Melissa officinalis (L.) (Lamiaceae), a plant known as the lemon balm, is native to the east Mediterranean region and west Asia. Also found in tropical countries, such as Brazil, where it is popularly known as "erva-cidreira" or "melissa", it is widely used in aqueous- or alcoholic-extract form in the treatment of various disorders. The aim was to investigate in vivo its antigenotoxicity and antimutagenicity, as well as its genotoxic/mutagenic potential through comet and micronucleus assaying. CF-1 male mice were treated with ethanolic (Mo-EE) (250 or 500 mg/kg) or aqueous (Mo-AE) (100 mg/kg) solutions of an M. officinalis extract for 2 weeks, prior to treatment with saline or Methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) doses by intraperitoneal injection. Irrespective of the doses, no genotoxic or mutagenic effects were observed in blood and bone-marrow samples. Although Mo-EE exerted an antigenotoxic effect on the blood cells of mice treated with the alkylating agent (MMS) in all the doses, this was not so with Mo-AE. Micronucleus testing revealed the protector effect of Mo-EE, but only when administered at the highest dose. The implication that an ethanolic extract of M. officinalis has antigenotoxic/antimutagenic properties is an indication of its medicinal relevance.
Keywords: Melissa officinalis; antigenotoxicity; comet assay; genotoxicity; micronucleus test.