This plant, considered an herb and also a wild food, is in full glorious bloom in my backyard garden. The bright purplish pink blooms attract my attention every time I step out the back door. I decided to feature them as a Friday Food in the health blog, and in a delightful twist, bee balm is also highlighted in the daily blog as well.
I’m not the only one attracted to this fragrant herb with the brightly colored flower. When I went out to snip some leaves and blooms to make tea, bees were flitting from plant to plant, making this herb aptly named. Bee balm, also called wild bergamot or Monarda, is a perennial that grows throughout North America. The blooms range in color from white to pink to red to purple.
A member of the mint family, bee balm has a scent and a flavor that more resembles oregano. In fact, the leaves can be finely chopped and used in the same way as oregano. The leaves and the flowers are edible and can be added to salads, soups, and other dishes. Both also make a flavorful tea. The bright flowers can be steeped in cold water for a refreshing iced tea, or steeped in hot water for an aromatic and soothing drink. Additionally, both the flowers and the leaves can used to make flavored vinegars.
Medicinally, bee balm really shines. It is high in vitamins A and C, and has powerful anti fungal, antiseptic properties.
Bee balm can be taken internally to treat colds and flus, ease inflammation in the mucus membranes and clear congestion, reduce fevers, and soothe sore throats. The herb is a great tonic for the entire digestive system, easing nausea, gas and bloating. Bee balm is high in thymol, which is used as an active ingredient in commercial mouthwashes, making the herb effective for healing infections in the mouth while freshening the breath.
A tea made from bee balm soothes nervousness and anxiety, and when consumed at night, it helps combat insomnia.
Externally, adding boiling water to bee balm and inhaling the steam helps to clear congested sinuses and soothe raw throats. It can be infused in honey, vinegar, or water and applied to the skin to treat burns, rashes, insect bites, eruptions and infections.
Bee balm can be used fresh in culinary dishes, as a tea or made into tinctures. Dried it can be used in cooking, steeped to make tea, made into skin salves and ointments, or combined with other dried herbs to make potpourri.
I enjoyed a cold iced tea this afternoon, made from bee balm leaves and flowers, lime juice and fresh, sliced strawberries. I’m looking forward to making a tincture for the first time using this herb. More about that process in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this showy and versatile plant!