A medicinal herb, Melissa officinalis L. ameliorates depressive-like behavior of rats in the forced swimming test via regulating the serotonergic neurotransmitter

J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Dec 4:175:266-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.09.018. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Depression is a serious psychological disorder that causes extreme economic loss and social problems. However, the conventional medications typically cause side effects that result in patients opting to out of therapy. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., MO) is an old and particularly reliable medicinal herb for relieving feelings of melancholy, depression and anxiety. The present study aims to investigate the antidepressant-like activity of water extract of MO (WMO) by evaluating its influence on the behaviors and the relevant neurotransmitters of rats performed to forced swimming test.

Materials and methods: Two phases of the experiment were conducted. In the acute model, rats were administered ultrapure water (control), fluoxetine, WMO, or the indicated active compound (rosmarinic acid, RA) three times in one day. In the sub-acute model, rats were respectively administered ultrapure water (control), fluoxetine, or three dosages of WMO once a day for 10 days. Locomotor activity and depression-like behavior were examined using the open field test and the forced swimming test, respectively. The levels of relevant neurotransmitters and their metabolites in the frontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and striatum were analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography.

Results: In the acute model, WMO and RA significantly reduced depressive-like behavior but the type of related neurotransmitter could not be determined. The results indicated that the effect of WMO administration on the reduction of immobility time was associated with an increase in swimming time of the rats, indicative of serotonergic neurotransmission modulation. Chromatography data validated that the activity of WMO was associated with a reduction in the serotonin turnover rate.

Conclusion: The present study shows the serotonergic antidepressant-like activity of WMO. Hence, WMO may offer a serotonergic antidepressant activity to prevent depression and to assist in conventional therapies.

Keywords: Antidepressant; Forced swimming test; Melissa officinalis L.; Neurotransmitter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Melissa*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Swimming


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin