Botanical Spotlight: Bee Balm

Botanical Name: Monarda ssp..

There are several species within the Monarda genus, most of which may be used interchangeably. Always identify the exact species you are utilizing.

Culinary: Bee Balm flowers are beautiful and attract a variety of pollinators to the garden. The flowers may be used in salads and for decorating desserts. The leaves are often rather strong tasting, and differ based on species. They may be used much like basil, oregano, or other mint-family herbs for culinary purposes (seasoning, pesto, etc.)

Herbal Medicine: Monarda ssp. are useful in the apothecary. Like other members of the mint family, Bee Balm is helpful during episodes of sinus congestion or cold-like illnesses. Adding a pinch of Monarda to a pot of black, green, or mint tea is a great way to use it for wellness support. It has a rather “medicinal” smell and taste, but is not unpleasant. Some sources recommend avoiding Monarda ssp. during pregnancy and breastfeeding. (Young, 2019)

Try this!

Adding some crushed fresh or dried leaves to a bowl of steamy water, then covering the head with a towel over the bowl, is a traditional method for easing stuffy noses. Be careful not to burn yourself or others when using a steam tent!

Aromatherapy: Although it is is more unusual essential oil, it is available, and lovely to diffuse! According to Kathi Keville, “Bee balm combines the aromatherapy actions of orange and peppermint to encourage relaxation and reduce anxiety, while at the same time increasing awareness.”(Keville, 2016) The hydrosol is refreshing and useful as a spray for sick rooms, workout mats, and shoes.


1 Keville, Kathy. (2016) The aromatherapy garden. (126-127) Portland, OR: Timber Press.

2 Young, Devon. (2019) The backyard herbal apothecary. (58) Salem, MA: Macmillan.

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