Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a traditional herbal medicine, which enjoys contemporary usage as a mild sedative, spasmolytic and antibacterial agent. It has been suggested, in light of in vitro cholinergic binding properties, that Melissa extracts may effectively ameliorate the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer's disease. To date, no study has investigated the effects on cognition and mood of administration of Melissa to healthy humans. The present randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced-crossover study investigated the acute effects on cognition and mood of a standardised extract of M. officinalis. Twenty healthy, young participants received single doses of 300, 600 and 900 mg of M. officinalis (Pharmaton) or a matching placebo at 7-day intervals. Cognitive performance was assessed using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerised test battery and two serial subtraction tasks immediately prior to dosing and at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h thereafter. In vitro IC(50) concentrations for the displacement of [3H]-(N)-nicotine and [3H]-(N)-scopolamine from nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in human occipital cortex tissue were also calculated. Results, utilising the cognitive factors previously derived from the CDR battery, included a sustained improvement in Accuracy of Attention following 600 mg of Melissa and time- and dose-specific reductions in both Secondary Memory and Working Memory factors. Self-rated "calmness," as assessed by Bond-Lader mood scales, was elevated at the earliest time points by the lowest dose, whilst "alertness" was significantly reduced at all time points following the highest dose. Both nicotinic and muscarinic binding were found to be low in comparison to the levels found in previous studies.
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