By Tracie Korol
The clammy paralysis of anxiety has become almost routine for so many people that it is has become the new normal. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 18% of the adult population of the U.S., or about 40 million people. No one tracks how many dogs suffer from canine anxiety, but experts peg the rate at somewhere around 30% and, many say, it’s probably rising.
A canine anxiety epidemic seems out of sync with a world that includes organic food, daycare centers, and memory foam beds for that special canine in your life. There are dating sites for people partial to spending their free time with dogs and travel agencies that can plan entire vacations around you and your dog.
In canine-obsessed times such as these, how bad could a dog’s life be?
The truth is that most dogs aren’t along for the ride. Even the ones lucky enough to be adopted by responsible people spend a good part of their lives inside and on their own. They’re waiting for someone to come home, and they’re lonely. Even when people are home, they’re often distracted by everything they need to catch up on after a day away. And all that time on the phone, the Droid, or the computer takes time away from exercising, playing, and just plain hanging out with your Best Friend.
A simple remedy for the stresses of everyday life, for you and your Best Friend, might be to spend a few quiet minutes sharing a cup of Lemon Balm tea (or iced LBT, given the season). While dogs generally aren’t all that wild about lemon flavor and scent, adding a dilute tea to the water bowl will hardly be noticed. Your dog will appreciate an addition of fresh chopped lemon balm to his bowl of chicken or fish, or a light misting of a lemon balm hydrosol. And certainly, he will appreciate a lemon balm-infused honey for a special spoon treat.
Native to the Middle East, lemon balm traveled through all of Europe. Charlemagne ordered his subjects to plant it, Benedictine monks put it in their monastery gardens, and Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello. Part of the mint family, it has known medicinal properties relating to the nervous system, assisting those who suffer from anxiety and related psychological imbalances. So widespread was lemon balm’s reputation for promoting longevity and dispelling melancholy that by the 17th century, French Carmelite nuns were dispensing their Carmelite Water to a faithful following. The lemon-balm infused “miracle water” was thought to improve memory and vision and reduce rheumatic pain, fever, melancholy and congestion.
Lemon balm’s key constituents include volatile oils, tannins, flavonoids, terpenes, and eugenol. Its terpenes are relaxing, the tannins have antiviral effects, and eugenol calms muscle spasms, kills bacteria, and has an analgesic effect. In recent years, lemon balm has made headlines for its ability to treat cold sores and other breakouts caused by the herpes simplex virus and as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Its strong performance in the Alzheimer’s studies and its safety make it a compelling candidate for a trial with senior dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction, or to reduce the depression and agitation that dogs with cognitive dysfunction can display.
People whose dogs’ flatulence drives them out of the room may especially appreciate lemon balm’s ability to reduce gas.
Long considered a “universal remedy,” lemon balm is an herb that can be used for almost any ailment but is perhaps most strongly indicated in dogs with digestive problems, separation anxiety, sleep disorders, stress, and irritability. Plus, it’s tasty.