Mint and Acne

Calamintha graveolens, a member of the mint herbal family, has been used as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. Calamintha is a perennial herb that grows wild in Europe, Asia, and North America.1 In Persian countries it has been used to treat skin conditions like acne and eczema, and because acne patients frequently suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, this herb’s purported antidepressant properties may also be of value.2

Lemon Balm—A Mint with Antibacterial, Antioxidant, and Calming Effects

The essential oils of lemon balm, a perennial herbaceous member of the mint family, are frequently used in aromatherapy, topical creams, homeopathic natural medicine, and food products. Studies show its bioactive components exert antibacterial and soothing, sedative effects. The vapors of lemon balm oils in aromatherapy allow these active polyphenols to be absorbed through the lungs and cross the blood-brain barrier to suppress anxiety-producing neurotransmitters (e.g., GABA).3

Lemon balm may also help alleviate acne symptoms systemically when taken orally. Lab experiments have demonstrated its antioxidant properties, while animal studies show that oral administration of lemon balm reduces oxidative damage in the skin linked to a high-fat diet.4 Studies in rats confirm that lemon balm relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety.4 These results suggest that lemon balm may help prevent the oxidative damage related to diet that has been linked to acne and concurrent mood disorders (e.g., depression).5


Dermatologists caution against using the essential oil of peppermint topically since it can irritate already inflamed or sensitive skin.6 Lemon balm should not be used by pregnant women or hypothyroid patients, and it may have a mild sedative effect.4 Because of this, caution should be exercised when using lemon balm with other sedatives or alcohol, and avoid using lemon balm for two or more weeks prior to anesthesia for surgery.3

How to Use

Aromatherapy using the essential oils of lemon balm is believed to be therapeutic for acne.4 When used for Alzheimer’s patients for the same soothing effects, experts recommend 60 drops of lemon balm extract per day.3

Although there are no specific oral dosing recommendations for lemon balm or other mints for acne, a number of sleep aids contain lemon balm in doses ranging from 80-97 mg/day. A 1% lemon balm extract cream or ointment is used topically for herpes labialis 2-4 times a day until sores are healed, suggesting there may be a topical acne antimicrobial use for lemon balm as well.3

  1. Small, Ernest. Culinary Herbs. s.l.: NRC Research Press, 2006. ISBN 0660190737, 9780660190730.
  2. Naghibi, Farzaneh, et al. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 2: Labiatae Family in folk Medicine in Iran: from Ethnobotany to Pharmacology. Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services. [Online] 2005. [Cited: January 18, 2011.]
  3. Therapeutic Research Faculty. Lemon Balm Full Monograph. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. [Online] 2011. [Cited: January 21, 2011.]
  4. Burlando, Bruno, et al. Herbal Principles in Cosmetics: Properties and Mechanisms of Action. s.l.: CRC Press, 2010. ISBN 1439812136, 9781439812136.
  5. Bowe, Whitney P. and Logan, Alan C. Lipids in Health and Disease 9: Clinical implications of lipid peroxidation in acne vulgaris: old wine in new bottles. BioMed Central Ltd: Lipid World. [Online] December 9, 2010. [Cited: December 31, 2010.] DOI 10.1186/1476-511X-9-141.
  6. Weisberg, Edmund, Baumann, Leslie. Cosmetic And Drug Regulation. [book auth.] Leslie Baumann, Sogol Saghari and Edmund Weisberg. Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2009, 28. ISBN 0071490620, 9780071490627.
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