Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
bee balm, name for several herbs, especially Melissa officinalis and Monarda didyma, both typical perennials of the family Labiatae (mint family) named for their fragrance, attractive to bees and hummingbirds. Melissa [Gr.,=bee] officinalis, also called lemon balm, was introduced to North America from the Mediterranean area, where it has long been cultivated for its lemonlike odor and flavor and, formerly, as a curative for many ailments. The leaves and the oil distilled from them (known as melissa or balm) are widely used for seasonings and beverages. Monarda didyma, also called Oswego tea, is native to E North America and was used, along with other species of Monarda, by the Native Americans and colonists for tea. It is also cultivated as an ornamental for its terminal cluster of red blossoms (sometimes pink in garden varieties). Oswego tea is similar and closely related to wild bergamot (M. fistulosa). The names bergamot and balm are also used for other plants. The bee balms are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales, family Labiatae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
A bizarre-looking, wonderful smelling red or lavender flower that looks kind of like a red sunflower with wilting petals. Flowers look this way because it’s in the mint family. Entire plant is edible and Tastes range from citrus-like to mint or oregano. Sometimes used as flavoring in foods. You can use bee balm flowers any place you use oregano. Both leaves and flowers are edible. Red flowers have minty flavor. Aromatic, delicious leaf tea (which tastes like Earl Grey), is used to expel worms, relieve gas, stomach ache, colic, measles, insomnia, heart problems, colds, spasms. Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, stimulant, anesthetic, gastric problems, insomnia, sore throat, menstrual pain. Main use has been to expel worms.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz