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Monarda didyma L: Bee Balm, Scarlet Bee Balm, Bergamot, Fragrant Balm, Mountain-mint, or Oswego-tea

File:Bee Balm (Monarda didyma).jpg


Bee balm grows to be approximately 2-3’. The leaves of the bee balm plant are long and narrow with red or purple blossoms.  Bee balm can be planted either by seed, plants, or clump diversion.  For best results, they should be planted in early spring in a lighted area or area with little shade.  Bee balm can grow in damp areas and spreads freely over time.  To preserve bee balm the flowers or leaves can be harvested at any time, the flowers are to be hung dry and the leaves are to be air dried (Guide). 


Bee Balm is the natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas.  Thymol, or isopropylmethylphenol (IPMP), is an antibacterial, which is why it is used in mouthwashes today.  It is also believed that the plant got its’ name because it attracted bees because the thymol killed the unwanted bacterium.  Isopropyl Methylphenol has been confirmed by pharmacological and clinical studies to show strong bactericidal or antibacterial activities against parasitic microorganisms such as the Trichophyton. Actions on influenza virus have been confirmed (200 ppm). Thymol has GABAergic activity, a mechanism of action similar to other depressants such as secobarbital, methaqualone and diazepam. It bears close similarity to the widely used anaesthetic propofol (2,6-diisopropylphenol). Because it is less potent, thymol could potentially be abused like the more common depressants. Because of thymol's lowered potency and safer dose-response curve, it could feasibly be abused as a legal depressant (Specifications).

Fun Fact:

A unique fact is that colonists used bee balm to replace black tea after high British taxation and the Boston Tea Party.


Bee balm was first known to be used by Native Americans as an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer) for ceremonial sweat lodges. The Oswego-tea name finds its origin from these Native Americans, the Oswego Indians, who used it for relaxation. 

References Cited:

  1. "A Guide to favorite herbs." Early American Homes 31.1 (Spring2000 Gardens 2000): 16. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 19 Apr. 2009
  2. Hyde, Brenda. "Growing and Using Bee Balm." Old Fashioned Living. MOAB Group LLC, Seeds of Knowledge. 19 Apr. 2009
  3. Landry, Louis M. "Plants Profile for Monarda didyma L." Plants Database. 2006. USDA. 19 Apr. 2009
  4. "Specifications and Certificate of Analysis." NutriScience Innovations. Nov. 2004. 19 Apr. 2009

Researched By: Ashley Lewis


A member of the “mint family”, it is most commonly served as a tea to improve general digestion, ease flatulence, relieve colic, alleviate menstrual cramping, and reduce nausea and vomiting.  Today, it is also used largely as decoration for its aesthetic properties.


Bee Balm can be added to fruit salads, pork recipes, punches and other beverage recipes plus it can be substituted for mint. Brenda Hyde, author for Old Fashioned Living recommends these three recipes for Bee Balm.

Summer Punch


1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup Bee balm leaves

1/2 cup raspberries

2 cups cranberry juice

1/2 cup mint leaves (any variety)

1 47 ounce can chilled pineapple juice

3 liters of ginger ale

In a sauce pan dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice, over low heat. Add the bee balm and raspberries. Bring to a simmer, stir to break up the raspberries. When the sugar is dissolved, strain leaves and berries out of the liquid. Add cranberry juice and mint, stirring well. Chill up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, pour into a punch bowl and add pineapple juice, ice and ginger ale.

Bee Balm Iced Tea


1/2 cup Bee Balm flowers and leaves

8 cups boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the Bee Balm. Cover and steep until cool, about an hour. Strain and discard flowers. You can sweeten with sugar if desired. Chill until ready to use and serve over ice.

Summer Tea Blend


3 tbsp. dried chamomile flowers

1 tbsp. dried bee balm leaves

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tbsp. apple or pineapple mint leaves

Mix all the dried herbs together in a jar. Use 2 tsp. of the mix per cup of tea. Steep for 5 minutes and strain. Sweeten with honey or sugar if you wish.