Monarda fistulosa is in the mint family Lamiaceae. Commonly known as wild bergamot, it is native throughout much of North America. Wild bergamot is a small herb that produces heads of lavender flowers frequently visited by various pollinators. Wild bergamot has many medicinal uses and has been in use in traditional medicine for centuries. It can brewed into a tea that is used to treat colds and the flu. This plant also has antiseptic properties and has been used to treat minor infections and wounds.
Color of the flowers of Monarda didyma (Lamiaceae) is outstanding, the blossoms are gorgeous and the smell is wonderful. Erect stems support uniquely shaped berry red tubular flowers. Large leaves sport wine colored highlights.
These flowers are very attractive to bees and hummingbirds, and as if that were not enough, you can use the leaves of the plant to flavor teas.
This species is native to eastern North America, and is also commonly known as Bergamot, Oswego Tea, Crimson Beebalm, Scarlet Beebalm, Scarlet monarda, and Bergamot.
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) ~ Photo taken by Adrian White
Called “Sweet Leaf” by Native herbalists, this plant is in full bloom right now across Iowa. Time to harvest its tender twigs and flowers!
Bergamot is delicious most of all as a tea, but I would beg it to be reconsidered in the herbalist’s arsenal of classic herbal flavors. It has a taste quite similar to thyme, as it also contains the volatile oil Thymol, but with a much more buttery flavor.
I dry a batch of the flowers in preparation of winter. Bergamot is an excellent cold and flu remedy, and very versatile within that realm. The plant is diaphoretic, antiviral, expectorant, bronchiodilating, relaxing and cooling. This herb is especially pleasant to have nearby in the garden or house, as a spit poultice of the leaves and flowers is wonderful for burns and insect stings, a bit like Plantain.
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.
Other Names: Eastern Beebalm, Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda
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.
Habitat and Description
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, creeping rhizomes.
How to Grow Bee Balm
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
Wild Bergamot 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
“Medicinal” tea: To 1 tsp. dried herb, add 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 min. sweeten to taste, take at bedtime.
Folklore and History
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 Oswego Tea
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.
BERGAMOT (CITRUS BERGAMIA)
Uplifting, refreshing and relaxing. Encourages cheerful emotions and ideal for depression. Its delicate, sweet aroma can also be used to freshen and uplift a room. Citrus Bergamia is a small tree about 4.5m high with smooth oval leaves. It belongs to the same family as the orange tree. The essential oil comes from the small round fruits which ripen from green to yellow, similar to oranges in appearance. Distribution
Native to Morocco and tropical Asia it is grown commercially in the Ivory Coast and is extensively cultivated in Southern Italy. It was first cultivated around Bergamo, from where it takes its name.
History / Traditions
The fruit has been used for hundreds of years in Italian folk medicine. However the fruit was unknown outside Italy and wasn’t exported until recent times. The oil was primarily used for the treatment of fever and intestinal worms.
The essential oil is produced by cold expression of the peel of the nearly ripe fruit. Although many oils are produced by mechanical processes, the best quality oil is produced by hand.
The oil is a light greenish yellow liquid with an uplifting citrus aroma and balsamic overtones. On aging the oil turns to a brownish olive color. The oil is known to have about 300 components the main being linalyl acetate 30-60%; linalol 11-22% and other alcohols, sesquiterpenes, terpenes, alkanes, and furocoumarins 0.3-0.39%
Bergamot oil has a strong affinity for the urinary tract and is valuable in the treatment of cystitis and urethritis. It should be used in the bath or as a local wash at a 1% dilution. In helping with mental and psychological states, Bergamot is most valuable for its uplifting effects. For tension anxiety or depression, bergamot should be used in a massage oil or in a dally bath. The fragrance blends well with lavender, neroli, jasmine, geranium, chamomile, lemon, cypress and juniper. bergamot can be used in the treatment of tensions causing dietary problems such as over and under eating. The antiseptic qualities of Bergamot make it ideal for the treatment of skin complaints such as acne, oily skin and all infections of the skin. Bergamot is cooling in feverish conditions and has effective insect repellent properties. Bergamot has an inhibiting effect on certain viruses, in particular Herpes simplex 1 which causes cold sores. Bergamot will also reduce the pain of shingles and ease chicken pox in small children. Bergamot is used extensively as a fragrance and is also found in toiletries and cologne.
Certain furocumarins (including bergapten found in Bergamot) are photo toxic on human skin. This causes sensitivity and skin pigmentation when exposed to sunlight. Therefore exercise caution when using Bergamot in sunny weather. Bergamot should never be used undiluted on the skin. Severe burning may result.
Money, prosperity, protection from evil and illness, improving memory, stopping interference, and promoting restful sleep. Carry in a sachet while gambling to draw luck and money. Very powerful for attracting success. Burn at any ritual to increase its power.