Colonists brewed a black tea from Mondara and named it Oswego, perhaps after the Native American town where they first found it growing. They used it to relieve colic, fevers and colds, and the lemon scented oil was used to scent soaps. Both useful and pretty, bee balm soon became an early garden favorite. Today bee balm continues to be a most useful herb to use in both animals and humans. Like most mints, bee balm has a special affinity towards the digestive tract. Bee balm has excellent antibacterial qualities that make it useful for treating infections. So all told Bee balm tea is really good for you but I must confess that the reason I drink it all summer long is for the spicy, sweet taste.
Preparation Methods & Dosage :The fresh or dried leaf, stem and flowers can be made into an alcohol or glycerin tincture. The dried plant can be infused and made into skin and eyewashes, and herb teas.
Flowers:Scarlet, clustered in a solitary, terminal, rounded head of dark-red calices, with leafy bracts below it. Calyx narrow, tubular, sharply 5-toothed; corolla tubular, widest at the mouth, 2 lipped. 2 long anther-bearing stamens ascending, protruding, 1 pistil; the style 2-cleft.
Stem:2 to 3 feet tall
Leaves:Aromatic, opposite, dark green, oval to oblong lanceshaped, sharply saw-edged, often hairy beneathe, petioled;upper leaves and bracts often red.
Preferred Habitat:Moist soil, especially near streams, in hilly or mountainous regions.
Flowering Season:July - September
Distribution:Canada to Georgia, west to Michigan.
Gorgeous, glowing scarlet heads of Bee Balm arrest, the dullest eye, bracts and upper leaves often taking on blood-red color, too, as if it had dripped from the lacerated flowers. Where their vivid doubles are reflected in a shadowy mountain stream, not even the Cardinal Flower is more strikingly beautiful. Thrifty clumps transplanted from Nature's garden will spread about ours and add a splendor like the flowers of salvia, next of kin, if only the roots get a frequent soaking.
With even longer flower tubes than the Wild Bergamot's the Bee Balm belies its name, for, however frequently bees may come about for nectar when it rises high, only long-tongued bumblebees could get enough to compensate for their trouble. Butterflies, which suck with their wings in motion, plumb the depths. The ruby-throated humming bird - to which the Brazilian salvia of our gardens has adapted itself - flashes about these whorls of Indian plumes just as frequently - of course transferring pollen on his needle-like bill as he darts from flower to flower. Even the protruding stamens and pistil take on the prevailing hue.
Wild BergamotMonarda fistulosa
Flowers:Extremely variable, purplish lavender, magenta, rose, pink, yellowish pink, or whitish, dotted; clustered in a solitary, nearly flat terminal head. Calyx tubular, narrow, 5-toothed, very hairy within. Corolla 1 to 1/2 in. long, tubular, 2-lipped, upper lip erect, toothed; lower lip spreading, 3-lobed, middle lobe longest; 2 anther-bearing stamens protruding; 1 pistil; the style 2-lobed.
Stem:2 to 3 ft. high, rough, branched
Leaves:Opposite, lance-shaped, saw-edged, on slender petioles; aromatic; bracts and upper leaves whitish or the color of flower.
Widely available but often overlooked by herbalists, this species of mint has an aromatic order similar to the citrus Orange Bergamot, but the two are not related. Indigenous to North America, and a garden favorite, the whole plant is strongly fragrant, even when dried. The strong but pleasant odor ranges from sweetly sage-like to a wild oregano scent.
Related SpeciesMonarda austromontana
Monarda fistulosaWild Bergamot
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History and Traditions & Folklore
Many North American tribes used this plant in healing and spiritual ceremonies. It is known in some parts as "Oswego Tea" because an infusion of its your leaves is used as a beverage.. Bees delight in the nectar of the flowers, earning the herb the name "Bee Balm".
** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. **