bee balm

Oak-corns and Apple-thorns

July, 2011

Bee Balm: Flowering Herb of Magic

Also known as Bergamot, Oswego Tea, Horsemint, or Bergamot, Bee Balm is a powerful, hardy, and easily grown herb that bears beautiful ragged flowers all summer long.  This photo of Wild Bee Balm (Mondarda fistulosa) is from my garden.
The origin of the name “Bee Balm” is likely a reference to the plant’s natural attractiveness to bees, not an indicator that it’s a good sting treatment.  I know firsthand that bees love the flowers, but I have no firm evidence that it works on stings.  I could be wrong, but I haven’t been stung in over 20 years, and I hope to keep putting off a field test!  Regardless, it is associated with bees, which symbolize cooperation, unity, immortality and Goddess worship (think “Queen Bee”).  As a member of the mint family, there is an association with health, wellness, and fidelity.  The most common shade of the wild flowers is lavender, the color of devotion, love at first sight, and the union of power and purity (a mixture of purple and white).  Blossoms may also be pink or red, colors of friendship and love.
The leaves and flower petals of Bee Balm have a strong but pleasant flavor that make it a culinary star.  The entire plant above the root is edible.  A tea of dried leaves and blossoms is delicious with honey.  Add petals to salads as a colorful and slightly peppery garnish, or add leaves to wild meat dishes to offset gamey flavors.  Experiment with substituting Bee Balm for mint in recipes.  Add a sprig or blossom of Bee Balm to a glass of iced tea for a flavorful and attractive decoration.
As a medicinal, drink a cup or two of Bee Balm tea to induce sweating, to break fevers, or as a mild stimulant.  Since it contains oil of Thyme (thymol) it has powerful antiseptic properties.  Gargle double-strength Bee Balm tea (two tsp. of dried herb to 6 oz. boiling water, steep 10 minutes, and allow to cool) to soothe sore throats and mouth ulcers, or use as a soak soak for fungal infections of the feet and hands.  Put unused, unsweetened Bee Balm tea in a capped glass bottle in the fridge where it will remain potent for 3 to 5 days, ready to be gargled or applied at a moment’s notice.  Poultices of the moistened herb can be applied to minor wounds to help prevent infection.
In ritual, as a general rule, use Bee Balm in a manner similar to mint.  Macerate equal parts dried Bee Balm and Mint in olive oil to make a powerful “High Oil” for consecration.  In spells, holding a sprig of Bee Balm adds an element of love and purity to calls for power.  Place cuttings of Bee Balm on altars to the fallen to show solidarity and support.  Sprinkle fresh or dried leaves and blossoms into a bath to cleanse, invigorate, or aid in uncrossing.
By virtue of its power, versatility, and ease of cultivation, Bee Balm stands alongside the greatest of herbs.  Consider inviting it into your garden and into your crafting life.
Bee Balm
Planet Venus
Signs Taurus, Libra
Element Air, Earth
Day Friday
Number 6
Colors Lavender, pink, red
Stones Amethyst, Rose Quartz, Opal, Beryl
Body Parts Throat, neck, mouth, kidneys, genitals
Trees Myrtle, cherry
Animals/Birds Dove, swan, hare
Metal Copper