Bee Balm, known as Monarda or Bergamot is a member of the mint family. Bee Balm is also called horsemint, wild bergamot, and Oswego tea.
Bee Balm is much showier than most of its cousins from the mint family.
Bee Balm flowers in July and August displaying a variety of colors which include pink, red, and white, plus the new forms which display double-flowers.
Bee Balm, like other members of the mint family, is best propagated by root division. See the Growing-Herbs.com article regarding herb propagation.
Plant the root divisions in moist soil, in the spring or fall, 12 to 15 inches apart.
The best way start growing Monarda or bergamot plant is to divide a healthy, currently growing, mature Monarda plant. If no Monarda or bee balm plants are available I would suggest ordering a young Monarda, bergamot, or bee balm herb plant in a 2 inch pot from one of the many online herb suppliers. One of my favorites and most dependable is Richter's Herbs of Goodwood, Canada (northeast of Toronto). The herbs are safely packed and shipped from New York state.
Trim the Monarda plants in the fall, to within an inch of the ground.
Fertilize in the spring with a good 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Bee Balm has been used in America, both medicinally and as Oswego tea, by Native Americans and early European settlers. Following colonial protests such as the Boston Tea Party settlers lost access to English teas. In response a drink known as Oswego Tea, which was made from the leaves of the Bee Balm plant, became a staple.
As a member of the Mint family, it is no surprise that Oswego Tea is a tasty, well-known remedy for digestive problems. It is said to have beneficial properties including improving general digestion, improving appetite, relieving colic, reducing bloating, alleviating menstrual cramping, and reducing nausea and vomiting.
Oswego Tea makes a soothing drink to calm nerves and as a sleep aid, when combined with other well-known relaxation herbs such as Valerian and Chamomile.
A compress can be made by soaking a cloth in an Oswego tea.
Bee Balm ointment can be made to help relieve pain and speed healing of minor wounds such as insect stings. For relief of eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, and clearing up acne can be also treated using the Monarda ointment.
Bee balm can be used as a wonderful aromatherapy herb. Place a cloth full of fresh leaves under hot running bath water for a relaxing, lemony scented bath.
Cold symptoms such as sore throat, fever, and congestion may also be relieved by deeply breathing in the steam made from Monarda.
As always, before beginning the regular use of any herbal remedy, consult your family health care provider.
Bee Balm should be avoided by those with a history of thyroid problems and those who are pregnant.
Using undiluted Bee Balm is not recommended without first testing on a small area of skin. Although Bee Balm leaves can be applied as a mosquito repellant, on some people it may cause photo toxicity.