Today I added a plant to my herb garden. I have a mental list of plants that I am on the lookout for, primarily herbs that can be dried and used in all kinds of helpful and interesting concoctions. Earlier this year I found Calendula seeds and now have that herb with its dark yellow blooms growing in the large black kettle. Recently I found the Bee Balm plant and I am so excited to include it in the garden.
Bee Balm is a member of the mint family, along with lavender and basil. All three are beneficial for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. They produce richly scented blooms and leaves, which can be used for teas when dried. I have basil and lavender in the herb, or apothecary, garden. But I had not found the Bee Balm plant yet.
Also known as wild bergamot and horsemint, Bee Balm is a perennial, native to North American. It typically has wonderfully scented pink, red or light purple blooms on a compact, bushy plant. As my plant doesn’t have blooms yet, I’ll be delightfully surprised by the color.
Here are some of the uses for Bee Balm:
- The scent is a natural mosquito repellent, especially when the leaves are crushed to release the oils.
- It is a soothing skin tonic for dry, itching or sunburned skin. (Boil 1 C of leaves and blooms in 4 C of water for 10 minutes. Let cool and strain. Used on skin or add to bath)
- Brew as a tea. Bee Balm has a flavor reminiscent of bergamot oranges. The tea has antiseptic qualities, and contains vitamins A and C, making it an excellent soother of sore throats and cold symptoms. The tea is also great for digestive problems, headache and fever. (Brew ¼ C of fresh leaves or 2 t of dried leaves in 1 C of hot water)
- The antiseptic action of Bee Balm also makes it great for poultices, and as a wash for skin infections and minor wounds. Rinsing the mouth with the tea combats gingivitis, mouth sores and throat infections.
- The blooms are edible, and somewhat spicy. Add to salads or sandwiches.
- And, planted near tomatoes, Bee Balm improves the growth and flavor of the tomatoes.
I am excited to include this versatile plant to my collection. I’m looking forward to harvesting and drying leaves and blooms, and creating teas and tinctures. In the meantime, it will grace the herb garden with its beauty and fragrance, while attracting butterflies, bees and other helpful insect allies. The unique bloom reminds me of the thistle plant, which may be the reason I was initially attracted to it. All the more reason to cultivate this amazing herb.