Bee Balm (monarda) has beautiful flowers, attracts bees, and is a herbal medicine. It is known by many names including Sweet Melissa, lemon balm, sweet balm, bergamot, and Oswego tea. Many people in North Georgia grow it in flower beds never realizing that it makes a relaxing tea.
Photo by Janice Boilng at Payne Mountain Farms
Bee Balm is a mild, natural tranquilizer. It is used as a remedy for nervous conditions, headache, depression, tension, insomnia, flatulence, colds, flu, sore throats, hypertension, thyroid conditions (such as Grave’s disease), bronchitis, indigestion, nausea, asthma, cold sores, herpes, mumps, menstrual cramps, and colic. Sometimes Bee Balm is used to induce sweating and to bring on menstruation.
Bee Balm contains polyphenols that fight harmful bacteria including streptococci. It also contains an anesthetic compound that relieves pain. Bee Balm makes a great wound compress – it relieves pain, helps stop bleeding, and prevents infection.
Bee Balm compresses can relieve gout. (Simmer fresh leaves a couple of minutes. Cool and apply to affected area.) Bee Balm also relaxes the smooth muscles in the digestive tract which makes it useful for treating bowel disorders when taken as tea.
Bee Balm is easy to preserve for the winter months. To make tincture, pick clean leaves and flower tops. Wash and put in a mason jar. Do not pack down. Cover with vodka (you may dilute vodka with water). Shake or stir gently every day to prevent mold growth (push the top plant material to bottom of jar). After a week or so, strain through several layers of cheesecloth. Store liquid in a jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool location. If desired, make double strength by repeating the process with fresh plant material. Of course, tinctures should not be given to children or recovering alcoholics due to alcohol content. An average dose of Bee Balm tincture is one or two teaspoons four or five times a day (until condition is cured). Learn more about making herbal tinctures.
Fresh Bee Balm makes an excellent herbal tea. Combine with peppermint for upset stomach and with valerian for insomnia or nervous conditions.
Bee Balm is wonderful when used in scented pillows, potpourri, and the bath. To dry the leaves for winter use, harvest before flowers open. Dry leaves in a airy, dry location to avoid mold. Bee Balm loses some of its fragrance when dried but retains healing properties for up to a year.
Native to North America and related to the mints, Bee Balm produces brightly colored flowers at the top of a tall stalk. The shaggy blooms usually range in color from hot pink to flaming red and burgundy. The branching plants grow to a height of four feet and likes rich, fairly moist, well-drained soil with a neutral ph. Bee Balm will grow in full sun or partial shade. The plant is a perennial and is easily divided by division. Bee Balm, like mint, can take over a flower bed quickly (it spreads by underground runners). Roots are very shallow so take care when weeding. Prune almost to the ground in the fall. Bee Balm does not grow well where winters are warm and humid. Do not harvest Bee Balm for medicinal use if leaves develop spots of white mildew.
* Bee Balm may interfere with some thyroid medications. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription (or over-the-counter) medications.
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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