Bee Balm Photos by
Bergeron Copyright 2006. Permission required to use herb pictures from
Other Names: Eastern Beebalm,
Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda
Bee Balm Herb Uses and
Bee Balm is
edible and medicinal, the entire plant above ground is edible used as a pot
herb, and it is also used as a flavoring in cooked foods. The flowers make an
attractive edible garnish in salads. The plant is noted for its fragrance, and
is a source of oil of thyme. The fresh or dried leaves are brewed into a
refreshing aromatic and medicinal tea. An infusion of young Bee Balm leaves used
to form a common beverage in many parts of the United States.
Bee Balm leaves
and flowers and stems are used in alternative medicine as an antiseptic,
carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant. An infusion is medicinal used
internally in the treatment of colds, catarrh, headaches, and gastric disorders,
to reduce low fevers and soothe sore throat, to relieve flatulence, nausea,
menstrual pain, and insomnia. Steam inhalation of the plant can be used for sore
throats, and bronchial catarrh (inflammation of the mucus membrane, causing an
increased flow of mucus). Externally, it is a medicinal application for skin
eruptions and infections. Bergamot's distinctive aroma, found in both the leaf
and flower is wonderful for use in potpourri.
While a fragrant
herb in its own right, Wild Bergamot is not the source of the commonly used
Bergamot Essential oil.
Bee Balm is a
perennial herb native to Eastern North America. It grows in dry thickets,
clearings and woodland edges from Ontario and British Columbia to Georgia and
Mexico. Bee Balm has showy, red, pink, or lilac flowers in large heads or whorls
of about 20-50 flowers at the top of the branching stem, supported by leafy
bracts, the leaflets are a pale-green color. The stem of Bee Balm is square,
grooved and hard; and about 3 feet high. The leaves occur in opposite pairs, are
rough on both surfaces, are distinctly toothed, and lance-shaped. Fine dense
hairs cover much of the stem and leaves. Bee Balm roots are short, slender,
How to Grow Bee
Bee Balm is easily
grown in ordinary garden soil. It also grows well in heavy clay soils, requires
a part shade to sunny place to grow. This species thrives when grown in a dry
soil and prefers alkaline soil conditions. Bee Balm is best started from plants
which spread like crazy, but will grow from seed as well. Unfortunately, it
often gets spotted with a mold like affliction.
How to Harvest and Use Bee Balm
flowers bloom from June to July. Gather edible leaves and flowers in bloom, dry
on small bundles in paper bags in a dry, well ventilated area. Bee Balm can be
used as tea, or as an aromatic suitable for sachets and potpourri.
Herbal Tea Recipe
tea: To 1 tsp. dried herb, add 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 min. sweeten to
taste, take at bedtime.
The red variety
is commonly known as Oswego Tea. It was used by colonists in place of English
Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor to
protest the high taxes imposed on it by the British. Read More about
Bee Balm was
used as a medicinal plant extensively by Native Americans who recognized four
varieties that had different odors. Wild Bergamot was used also as an active
diaphoretic (sweat inducer) for ceremonial sweat lodges. A decoction of the herb
was made into hair pomade.