Bee balm is a native flowering herb in the mint family. There are two types native to North America; Monarda didyma or Scarlet Bee Balm and Monarda fistulosa or Bergamot. They are both in the mint family and both put out show stopping flowers loved by bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Bee balm is used extensively in herbalism, and we like to harvest this as soon as we can for our medicine cabinet. Both M. didyma and M. fistulosa can be used interchangeably in our experience.
Bee balm is used in teas or infusions as a digestive aid, easing nausea, flatulence or upset stomach and is also great in salves for its natural anti-microbial properties which is due to the presence of thymol in the plant (also in thyme). We also like to use it in teas for calming nerves and anxiety due to it’s use as a nervine (a plant that interacts with the nervous system in the human body). It can also be used as a salad topper, or put in a bath or a steam for a decongestant. The list goes on!
Bee balm is great, because even though it shows the vigor that is so well represented by the mint family, it doesn’t share the aggressive behaviors of the family. In our experience it won’t over run a garden bed like most other mints. So plant away!
If you haven’t had a chance to work with the Monarda genus, here is a great opportunity to get your hands on this wonderful plant ally to have in your flower and herb gardens.