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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is said to heal and prevent herpes outbreaks, ease nerves and sleep disorders, and soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and digestion problems.

Research suggests the phenolic compounds in lemon balm fight herpes topically by attaching to the virus receptor sites, inhibiting the virus's ability to spread. Some experts believe that the essential oils that give lemon balm its strong scent relieve sleep disorders by calming the nervous system. They theorize that the herb eases digestive complaints by relaxing the smooth muscles in the digestive system.

Lemon balm has demonstrated its anti-herpes activity in several studies. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study published in Phytomedicine in 1999, 34 of 66 patients with a history of recurrent herpes on the lips and nose applied lemon balm cream to the affected areas four times a day for five days. Patients using lemon balm healed better and experienced nearly half the itching, burning, swelling, and tingling of the control group.

A placebo-controlled, double-blind Swiss study of healthy adults in 1999 tested tablets consisting of 80 mg of lemon balm and 120 mg of the herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Patients who took the herb tablets three times daily had nearly four times better sleep quality than patients in the control group.

(Source: Natural Health magazine, Supplement Flash; online at www.naturalhealthmag.com.)

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