that some people can experience late in their pregnancies. Usually I recommend it in combination with something like Dandelion root or Motherwort. Typically my clients use Lemonbalm as a tincture or a capsule, however I tend to recommend the form of this herb that best fits the lifestyle of my client. Frankly, not many people drink tea daily.
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a regimen of St Johnswort, Lemonbalm, vitamin D, and Omega 3 supplements have a wonderful effect on a client suffering with prenatal anxiety and depression. This client’s wish was to avoid pharmaceuticals, so we began this regimen at 33 weeks gestation and within a month saw a complete turn around. We did need to adjust the dose a few times, but once it was correct client reported that she no longer felt regular anxiety or panic.
Curious about using Lemonbalm in your life? Why not try growing it first, its a lovely plant that’s available from a lot of different places (even walmart!) and grows well in a pot so long as it has full sun. Happy Gardening!