Updated: Oct 7, 2019
This plant is also sometimes referred to as sweet leaf bergamot, wild bergamot, or oswego tea. It is not, however, the same plant that is used to flavor earl grey tea. Earl grey is flavored with oil from a citrus fruit called a bergamot orange. Bee balm (Mondarda fistulosa) is a member of the Mint family native to North America, and has a citrus-y flavor and aroma similar to the bergamot orange.
Latin Name: Monarda fistulosa
Parts Used: Leaves and flowers
Safety: May interact negatively with thyroid medications. Otherwise considered generally safe.
Medicinal Uses: Bee balm is both
antimicrobial and soothing. Bee balm has a high content of thymol (also found in oregano and thyme) which is a strong antiseptic. As a tea, it can be used as a remedy for a variety of ailments including colds, flu, upper respiratory problems, gas, diarrhea, nausea, fevers and whooping cough, and topically for skin problems and wounds.
Bee balm has a soothing effect on the digestive system and helps relieve indigestion, bloating and nausea. It’s antispasmodic properties also help it treat menstrual cramps as well as coughs.
Externally, bee balm can be used to treat scrapes, stings and rashes. Historically, leaves were boiled and then wrapped in cloth and applied to sore eyes, headaches, muscle spasms, fungal infections, and under bandages to slow bleeding.
Additionally, balm is a nervine that has a calming affect on the nervous system, and can be taken to alleviate anxiety or promote relaxation.
Recommendations for use:
Rinse and air dry your bee balm before using. Bee balm makes a tasty tea, which you might find similar to earl grey. It has a strong flavor, so start with a ratio of 1 teaspoon dried plant material (or 2 teaspoons fresh) to 8 oz. boiling water. You can dry and preserve your bee balm by hanging your bunch in a dark, dry location until the leaves are brittle. Like many other plants in the mint family, this is a safe and versatile herb. Add it to pestos, salads, dressings, and marinades. Here are a few additional easy uses for bee balm from Homespun Seasonal Living.