Clinical Assessment of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) in Herpes Treatment

Clinical Assessment of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) in Herpes Treatment

Reference: Wöbling RH & Leonhardt K: Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine 1 (1): 25-31, 1994.

Summary: A multicenter clinical study of 115 patients, followed by a placebo-controlled double-blind study involving 116 patients confirmed in vitro antiviral activity of a dried extract of Melissa officinalis L (lemon balm) leaves in the treatment of herpes simplex infections. The studies showed that efficacy is best achieved at the onset of infections.

Comments/Opinions: The lemon balm leaves and preparations thereof are the subject of a positive German therapeutic monograph, indicated for difficulty in falling asleep due to nervous conditions, and functional gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition, various studies over the past 20 years have provided experimental evidence that lemon balm hot-water extracts have strong antiviral properties (in egg and cell-culture systems) against Newcastle disease, mumps, herpes simplex, vaccinia, and other viruses. Polyphenols (other than caffeic acid) and the tannin present have been shown to be responsible for these antiviral properties. Biological activity, recognized for over 2,000 years, has generally been ascribed to the essential oil and its components.

Extracts standardized to the German Pharmacopoeia have been assessed in a clinical study involving 115 patients from 4 centers (including 45 males and 70 female subjects). A cream containing 1% dried lemon balm extract was applied by the patients as needed 5 times daily until healing of herpes lesions was complete (up to a 14 day maximum). Symptoms were documented at the beginning of treatment, and subsequently on the 4th, 6th, and 8th days of treatment. Healing was complete in 96% of the patients by the 8th day of the treatment (60% by day 4, and 87% by day 6). Natural healing usually takes 10 to 14 days. The positive results of this multicentric study led to a further clinical trial.

Two dermatological centers carried out a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study on the effect of a cream containing 1% dried extract of lemon balm leaves (drug extract 70:1). Case reports of 116 patients were evaluated for the study. In the global assessment of efficacy, both physicians and patients judged the lemon balm cream superior to placebo. At the critical initial stage of treatment, and in decline of swelling on the second day, the treatment group was significantly superior to placebo. To achieve efficacy, it was found that treatment must be started at very early stages of the infection. Accelerated healing was most pronounced in the first two days of treatment.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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By S. Foster

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