Alzheimer's DementiaAromatherapyLemon/Lime

Melissa to treat agitation in Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers at the University of Manchester, in the UK, compared Melissa officinalis aromatherapyalso referred to as lemon balm — to donepezil (Aricept).

First, the details.

  • 114 participants with probable or possible Alzheimer’s disease and clinically significant agitation were assigned to a treatment group.
    • Placebo medication and active aromatherapy
    • Donepezil and placebo aromatherapy
    • Placebo of both
  • They hadn’t taken antipsychotics and/or anticholinesterase drugs for at least 2 weeks.
  • Agitation was measured at the start of the study and again at 4-week and 12-week follow-up.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.
  • Raters wore nose clips to ensure that full blinding.

And, the results.

  • There were no significant differences between aromatherapy, donepezil, and placebo at week 4 and week 12.
  • All 3 groups showed an 18% improvement in agitation over 12 weeks.
  • Aromatherapy and donepezil were well tolerated.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “When assessed using a rigorous design… there is no evidence that melissa aromatherapy is superior to placebo or donepezil in the treatment of agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, the authors also concluded, “Improvement in the placebo group emphasizes the potential non-specific benefits of touch and interaction in the treatment of agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

2/26/11 22:07JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.