I have a knot in my stomach. I have butterflies. Go with your gut. It's hard to digest.
We use analogies of physical digestion to describe our emotions because the brain and stomach are synced, connected in a constant flow of bidirectional communication via the vagus nerve. That's why when we feel stressed, it can present physically. Our brain triggers a signal throughout the body that can cause spasms in the gut, the sensation we refer to as "butterflies" or "fluttering." It's what makes some people feel like they have a stomachache when really what they're experiencing is a physical manifestation of an emotion. And, this signaling works both ways. Gut bacteria produces the same neurotransmitters found in the brain that help balance mood, such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine.1 The nervous and digestive systems are intricately connected, and today, we know that the enteric nervous system (ENS) functions as both an independent and integrated part of the autonomic nervous system.
Lemon balm (Melissa oficinalis), a member of the mint family, therapeutically harmonizes the nervous and digestive systems, bringing together elements that provide a normalizing, regulating effect and making it an indispensable tool for modern life. Used medicinally across cultures throughout history with broad application for digestive discomforts and nervous-system related upsets, lemon balm has been recommended by the German Commission E for its efficacy in the wellness of both.2 Lemon balm is rich in flavonoids, such as rosmarinic acid, gallic acid, and apigenin.3 Its major active polyphenol, rosmarinic acid, contributes to its health-promoting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.5
Digestive System: Lemon balm is notable for its carminative and calming actions in digestive conditions and is traditionally used for its antispasmodic sedative actions to relax intestinal muscles and benefit indigestion and nausea.3-4, 6 In a double-blind study of patients with dyspepsia, 43% who received active treatment reported complete relief vs the 3% who received the placebo.7
Nervous System: Lemon Balm is noted to be especially effective in relieving dyspepsia when it's associated with nervous-related upsets. As a calmative, it is combined with other herbs to help calm anxiety, soothe the nervous system, and help promote sleep. Found to be neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective and to benefit mood, cognition, and memory, both clinical and animal studies demonstrate that lemon balm extract alone or in combination with other herbs reduce restlessness.8-9
Health is an ongoing, dynamic process in which resiliency and adaptability help create the ongoing stability maintained through allostasis, and each person’s microbiome is unique.10-13 Botanical medicines and natural compounds, like lemon balm, offer an excellent therapeutic approach to help promote healthy inflammatory processes, promote healing processes, restore gut homeostasis, and support a balanced neuroendocrine response to stress.*
1. Yadav H, Jain S, et al. Gut microbiome derived metabolites to regulate energy homeostasis: how microbiome talks to host. Metabolomics. 2016. 6(2):2pages.
2. ABC Monograph. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. Lemon Balm
3. Miraj S, Rafieian, Diani S. Melissa officinalis L.: A review study with an antioxidant prospective. J Evid Based Comp Altern Med. 2017 Jul. 22(3):385-394.
4. ABC Monograph. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. Lemon Balm.
5. Zoric Z, Markic J, et al. Stability of rosmarinic acid in aqueous extracts from different Lamiaceae species after in vitro digestion with human gastrointestinal enzymes.Food Technol Biotechnol. 2016 Mar. 54(1):97-102.
6. Mahboubi M. Melissa officinalis and rosmarinic acid in management of memory functions and Alzheimer disease.Asian Pacific J Trop Biomed 2019. 9(2):47-52.
7. Madisch A, Holtmann G, Mayr G, Vinson B, Hotz J. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a herbal preparation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Digestion. 2004;69(1):45-52.
8. Kennedy DO, Little W, et al. Anxiolytic efects of a combination of Melissa ofcinalis and Valeriana ofcinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytother Res. 2006. 20(2):96-102.
9. Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, et al. Melissa ofcinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003. 74(7):863-366.
10. Stroeve JHM, van Wietmarschen H, et al. Phenotypic fexibility as a measure of health: the optimal nutritional stress response test. Genes Nutr. 2015. 10:13. 21 pages.
11. Chan S. Complex Adaptive Systems. 2001. ESD.83 Research Seminar in Engineering Systems.
12. Kruse K, Julicher F. Oscillations in cell biology. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 20015 17:20-26. doi:10.1016/j.ceb.2004.12.007
13. McEwen BS, Wingfeld JC. The concept of allostasis in biology and biomedicine. Horm Behav. 2003 Jan. 43(1):2-1