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Used medicinally by many Native American tribes, bee balm is respected as a treatment for many bodily ailments, especially in the digestive system1. The vibrant pink flower that sprouts from the bee balm plant attracts hummingbirds and, when drunk in a folk medicine infusion, is called “the rouge.” Both the leaves and the flowers have shown pharmaceutical properties when extracted through oils; carminative [relieves flatulence], expectorant [treats coughs], and stimulant effects are just a few2. The largest component of bee balm is thymol, a common mouthwash ingredient which acts as an antifungal and antioxidant3. Interestingly, the bee balm plant also has a natural herbicidal and parasitic toxicity potential, which would reduce the chemical pollution of alternative methods2,4. Among several other edible plant species, bee balm showed the highest nutritional and antioxidant activity in one study, which is why we grow this native plant species on our farm in Maine and dry the flowers to steep for your own version of “the rouge.".
1Tilford, G. (1997). Edible and medicinal plants of the west. Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Pub.
2Ricci, D., Epifano, F., & Fraternale, D. (2017). The Essential Oil of Monarda didyma L. (Lamiaceae) Exerts Phytotoxic Activity In Vitro against Various Weed Seeds. Molecules, 22(2), 222. https://doi-org.unh.idm.oclc.org/10.3390/molecules22020222
3Fraternale, D., Giamperi, L., Bucchini, A., Ricci, D., Epifano, F., Burini, G., & Curini, M. (2006). Chemical Composition, Antifungal and In Vitro Antioxidant Properties of Monarda didyma L. Essential Oil. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 18(5), 581–585. https://doi-org.unh.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/10412905.2006.9699174
4Laquale, S., Avato, P., Argentieri, M. P., Bellardi, M. G., & D, A. T. (2018). Nematotoxic activity of essential oils from Monarda species. Journal of Pest Science, 91(3), 1115–1125. https://doi-org.unh.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10340-018-0957-1
5STEFANIAK, A., & GRZESZCZUK, M. (2019). Nutritional and Biological Value of Five Edible Flower Species. Notulae Botanicae Horti Agrobotanici Cluj-Napoca, 47(1), 128–134. https://doi-org.unh.idm.oclc.org/47.15835/nbha47111136