Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb Monarda didyma are Bergamot, Scarlet Beebalm, Scarlet Monarda, Oswego Tea, or Crimson Beebalm.
Monarda didyma is an aromatic herb in the family Lamiaceae, native to eastern North America from Maine west to Ohio and south to northern Georgia.Bee balm was first used by the Native American tribe Otsego, often called Oswego, in the area that is now New York State. The Otsego used bee balm as a tea. Early settlers, informed of this practice, often used it as a substitute for black tea around the time of the Boston Tea Party. In the middle 1700s, John Bartram of Philadelphia introduced bee balm to England, and the herb is now widely cultivated for herbal and ornamental purposes throughout Europe. Its name is derived from its odor which is considered similar to that of the bergamot orange. The scientific name comes from Nicolas Monardes, who described the first American flora in 1569.
Bee Balm has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians recognized this plant's strong antiseptic action, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Bee Balm is the natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. Bee Balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence.
The herb has showy, scarlet flowers in large heads or whorls at the top of the stem which is 2 to 3 feet tall, supported by leafy bracts, the leaflets of which are of a pale-green colour tinged with red. Its square, grooved and hard stems rise about 2 feet high, and the leaves which it bears in pairs are rather rough on both surfaces. The leaves are aromatic, opposite, dark green, oval to oblong lance shaped, sharply saw-edged, often hairy beneath, petioled;upper leaves and bracts often red. Flowers are scarlet, clustered in a solitary, terminal, rounded head of dark-red calices, with leafy bracts below it. Calyx narrow, tubular, sharply 5-toothed; corolla tubular, widest at the mouth, 2 lipped. 2 long anther-bearing stamens ascending, protruding, 1 pistil; the style 2-cleft.
The whole plant is strongly impregnated with a delightful fragrance; even after the darkly-coloured leaves have died away, the surface rootlets give off the pleasant smell by which the plant has earned its common name 'Bergamot,' it being reminiscent of the aroma of the Bergamot Orange. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Bergamot is extensively grown as an ornamental plant both within and outside its native range; it is naturalized further west in the United States and also in parts of Europe and Asia.
Moist soils in rich woods, thickets and bottom lands. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.
It grows best in full sun, but tolerates light shade and will thrive in any moist soil that is well-drained. Several cultivars have been selected for different flower color, ranging from white through pink to dark red and purple. It is a very ornamental plant and readily propagated by its creeping roots and by slips or cuttings, which, if planted in a shady corner in May, will take root in the same manner as the other Mints. Easily grown in ordinary garden soil so long as it is not too dry. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Requires a moist soil and a sunny position. Prefers some shade but succeeds in a sunny position so long as the soil does not dry out. Plants are hardy to at least -25°c. The flowers are rich in nectar and are very attractive to bees. A good companion plant, it grows well with tomatoes. Bergamot is a very ornamental and aromatic plant, it is often grown in the herb garden, and there are some named varieties. The leaves, stems and roots carry a delicious aromatic orange-like perfume when crushed. Plants are subject to mildew in dry summers.
Seed - sow mid to late spring in a cold frame. Germination usually takes place within 10 - 40 days at 20°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in late summer in areas where the winters are not too severe and will produce larger plants. Cuttings of soft basal shoots in spring. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground.
Flowering Season generally lasts from July to September. It delights in a moist, light soil and in a situation where the plants have only the morning sun, where they will continue in flower longer than those which are exposed to the full sun.
Pests and Diseases
Powdery mildew may occur. Plant mildew-resistant varieties such as 'Marshall's Delight.' Spray with horticultural oil before mildew develops and regularly after that.
The flowers and
the leaves are the most
essential parts of the herb
which are used both for
medicinal and general applications.
Bergamot is often used as a domestic medicine, being particularly useful in the treatment of digestive disorders. An infusion is used in the treatment of flatulent colic and sickness; it is also used as a diuretic to treat urinary disorders. An essential oil from the herb is mainly used externally as a rubefacient in the treatment of rheumatism etc. They are popular as an alternative to standard Western allopathic medicine for a variety of problems, including clearing sinuses, nausea as well as coughing.
Bergamot is thus widely used for the following
2.digestive problems and upsets
4.colds and flu
6.antiseptic and decongestant
10.drying up mucus
The flowers and leaves are good ingredients for potpourri making. Leaves and young shoot tips - raw or cooked. They are used as a flavouring in salads, fruit salads, drinks etc. Flowers - raw. They are added as an attractive garnish to salads.An excellent aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flower heads. The leaves give an Earl Grey flavour to China tea. Yields an essential oil, used in perfumery, as a hair tonic etc. The leaves, stems and roots carry a delicious aromatic orange-like perfume when crushed.