Bee Balm (monarda) has beautiful flowers, attracts bees (they love bee balm nectar), 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 and warming herbal tea.
Bag of dried bee balm leaf
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) -- this bag contains approximately 1/3 ounce of dried bee balm depending on drying time. This bee balm is harvested here in the North Georgia Mountains. All of our herbs are hand-selected and held to the highest standards. They have never been sprayed or chemically treated in any way.
Photo by Janice Boling at Payne Mountain Farms
This patch of Bee Balm will be dried and used in herbal tea blends.
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, other lung problems, indigestion, nausea, asthma, cold sores, herpes, mumps, menstrual cramps, and colic. Sometimes Bee Balm is used to induce mild 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.
This flavorful honey would be very soothing when treating a sore throat. Herbalist Leoni Pizzillo shows us how to make bee balm infused honey in the following video:
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 and colon problems when taken as herbal tea.
To make bee balm tincture, pick clean leaves, stems, and flower tops. Break into large pieces. Do not cut or chop. Wash, dry in salad spinner or on a towel and put in a mason jar. Do not pack down too tightly. A gentle touch is always best so "pack gently but firmly ". Cover your packed bee balm with vodka or any high-proof distilled spirit that can be taken internally. Do not use rubbing alcohol! Fill jar to top leaving as little air space as possible. Shake or stir gently every day to prevent mold growth on exposed plant material. 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. We store ours in the refrigerator. If desired, make double strength tincture by repeating the process with fresh plant material (and the previously infused vodka). 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). Tincture, when made and stored properly, can last up to seven years. Discard if mold appears.
If you are able to harvest a good supply of fresh bee balm, try some of the aerial parts in tea or your bath, dry some for winter use (it is very warming), and make tincture with the rest. Fresh and dried bee balm make excellent herbal teas. To dry the leaves for winter use, harvest before flowers open and during bloom -- in mid summer. Dry leaves in an airy location with low humidity to avoid mold. Bee Balm loses some of its fragrance when dried but retains healing properties and taste for up to a year. Combine bee balm 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. When used in the bathtub, bee balm is very relaxing and warming. Just put a few whole branches of the herb in your tub while running the water. The spicy scent will relax your mind and your body.
Originating in 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 and lavender 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.
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Located in Blairsville, Georgia, Tony and I sell wild herbs and handcrafted products - all dried, produced and packaged on our family farm in the North Georgia Mountains. Inventory changes with the seasons depending on what is available and may also vary from year to year. Celebrating our Appalachian heritage where sustainable farming is a way of life, we appreciate our customers and promise to provide the best service, the highest quality merchandise, a secure shopping experience, and fair prices.
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
** Most of the articles in this online herbal encyclopedia were first published by the North Georgia News in a weekly column titled Every Green Herb (by Janice Boling).
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