Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) (lemon balm) is used in folk medicine for nervous complaints, lower abdominal disorders and, more recently, for treating Herpes simplex lesions. In this work the antiviral activity of a hydroalcoholic extract of lemon balm leaves against the Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) was assessed by the cytopathic effect inhibition assay on Vero cells (ATCC CCL-81), in comparison with acyclovir. The cytotoxicity of the extract on Vero cells was previously tested by evaluating the cellular death and was confirmed by the Trypan blue test. Lemon balm showed to reduce the cytopathic effect of HSV-2 on Vero cells, in the range of non-toxic concentrations of 0.025-1 mg mL(-1) (with reference to the starting crude herbal material). The maximum inhibiting effect (60%) was obtained with 0.5 mg mL(-1). The viral binding assay showed that the extract does not prevent the entry of HSV-2 in the cells, thus suggesting a mechanism of action subsequent to the penetration of the virus in the cell. The extract was also chemically characterised by NMR and HPLC analysis; it showed to contain cinnamic acid-like compounds, mainly rosmarinic acid (4.1% w/w). Our experiments support the use of lemon balm for treating Herpes simplex lesions and encourage clinical trials on this medicinal plant.