Native Plant Power 1: Bee Balm
Written By: Andrea Bond
Hello! I’m Andrea, a veteran of BRN’s 2018 Field School, currently interning with the Seed Lab and Nursery. Part of my internship is to write a few blog posts focusing on native plants we’ve been working with, and how these plants are good for human uses, as well as ecologically.
That’s me on the right!
(Please note that I am not an herbalist or medical doctor. I am only conveying information I learned from various references.)
First up is Monarda fistulosa (var menthifolia), aka: Bee Balm, Wild Oregano, Mountain Oregano. My first day working at the nursery we took cuttings of bee balm plants to further propagate them, which smelled very good!
Image Retrieved from The Xerces Society, check them out at https://xerces.org/
In addition to being used by many pollinators, most notably moths and bees, this plant is also a beautiful addition to a yard/garden. What makes it special is the thymol, carvacrol, and eugenol compounds it contains—similar to its “cousin” oregano (both plants are part of the mint family Laminaceae). Scientific studies have been conducted on these compounds’ medicinal properties that support the traditional medicinal uses of bee balm by Native Americans and oregano by Eurasians.
Like oregano, bee balm can be eaten as an herb either fresh or dried, for flavor and the vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Its herbal flavor is similar to oregano and other mint relatives, and somewhat like bergamot. In teas, poultices (for skin wounds), infusions, and tinctures it is great for immune system support, and to fight bacteria and inflammation.
I was introduced to bee balm by it being infused in honey, which is used for allergy symptoms. It’s a simple preparation using fresh leaves left in honey for a certain period of time (around a month, but it varies depending on the strength you desire and the potency of the leaves), and then strained out leaving the honey flavored and infused with the phenols from the leaves. Remember to completely submerge the leaves in the honey, so that they do not rot. Honey is amazing by itself, but infusing it in this way gives you an extra boost when you need it.
Thanks for reading! Look out for parts two and three of these Plant Power posts!
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