Lemon Balm and Lavender for Depression

According to the World Health Organization, over 260 people worldwide suffer from depression. One of the drugs used in conventional treatment for depression is fluoxetine, a type of medication known as a selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). One well-known prescription brand is Prozac.

However, fluoxetine can cause nausea, sleep disturbances, headache, and dizziness – just to name a few side effects. This clinical study found that two botanicals, lemon balm (also known as Melissa) and lavender, were able to reduce symptoms of mild depression as effectively as fluoxetine.

Both herbs have long been recognized for their ability to help people relax and feel a sense of calmness. This clinical trial showed that either botanical was essentially equal to the prescription drug after eight weeks of treatment, with no serious side effects. The only main difference was that the fluoxetine group reported more anxiety, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction – common attributes of antidepressant drugs.


Araj-Khodaei M, Noorbala AA, Yarani R, et al. A double-blind, randomized pilot study for comparison of Melissa officinalis L. and Lavandula angustifolia Mill. with Fluoxetine for the treatment of depression. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020;20(1):207. Published 2020 Jul 3. doi:10.1186/s12906-020-03003-5

Background: Depression has rapidly progressed worldwide, and the need for an efficient treatment with low side effect has risen. Melissa officinalis L and Lavandula angustifolia Mill have been traditionally used in Asia for the treatment of depression. Many textbooks of traditional Persian medicine refer to these herbs for the treatment of depression while there are no adequate clinical trials to support this claim.

The present study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of M. officinalis and L. angustifolia compared to fluoxetine for the treatment of mild to moderate depression in an 8-week randomized, double-blind clinical trial.

Methods: Forty-five adult outpatients who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) for major depression, were randomly assigned to 3 groups to daily receive either M. officinalis (2 g) or L. angustifolia (2 g) or fluoxetine (20 mg) and were assessed in weeks 0, 2, 4 and 8 by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) including 17 items.

Results: Our study showed that M. officinalis and L. angustifolia effect similar to fluoxetine in mild to moderate depression. (F = 0.131, df = 2,42, p = 0.877).

Conclusion: Due to some restrictions in this study including absence of placebo group, large-scale trials are needed to investigate the anti-depressant effect of these two herbs with more details.