Bee balm is an edible herb with a host of potentially beneficial medicinal properties. All parts of the plant are edible — even its beautiful flowers, which are often used as a healthy garnish on salads. It is also a source of the oil in thyme.
There are two different and common plants that carry the name bee balm: Monarda fistulose and Monarda didyma. The Monarda fistulosa plant is lavender in color and routinely referred to as either “wild bergamot” or horsemint. It grows in open pastures and is a favorite among honeybees. It has a more sharp and mint-infused flavor than the Monarda didyma plant.
Bee balm is a perennial herb that grows naturally in the Eastern United States, Canada, and Mexico. Typically, it can be found not only in pastures but along clearings in the woods and edges of the forest, Alt Nature notes. Both Oswego tea and bee balm tea are the most common ways the wild edible is used in natural homemade remedies.
Hummingbirds love BeBalm’s in New River beach NB! pic.twitter.com/yWF4gthYGX
— Lee Campbell (@LeeCampbell0055) August 4, 2014
Top 10 Uses For Bee Balm
- Native Americans used bee balm plants to make wild Oswego tea. Bronchial problems and stomach aches were the two primary problems tribes used the tea to treat. Early settlers in New England also drank the tea, but for entirely different reasons. After the Boston Tea Party, quality English tea was nearly impossible to find or afford, so a native wild tea soon took its place in the homes of most British immigrants. There are multiple Oswego tea recipes with slight variations. One of the most common tea recipes is detailed at the bottom of this report.
- The plant can be used as both an antiseptic and an antibacterial agent to help cleanse wounds and prevent infection. Soak a cloth in a bee balm tea and then apply as a compress to the affected area. To make a simple bee balm tea, chop the stems and flowers from the plant and add them to boiling water. Allow the tea to cool to the touch before using on the skin.
- When bee balm is used as an ingredient in homemade ointments it is believed to help ease pain from insect bites, bee stings, cold sores, and minor wounds.
- As with most members of the mint family, bee balm has often been used to help aid digestion issues, colic, gas, poor appetite, and vomiting.
- Bee balm tea is used by some natural medicine fans to help relieve menstrual cramps.
- Rubbing flowers from the plant onto the skin has been successful in repelling mosquitoes and other insects. Some users have experienced a sensitivity to the sun after rubbing bergamot flowers on their skin. Testing a small patch of skin to determine if such an allergic reaction could occur is recommended.
- The bee balm plant has often seen success when used as an anti-inflammatory agent in salves, tinctures, and teas. Wrapping a cloth dampened in bee balm tea around a swollen ankle or similar injury may help reduce both pain and inflammation.
- When the tea is mixed half-and-half with apple cider vinegar it may help take the pain out of sunburns and alleviate blisters on the skin caused by overexposure to the sun.
- Bee balm tea, once cooled, can be poured or gently rubbed onto pets to help rid them of fleas and mites, Nature Hacks notes.
- Both bee balm and Oswego tea have been used to help break fevers. Drinking either tea has been known to help alleviate symptoms from the common cold and headaches.
Growing Bee Balm
The medicinal herb grows quite easily in typical garden soil but has also thrived in soil with a heavy clay content. Gardeners routinely have the best luck growing the herb in a dry soil with a solid alkaline content. Bee balm needs a partly shady to sunny spot to grow, Annie’s Remedy notes.
Bee balm, or bergamot, blooms from June to July. Once the edible leaves and flowers are picked, they must be allowed to air dry for several days. Placing the flowers and blooms spaced so they are not touching on a paper bag is the simplest way to air dry the edible herb.
Simply because something grows naturally in the wild does not necessarily make it safe for everyone to ingest or use topically. Allergic reactions or potentially severe side effects could occur when using an alternative natural medicine. Consulting a physician before using a natural medicine is recommended. Women who may be pregnant should not ingest bergamot, or perhaps not even use it topically. Individuals with thyroid problems should also not ingest bee balm.
Oswego Tea Recipe
- Place 5 teaspoons of dried bee balm leaves in a glass pitcher or Mason jar
- Add 1/4 cup of dried chamomile flowers to the mix – optional
- Add 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary leaves and flowers into the tea mixture
- Add 1/3 cup of cut pineapple or apple slices into the tea pitcher or jar
- Place a few pinches of mint into the tea mix – optional
- Cover the pitcher or jar opening and shake well.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the Oswego tea mixture into boiling water.
- Steep the mixture, strain, and drink once it has cooled to taste.
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